Scotland could emulate the “high value, low volume” eco-friendly tourism model of the Scandinavian countries under independence, according to an industry leader.
The model emphasizes a higher quality visitor experience, reflected in costs, which generally attracts a richer but smaller number of visitors.
Chris Greenwood, of the Moffat Center for Travel and Tourism Business Development, said their policy of “fewer, better paid staff” and having higher productivity was also something to aspire to.
However, he said a strong collaborative approach was one of the strengths of the Nordic countries.
The Nordic Council of Ministers has launched a new tourism campaign aimed at reviving travel in the region that capitalizes on outdoor activities and “responsible tourism”, encouraging visitors to be mindful of the environment and the communities they visit. visit.
Finland plans to be carbon neutral by 2035, while several regions in Sweden are environmentally friendly, including Gothenburg, which was named the world’s most sustainable destination in the Global Destination Sustainability Index.
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He said the Scottish tourism market already shared many similarities with Scandinavian countries, with heritage, culture and landscape and the “warmth of welcome” being key drivers of tourism.
High-value tourism is designed to attract high-spending visitors.
Mr Greenwood said visitors were generally not put off by expensive countries like Norway, which has a high standard of living, as it attracts tourists who ‘tend to have better wages’ from North America and Germany and who are willing to pay for good service. The UK has a similar market, he said.
“Tourism is decentralized and that’s the first thing to say,” said Mr Greenwood, who is a senior researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Tourism Research Centre.
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“Independence on the one hand could give the choice to continue working with the rest of the UK or it could give the opportunity to align with the Nordics and the Council of Ministers and adopt their approach.
“If we want to encourage people to enter the industry and encourage businesses, I think we need to think about ways to increase wages and working conditions and make the tourism industry a more viable option by as a career choice and those two things would help.
“It would follow the Nordic approach with less better paid staff and a career path.
“It is well known that there is higher taxation in Scandinavian countries to pay for things like this.”
He added: “Independence would obviously give greater control over taxation and investment and things like that, but the policy and approach to northern tourism is based on collaboration.
“You have these independent countries that follow similar policies.”
Norway’s capital, Oslo, is now more expensive for tourists than London, with food up to 40% more expensive than the UK capital. Is there a risk that Scotland, under independence, will cause tourists to fall?
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He said: “Scandinavian countries are able to have this high value item because they have quite a strong domestic audience, who wouldn’t necessarily notice the awards.
“It has markets quite similar to what Scotland gets – you look at countries like North America and Germany and those are the two big international markets in Scotland.
“Travelers from these countries generally have this higher income, so they’re not necessarily put off by that.
“You wouldn’t compare it to the Costas of Spain. You can also have similar experiences in lower cost places like Slovenia, which offers a similar product in terms of natural environment and activities.
“Some of these conversations took place ten years ago,” he added.
“Does Scotland need to become a high value, high quality destination or do we want to be more generalist in our approach?
“I think the financial crisis around 2010 changed that and moving to themes for different years and things like the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup helped the recovery.”
He said he was a “great advocate” for Scotland’s tourism industry, but said staffing, training and productivity issues could have a “long legacy” in the ability to maintain standards.
He said: “There was a report recently noting that domestic tourism spending was starting to slow slightly. Is inflation now starting to pinch slightly?
“Contrary to popular belief, people value their free time and vacations and simply adjust their spending accordingly.
“Instead of going to Florida, they could go to Spain and instead of going to Spain, they could have a national holiday.
“But what we have to do is find that balance that a national holiday is not a trade-off for going abroad, but part of the mix.”
He said policy consistency means there was consistency in quality across the Scandinavian countries.
He said: “I’m not saying that’s not the case in Scotland.
“We have a strong domestic market – 80% of visitors – and there is a lot of collaboration with other nations in the UK.
“But you have to ask yourself, there’s been an improvement in productivity, training and that consistency – with maybe a view towards that Nordic strategy – would that solve some of those problems with supplying a tourism industry in a high-cost environment.”