Tourist tax could boost Argyll music scene, say academics

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Research by Newcastle University spells out how the musical heritage of Argyll and Bute – which has unique piping, fiddling and arts – could be used to create sustained economic growth.

The Traditional Music and the Rural Creative Economy in Argyll and Bute, Mapping Report 2018, suggests a visitor tax – set at around two per cent of room cost – for overnight tourists to Argyll could be used to provide incentives for hoteliers and tour operators to improve what they offer in the area.

It could also be used to help support very small businesses, known as micro enterprises, in the creative industries.

Written by Dr Simon McKerrell and Dr Jasmine Hornabrook, from Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies (ICMuS), the report makes a series of recommendations which could help establish the traditional music scene as a bigger attraction.

They include: developing traditional music tours and trails; a formalised regional festival network; building partnerships between musicians, communities and local businesses; creating a digital directory of musicians; council-led infrastructure and amenities for festivals; enterprise support for musicians – such as training in accounting and digital skills; and long-term planning and investment.

‘Argyll and Bute has this wonderful musical heritage which goes back centuries and there is a lot of potential to grow its music scene,’ said Dr McKerrell, a senior lecturer in music at Newcastle University.

‘This wouldn’t just attract tourists to this beautiful part of the world, it would also bring in new people to live and work in the area, which is also important as the population in the area is declining.

‘The things which make Argyll and Bute a key visitor attraction are also the things which make it a challenging area for small enterprises set up. For example, travel can be difficult as much of Argyll is separated by water and there are many island communities.’

Dr McKerrell added: ‘Our recommendations would mean that some of the challenges the area faces could be addressed quite easily through collectivising resources and reducing overheads for festival insurance, ticketing, policing, fencing, facilities and so on, which in most cases would be cost-neutral for the council, and with the potential to really boost the economy.’

The researchers spoke to musicians, promoters, organisers and businesses in the area and drew upon data about the creative economy and the 2011 census to get a full picture of the region.

The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and done in collaboration with Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS).