‘Some activity tourism businesses won’t survive’, warns industry bodies

Sailing adventure to Boreray and the Stacks © Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd

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Hard hit marine tourism and outdoor adventure businesses left struggling to stay afloat could benefit from a new £100 million fund.

The announcement by the Scottish Government has been welcomed by national tourism bodies Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland.

They said the fund would help those self-employed, micro operators and small-to-medium enterprises – many of which are in the tourism sector.

Bookings have dried up or been cancelled for wildlife tours, day cruises, mountain biking, sailing charters and walking holidays – right after the lean winter period.

And officials have warned that some may not make it through the year.

Scotland is home to hundreds of adventure and marine tourism businesses, many of which operate off the West Coast and the Highlands and Islands.

The natural landscapes, breathtaking coastline and world-class sailing have always been a top draw for visitors who then help to keep ‘fragile’ local economies going by spending on accommodation, restaurants, pubs, food, shopping and entertainment.

Gavin McDonagh, chairman of Sail Scotland, said: ‘Many businesses are in desperate straits and need direct support or – to put it simply – they will not make it through the year.’

Doug McAdam, chairman of Wild Scotland, said the announcement of funding followed intense lobbying.

‘We are pleased that this gap in support for adventure and marine tourism operators has been acknowledged, and that they are now included under these new funds.

‘We will get full details out to our members as soon as they are available, and we will do everything we can to support member businesses and the wider industry with the application process.’

Wild Scotland members include Seafari Adventures on Seil, Basking Shark Scotland in Oban, Wreckspeditions, Primal, Otter and Source to Sea, among others.

Sail Scotland members include Alba Sailing of Dunstaffnage and Tobermory Harbour on Mull. The Coll Hotel has recently been expanded for visiting yachts.

The government has pledged £34 million to a Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, managed by local councils offering grants of £2,000 to those who have only just set-up in business.

A £20 million pot of money will go towards a  Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund.

It will be managed by the enterprise agencies in partnership with Creative Scotland and VisitScotland.

It will cater for those creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of business rates relief.

A £45 million scheme called the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund will be managed by the Enterprise Agencies to help vulnerable small-to-medium businesses deemed vital to the ‘local or national economic foundations of Scotland’.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance added: ‘We recognise the need for, and will continue to make a strong case for additional funding, not just for the short term but for the longer period for everyone operating within the sector as it is critical to Scotland’s
tourism industry that it is able to bounce back in a strong, healthy position.’