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VisitScotland led initiative highlights £8.4bn investment in Scotland’s vital visitor economy

A joint initiative between VisitScotland and Scottish local authorities has revealed that over £8.4billion is currently being invested in the country’s tourism future.
The National Tourism Development Framework, which supports the delivery of the “Tourism Scotland 2020” strategy was launched in 2013 and focuses on a serious of actions to help promote improvements in the visitor experience.

Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing today (Friday 8 August) met with the Natural Retreats team at CairnGorm Mountain to witness the progress of one of the 463 projects within the Framework.   

Natural Retreats officially took over operations at CairnGorm Mountain from owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in June 2014, marking the beginning of a 25-year lease.  The company is investing £6.2m over the next five years, including a £4m loan from HIE, to improve this major UK snowsports centre.  

The Framework, which is supported by Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), and Team Scotland agencies*, identifies projects that are due to start or be completed over the next three years covering all aspects of the visitor experience including digital, transport, accommodation, nature, heritage, towns and cities, business tourism and events.  

The primary purpose of the Framework is to highlight current investment and opportunities for further inward investment and growth in the visitor economy. Projects within the Framework include:
• Accelerate Aberdeen (City Broadband Infrastructure) - £7.58m
• M8, M73, M74 Motorway Improvements Project - £500m
• Borders Railway - £353m
• De Vere Hotel Development - £20m
• Falkirk Distillery - £5m
• Ayrshire Golf Resort  - £40m
• Elgin Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme - £3.3m
• Edinburgh St James Quarter - £850m
• Paisley Abbey Visitor Centre - £2m
• Gleneagles Station Link Road - £4.3m
• Kirkwall Regeneration and Conservation Project - £1.2m
• Superfast Broadband for Highlands and Islands Enterprise Area - £146m  

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Tourism Development Framework for Scotland highlights that £8.4 billion is currently invested in Scotland’s tourism future, underlining the confidence that exists within the industry.  This confidence is borne out by figures showing that the number of overseas tourists has increased by 13 per cent to 2.5 million in the year to March 2014, and spending by overseas tourists by 14 per cent to £1.6 billion in the same period.  The domestic tourism market is also performing strongly.   

“The framework, based on a snapshot from May 2014, identifies hundreds of projects that will enhance Scotland’s reputation as a leading tourism destination, and I was delighted to meet the team from Natural Retreats to hear of their exciting plans to improve the visitor experience at Cairngorm Mountain.  

“The £8.4 billion investment shown in this latest version takes in a range of projects and schemes that directly contribute to the tourism experience, including the Bannockburn Heritage Centre and Helix Project in Falkirk, home to The Kelpies.  It also includes significant private sector investment in hotels across the country, including by the De Vere Group in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as the Ibis Styles in Dundee, and Ramada Encore in Inverness.  

“Not only does this demonstrate business confidence, but the framework identifies massive levels of investment that is providing indirect support to the industry, for example through transport infrastructure projects that will improve road, rail, sea and air links. In a dynamic sector such as tourism, we naturally expect to see the situation continue to develop and change – the framework is after all an indicator of current activity designed to provide information for public, private and third sector investment.   

“2014 is the year Scotland welcomes the world, and it is important that we capitalise on our enhanced profile to build a bright and secure future for our tourism economy.  The levels of investment identified in the framework suggest that we are on track to do just that.”  

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said: “When we talk about tourism, we think of visitor attractions, hotels and restaurants, but there is so much more to the industry than that.  The National Tourism Development Framework focuses on every single part of the visitor journey from arrival to departure.  Good internet connectivity, smooth roads, informative signage and urban improvement projects are just a few of the hugely important pieces that join together to ensure our visitors have the best experience possible while in Scotland no matter where they go.   

“We are excited by the level of investment in Scotland’s tourism future and aim to ensure these close workings between local authorities and planning departments continue, creating real opportunities and benefits for many years to come.”  

Cllr. Stephen Hagan, COSLA Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability, said: “Tourism and its positive impact on local economic development plays a vital role in improving outcomes for local communities. I’m heartened to see the variety of local projects and initiatives being taken forward across all councils to raise the profile of the tourism sector, in addition to the significant investment from councils nationally in the roll out of high speed broadband, and improving and maintaining local road and transport infrastructure.  

“I welcome the National Tourism Development Framework as an excellent start in outlining the diverse contribution which local authorities make to tourism within Scotland. The collection of projects listed is encouraging and highlights local authorities’ contribution to economic development at the local level, and the impact this has on growing business and local employment opportunities across Scotland.”  

Chris Taylor, Head of Tourism and Food & Drink for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The tourism industry is crucial to the economy of the Highlands and Islands and a priority for HIE.  

“Large numbers of visitors are attracted to the region by the quality of the scenery and culture; the connections between people and place, history and heritage, our food & drink and a fantastic range of activities.  

“The National Tourism Development plan helps map out these important connections, and our work to support the plan is well underway.  

“We are delighted to be partnering with ambitious private sector leaders right across the region to help take projects forward, while our agency is also leading on a £146m project to roll out next generation broadband across our region which will transform the way we work and live.  

“Working together to implement the actions of the Framework, we can ensure that Scotland reaches its full potential in attracting visitors and giving them quality, memorable experiences.”  

Ewan Kearney, Chief Operating Officer, Natural Retreats said: “It’s fantastic to see so much investment going into tourism initiatives across Scotland. As well as a positive impact on the economy, this will ensure visitors from all over the world see the best the country has to offer. We have long said that Scotland has the best tourism opportunity in Europe both now and for years to come, and we are passionate and excited about the future for both the wider nation and Cairngorm Mountain.”

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