The potential for growth and development in the marine tourism sector is set to be discussed in depth in a first of its kind symposium at the Scottish Parliament.
The industry wide day-long symposium, entitled “Marine Tourism: Scotland’s Sleeping Giant”, is the brainchild of the Cross Party Group (CPG) on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism.
The Scottish Government has identified marine tourism as a potential growth sector for the Scottish economy and the event aims to investigate what the sector itself can do to grow, with an emphasis on smarter working, creating networks and helping the sector to achieve more by working together, sharing effort and cost and maximising the potential offered by existing strategies and agencies.
Recent studies estimate that wildlife watching in coastal and marine areas accounts for £163 million in tourist expenditure in Scotland. Coastal paths, where they exist, attract over 500,000 visitors per year who make a net expenditure of up to £29 million. A recent report shows the total contribution of the boating sector at around £300 million, with sailing tourism alone worth £101 million to the Scottish economy.
Cruise tourism is a growing sector within Scotland’s tourism offering, with a recent report commissioned by Cruise Scotland reporting the industry has grown from approximately 45,000 cruise passengers in 2000 to more than 240,000 in 2010, a number which is expected to increase in the years ahead. The same report estimates that the total value of cruise liners to Scotland is £32million, assuming a £100 value per passenger per stop, and £400 where passengers join and leave their ships.
Demand to attend the marine tourism symposium has exceeded expectation with the event now at full capacity due largely to the high calibre of speakers confirmed for the day. The line-up for the day includes speeches from the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, CEO of VisitScotland Malcolm Roughead, Chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance Stephen Leckie and Head of Enterprise at Scottish Canals Richard Millar.
The event has particular relevance as this year is the Year of Natural Scotland, the event has also been included in this year’s Scottish Tourism Week programme.
Stuart McMillan MSP, Convener of the CPG on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism and a speaker at the symposium, said:
"I am delighted to be involved in this important and exciting event. It represents a fantastic opportunity to get the main players in the marine tourism industry under one roof to explore the potential of this sector.
"As far as I’m aware this is the first time that a Cross Party Group has organised an event of this size and scope. I am delighted that the Parliament has allowed us the facilities to host it.
"I believe the marine tourism industry to be of vast potential to the whole of Scotland. With inland lochs, a strong canal network and a beautiful coastline there is a huge opportunity to make this sector, which already contributes as much as golf to the Scottish economy, into an even more thriving industry.
"I am looking forward to the day and believe that we can emerge from it with some tangible outcomes and suggestions to take the industry forward."
James Stuart, Scottish Tourism Alliance Champion for the Natural Heritage and Activities and member of the CPG, added:
"This conference is a major stepping stone for the Marine sector at large; it represents a drawing together of the sector to focus on growth through the development of one of our most renowned assets: our natural playing ground. Scottish waters are world class and it is only right to strive to have a world class industry to help people get the most out of their visit to our shores, be they a Scottish day tripper or an international visitor.
"The Marine sector has been identified as having considerable potential for growth; to bring that to life will require working with the broader tourism industry to link experiences together, enhanced collaboration within the sector to help limited resources stretch as far as possible and a clear vision to work towards. This conference will help move all of these elements forward and to align the Marine sector’s plans with the overall tourism strategy: Tourism Scotland 2020, The future of our industry in our hands."
Sarah Brown, Manager of the Firth of Clyde Forum and member of the CPG added:
"The Clyde’s maritime history stretches back into our cultural and economic heritage. The development of the marine leisure sector represents an opportunity to ensure that this long narrative continues well into the future.
"Small marine businesses can easily be isolated by their location or maritime focus, this is all about building networks to ensure that we make the most of all the businesses and organisations linked to the sea and inland waterways in Scotland, it is about integrated management in action. We must be careful we do not kill the goose which lays the golden egg and by working together we can help to ensure sustainable, healthy and profitable use of our waters and coastline for years to come."