Scottish tourism target 'may not be met'

Eilean Donan Castle Scottish tourism is said to be worth £4.2bn every year, says the main industry body

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A target for a 50% boost in Scotland's tourism industry by 2016 cannot be met, the Scottish Parliament's economy committee has warned.

The 10-year Scottish government growth plan was set in 2006, before the global economic crisis hit.

In a new report, the Holyrood committee cited industry concern the target was "not considered achievable".

Scotland's multibillion-pound tourism industry is said to support more than 200,000 jobs.

In 2006, the previous Scottish government, under its tourism strategy for the decade ahead, outlined its ambition for a 50% real-terms boost in tourism revenue under a plan to "keep pace with global trends over the next 10 years".

The target was carried forward when the SNP came to power, but the cross-party Holyrood committee, which has been investigating the issue and took evidence from a range of industry figures, raised concern.

Its report stated: "The committee welcomes the ambition of setting and trying to achieve a high tourism growth target, but notes the evidence from witnesses that the 50% target is not considered achievable."

The committee also raised concern that there is currently no proper way to measure how well Scottish tourism is doing, and urged the government to consider setting up a new system for gathering statistics and other performance-related information.

It also asked tourism agency VisitScotland to provide annual updates on whether the 50% target will actually be met, as well as a plan to deal with any shortfall.

MSPs also urged ministers to look again at the level of training opportunities available to people wanting to pursue a career in the industry.

The committee also said events like the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, in Gleneagles - both in 2014 - were a major opportunity to showcase Scotland as a major tourist destination.

A Scottish government spokesman, said official figures had shown an 8% rise in visitor numbers in the first nine months of last year.

"The committee has produced a wide-ranging report and we are pleased that they have highlighted some great examples of activity in the tourism industry and the agencies involved," said the spokesman.

"Moving forward, we remain ambitious for Scottish tourism and what can be achieved."

Scottish tourism is worth £4.2bn every year and employs about 215,000 people, according to trade association, the Scottish Tourism Forum.

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