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The truths they don't want you to read....

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tourism sector

Having had the opportunity to examine the tourism sector at first hand over the past few days, I think that it is time that some of the home truths were spelt out.

Tourism is good for the economy in the same way that every economic activity is good for the economy, but to consider it the be all and end all for the economy of the Western Isles is so misguided and short-sighted as to be deliberately wrong.

The facts are that any large scale ‘hospitality’ will create a large number of part-time poorly paid jobs, utterly depended on the whim of the market; weather conditions; currency rates and the comparative virtues of Disneyworld. Small scale niche tourism will create a very few potentially high value opportunities, few of which will give a decent financial reward for those who benefit, although here will be a huge level of personal satisfaction.

Having spoken to some of the staff in this industry, they are working long, long hours barely to scrape by and this I certainly no magical cure-all for the economy of the Western Isles.

The reports of the ‘success’ of the tourism sector have been repeatedly inflated, largely due to a high level of inaccuracy in the figures, and whilst it is very important and significant, we should not overplay the level of success.

As I have previously demonstrated, the oft-repeated figure of £60m generated from ‘tourism’ to the Western Isles is factual nonsense, including as it does every journey – business, personal and tourist – to and from the islands.

Having left the islands to spend some family holiday time elsewhere, my airfare is included in the £60m ‘tourist’ spend; as was Dick Manson’s frequent flier* programme; as are DR MacLeod’s lorries crossing the Minch filled with supplies for the Co-op.

One thing I know for certain, the hospitality industry is not a particularly nice option for those at the bottom of the pile.

* Did he get Airmiles on all those flights? If so, what did he use those Airmiles for? I feel an FoI request coming on.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nonetheless, Angus, I think it would be particularly unwise to reject wholesale a sector that does contribute to the economy of the isles. There is a demand for it, and the islands have a distinct and sizeable following in mainland Britain and continental Europe. Pay and conditions are something for trades unions to work upon. Of course it's not the be-all and end-all of the local economy.

Silversprite said...

C'mon Angus: what you really mean to say was "I'm fed up of windfarm protestors using damage to the tourism industry as a reason to block windfarm developments", isn't it? :-)

I don't see the tourism industry as the "one industry solves all Outer Hebrides" socio-economic problems. It's one sector amongst many.

My three issues:

1. Tourism could and should be generating a lot more revenue coming into the islands, but isn't due to poor or sometimes (not always) misguided promotion at a national level. I could write what I think of the old Visit Scotland website, but it wouldn't get past your swearie filter. I'm looking at the new one now which hopefully will be better.

2. There's evidence that the system is harsh on traditional croft accommodation; the kind of place where crofters wife may want to supplement their income by renting out one of the two bedrooms rooms in their house. These would be popular but support seems to be more easily available for larger places with many bedrooms. When we were holidaying here, our choice was definitely staying with crofters. Rather than a large homogenous hotel (where my other half's dad was denied Stornoway Black Pudding for breakfast because he was on the wrong coach tour).

3. Fix, if possible, the extremeness of the tourist season. July and August, and when there's a big event on, there's not enough accommodation down here and people who haven't pre-booked end up in a bind. Outside of that, there's a lot of vacancies in B&Bs and self-catering places. Despite the weather often being better in April/May and September/October.

Anonymous said...

As opposed to the wind farm development that you have championed which would provide a large number of temporary jobs that are highly paid where all of the money will be sent back home to Eastern Europe before it all grinds to a halt and the workers move on?

Anonymous said...

Simplistic, negative and factually dodgy - but apart from that I agree that tourism is not a magic bullet for the Western Isles. Who is saying that? Total visitor spending for 2006 was about £50 million (Sneddon Economics Report 2007). I think you will find it is standard to exclude the cost of getting to a destination from such estimates. This figure includes business visitors and people visiting friends and relatives (VFR) as well as 'tourists'- that's also pretty standard. You can argue about the ultimate accuracy of the figures but all evidence shows growth in visitor numbers, spending and employment. Surely that is good news? You cannot compare the Western Isles with mass tourism destinations and though there is a lot of seasonal and part-time employment, surely it is basically a good thing, moving in the right direction and benefits for local residents - more eating places etc?

SYSkeptic said...

I would have thought it was easy enough to calculate the economic benefits of tourism to the Outer Hebrides, mainly by asking visitors how much they have spent during their stay. It should also be possible to carry out research to find out how much more tourism there would be if visitors were able to travel 7 days a week - sadly no one seems very interested in ascertaining this. The Western Isles needs tourism, but do we really want it....?

Nat King Cool said...

This post just goes to show how undervalued tourism is by those who should have been doing more for it. Its not how much it contributes that counts. Its the potential it has.

Anonymous said...

If you are submitting an FOI to find out what, if anything Cllr Manson did with his frequent flier points perhaps you could provide similar info for the time that you were in office.