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Plea to save the Marine Tourism sector from Catastrophe

Scotland’s incredible wildlife, landscapes, coasts and waters are a huge draw, bringing in visitors to Scotland from around the globe. Marine tourism is a key component of Scotland’s tourism product and is the lifeblood for many rural coastal and island communities.

The sector has been heavily hit by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with many operators facing uncertainty and possible financial ruin. To support the sector two industry sector bodies have, for the first time, joined forces and made a submission to the Scottish Government.

National bodies representing Adventure and Marine Tourism: Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland have lodged a joint submission to the Scottish Government highlighting the urgent need to support Marine Tourism. The submission to Fergus Ewing MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism seeks immediate cash grants to keep businesses viable and not for the industry to lose a generation of experienced and passionate operators, many of whom do not qualify or meet condition to access Scottish and UK Government support mechanisms.

Jointly with Wild Scotland we have submitted a paper seeking £2m for boat operators and £.5m for operators of moorings and pontoons:

  • Boats are not premises: Cash grant of £10,000 for businesses operating commercially coded boats in Scottish waters for more than 60 days per annum. This to offset trading losses from the potential wipe out of the season and costs incurred in preparing vessels for the 2020 season.
  • Moorings and Marinas: Cash grants of up to £10,000 for moorings, pontoons and harbours operated by independent, not for profit organisations/associations to help offset loss of earnings and incurred maintenance costs.

Unlike other sectors the Marine Tourism sector is unable look forward to any possible autumn-winter recovery as boats are de-commissioned by November and do not taken to sea again until spring 2021. Businesses are facing two full winters of storage, maintenance and inspection costs before they see any revenues in 2021. Without support there is real fear there will be sectoral failure that may take years to recover from.

The submission seeks cash grants for the yacht charter, day boat, wildlife day trip and small cruise markets. In addition, support is also sought for the smaller independent not-for-profit sector that supply and maintain many of Scotland remote moorings and step ashore facilities.

Marine Tourism is often the main employment and revenue generator in these remote and fragile communities, supporting the development of new business, helping to fill local accommodation and the sale of local products including food and drink.

Doug McAdam, Wild Scotland Chairman said. “At such an unprecedented time for our tourism sector and rural economy it is vital that no sector is left behind unsupported. Wild Scotland have been championing the case for our adventure and wildlife tourism businesses and have now joined forces with our partners at Sail Scotland to champion the cause of our marine boat-based tourism operators. This is an important part of our Scottish outdoor tourism product, particularly in this Year of Coast and Waters, which is not covered by current support measures and urgently needs support to survive.”

Marine Tourism is recognised as a key sector within National Tourism Strategies and is shaped by the Awakening the Giant Strategy 2015-2020 and the recently launched Giant Strides Strategy 2020-2025. The value of the sector is scheduled to hit £450m per annum, much of which is in rural locations and through small businesses.

Gavin McDonagh, Sail Scotland Chairman said. “With many businesses facing such uncertainty it is vital the cash support we are seeking reaches those who have so far fallen between the cracks. I would also like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to our members who contributed to surveys and phone calls and whose annual membership and support has helped to drive this campaign to appeal to government for financial assistance in these challenging times.”


Alan Rankin

Sail Scotland

Victoria Brooks

Wild Scotland


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