(Strathspey & Badenoch Herald)
THE head of the Cairngorms Business Partnership has warned that local firms need to be at the top of their game to build on the rise in visitor numbers last year.
Chief executive Alan Rankin believes that competition for a bigger share of the “staycation” market will be even more fierce in 2010.
Mr Rankin said: “2009 was an exceptional year for Scottish tourism, and many businesses in the area did see significant uplift in the UK and European markets. That was followed by an incredible ski season.
“As is often the case with tourism, there are swings and roundabouts as the winter was particularly hard on many local operators who simply could not open their doors for weeks on end.”
Mr Rankin said that the recent travel upheaval had a knock-on effect locally, with overseas group cancellations being reported along with many other call-offs.
Tourism minister Jim Mather announced “bumper” visitor numbers for Scotland during 2009 and praised the industry’s resilience whilst on a recent visit to Aviemore.
Mr Mather revealed provisional figures showing that more than 15 million people holidayed in Scotland last year – a rise of 2.7 per cent on 2008 – and spent more than £4 billion, an increase of one per cent on the previous year.
During his visit, the minister met representatives of VisitScotland and staff at Aviemore’s Active Outdoor Pursuits to discuss tourism issues in Badenoch and Strathspey.
And he commended the sector’s robust response to challenges brought by the continued tough economic climate and recent disruption to air travel.
That initiative will see tourism businesses offered free marketing and advertising opportunities on VisitScotland’s Perfect Day website to stimulate interest in Scotland and encourage visitors to take a staycation.