The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the overarching trade body and voice for Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry has today (February 27) published an open letter with a call for Scotland’s new First Minister to halt the Scottish Government’s proposed ban on alcohol advertising and promotion.
27 organisations, representing all sectors across the industry, have backed a joint letter warning of grave implications for Scotland’s economy should the blanket ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship go ahead.
Marc Crothall, CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The policy is ill-conceived, high risk and delivers self-inflicted damage to swathes of Scotland’s communities and the positioning of our country as a globally attractive visitor destination, through consequences we can only hope are unintended.”
The full letter is below:
As the acknowledged overarching trade body and voice for Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry, representing thousands of member businesses across Scotland in all sectors of the industry and many businesses in the supply chain, we write with complete unanimity of our membership in opposing the Scottish Government’s proposals on a blanket ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship.
At the heart of our national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, which has been developed in partnership with Scottish Government and its agencies, is the message ‘Responsible Tourism for a Sustainable Future’. Our tourism and hospitality industry is a key channel for the dissemination of responsible drinking messages across our pubs, hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions and events. This is a public health message we strongly support; one which has significant reach via Scotland’s tourism sector.
The policy is ill-conceived, high risk and delivers self-inflicted damage to swathes of Scotland’s communities and the positioning of our country as a globally attractive visitor destination, through consequences we can only hope are unintended. We continue to live with the fallout and consequences of Brexit; the scale of economic self-harm would be similar.
The consultation proposals would effectively take away the promotional tools from drinks producers, many visitor attractions and events and remove their attractiveness; they would in effect, become invisible.
It will leave some of Scotland’s premium industries crippled in global markets at a time of monumental pressure and compromise our country’s appeal and attractiveness as a global tourist destination.
Restricting the ability to promote and market products responsibly will remove a vital route to market for producers, including new business start-ups, and go against the Scottish Government’s and the food and drinks industry’s shared aim to double the turnover of the sector by 2030. Numerous goals from the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, recently announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes, will be defeated by her own government’s policy.
Is there a country anywhere else in the world where policy makers would on the one hand welcome the opening of prestige state of the art visitor centres across a premium industry that is our single biggest manufactured export globally in whisky, while on the other hand introduce a policy that implies their product is too dangerous to advertise and sponsor communities, music, cultural and sports events?
Our many world famous events, from Fèis Ìle in Islay to TRNSMT in Glasgow, The Six Nations Championship, other globally important sports events such as The Open and football events, The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe to the smaller, community events and arts festivals which take place throughout the year spread the benefits of tourism for the economic good of the nation.
Tourism is, and can be a force for good for the health and wealth of the nation. It is the lifeblood of our communities.
Our premium alcohol producers support tens of thousands of jobs in rural and urban Scotland. They do more to promote Scotland and its products to the world than any other industry or organisation. They are an integral part of the tourism and hospitality economy, providing a magnet of attractions for visitors from all over the world. In 2019, 2.16m visits to distilleries took place, while two in every three visits to Scotch Whisky visitor centres were from international visitors. For some rural and island communities, whisky tourism is their main form of income. For destinations the length and breadth of Scotland that deliver and host events of all types year round, the sponsorship funding provided by alcohol producers is what enables these events to happen for the benefit of these communities .
Not only are distilleries, craft breweries and visitor centres a key part of community wealth building, they are the main source of employment in hundreds of Scotland’s rural and island communities; in the majority of these locations, there is no alternative employment. The impact on employment would be devastating for a significant number of Scotland’s communities with subsequent mental and social health issues attached to that.
Their presence and support in hundreds of communities across Scotland is what draws thousands of visitors to experience events all over the country, throughout the year. The impact on the local and national visitor economy will be nothing short of devastating. Hotels, self-catering, retail, attractions and hospitality venues all depend on a flow of visitors to Scotland. This would effectively cut off an economic pipeline for communities all over Scotland.
Scotland’s whisky distillery visitor experiences are world leading visitor attractions, offering a world class experience to millions of visitors each year. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been invested in Scotch Whisky experiences over the last five years, not only delighting visitors from across the world, but also providing inspiration and best practice to further raise quality standards across the rest of the sector.
Advocates of the policy liken advertisement for alcohol consumption to the smoking ban – the logical consequence of this argument would be the potential closure of many licensed premises with businesses adapting to the headwinds and change in consumer choices. Pubs attractions are a key part of a visit to Scotland.
Visitors to Scotland spend around £1 billion a year on food and drink, and the Food Tourism Action Plan aims to boost that by an additional £1 billion by 2030. The Johnnie Walker Princes Street welcomed over 300,000 visitors in its first year of opening.
Consumers and visitors must be given the benefit of choice. Scotland in 2023 is a progressive, forward thinking nation which caters for increasingly sophisticated tastes of both our residents and visitors who are responsible drinkers. What does the global reputation and perception of Scotland become with the introduction of such a policy?
Should policy not focus on the reasons as to why people drink unhealthy and indeed, dangerous amounts of alcohol rather than adopting a myopic view which punishes the producers?
A robust, cross-sector approach is essential to tackling the potential harms of alcohol. Rather than punishing Scotland’s drinks industry, visitor attractions and events, we must work together to promote responsible alcohol consumption.
Leadership intervention is needed to join the dots and understand the true implications of such policy. The risks to Scotland’s economy are extremely high.
In the last two years living standards across the UK have fallen as fast as on record. Rather than seek to address this by boosting our economy, the Scottish Government’s actions will accelerate the problem and cause widespread harm to our businesses, communities and Scotland’s people.
The open letter has the backing and support of all 27 STA Sector Council member organisations:
-Association of Leading Visitor Attractions
-Association of Scottish Self-Caterers
-Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions
-British Amusement Catering Trade Association
-British Holiday & Home Parks Association
-Camping & Caravanning Club
-Caravan and Motorhome Club
-Confederation for Passenger Transport
-Federation of Small Businesses
-National Outdoor Events Association
-Scottish B&B Association
-Scottish Beer & Pub Association
-Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group
-Scottish Destination Management Association
-Scottish Golf Tourism Development Group
-Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association
-Scottish Independent Tour Operators Association
-Scottish Licensed Trade Association
-Scottish Tourist Guides Association
-Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance
-UK Hospitality (Scotland)