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With much of the tourism industry reopening, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) asked operators to complete a survey to help us ascertain current business performance, recovery prospects and confidence levels within the self-catering sector.

We ran this survey in conjunction with the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland, in order to establish a cross sectoral vision of tourism in Scotland. We will use the data collected in the survey to help inform key stakeholders, including the Scottish Government and VisitScotland, about the prospects for, and needs of the sector in 2021.

The survey results will also be used to inform and shape ASSC’s ongoing lobbying efforts with the Scottish and UK Governments. It is through data collected from these surveys that we are able to best inform and argue on behalf of the industry.

Survey Overview

  • The survey was publicised via ASSC newsletters, as well as on the ASSC’s social media pages and via tourism stakeholders.
  • Our partner stakeholders, the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland, also distributed surveys with critical commonalities.
  • The online survey elicited 610 responses from both ASSC members and non-ASSC members. 380 Members of the ASSC (62% of respondents) took part, with another 230 (38%) non-member self-catering operators.
  • The majority of those taking part in the survey were located in rural or remote areas, including our island communities, once again highlighting the importance of the self-catering sector to these local economies and communities.
  • The results offer valuable insights from Scottish self-catering operators with larger properties in a sector that has been estimated to contribute over £723m each year to the Scottish economy.

Key Findings:

  • While the overwhelming majority of respondents stated that their business was open, the trading conditions faced by operators are mixed: for many smaller self-catering properties, business is good, with a third (33%) open and profitable. However, many self-caterers are in a difficult or precarious situation, with 32% open at reduced occupancy, 16% operating at breakeven levels, with a further 16% open but remaining unviable.
  • Such figures challenge the narrative that self-catering as a whole in Scotland is ‘booming’ at the current time as many operators, particularly those with larger properties accommodating +7 who are affected by household meeting restrictions, are in a dire financial position.
  • Respondents highlighted travel restrictions associated with the levels system, the lack of clarity and direction from the Scottish Government, the loss of international custom, and household restrictions were the main issues restricting their ability to trade in 2021.
  • With reduced occupancy rates compared to previous years and reduced turnover, yet faced with high fixed costs, nearly half (46%) are operating at an economically unsustainable position, with around three-quarters (74%) concerned about the viability of their business if restrictions persist.
  • Many operators are deeply pessimistic about their business in both the short to long term. However, they do believe that there are some changes government could make to mitigate the challenging circumstances they face.
  • Responses believed that new and additional forms of financial support from the Scottish Government in the form of grants, clear and timely communications from the Scottish Government on changes to Covid-19 restrictions, as well as the easing of household restrictions for self-catering, would be the most important measures to help aid financial sustainability.

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