Education and training skills are failing Scotland's tourism industry says Holyrood committee


Scotland’s education, training and skills structure is patently failing to deliver what the tourism industry needs says an inquiry report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee.

The findings call for a major rationalisation of the 4,000 hospitality training courses in Scotland, many of which do not appear to produce the skills required by hotel and restaurant businesses. The report also recommends a streamlining and de-cluttering of public sector bodies and initiatives which promote tourism.

Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee Tavish Scott said:

“Tourism is worth more than £4 billion a year to Scotland’s economy and employs more than 200,000 people. It is an industry we can ill-afford to let stagnate. While we welcome the Government and industry’s shared ‘ambition’ to grow revenue by 50 per cent by 2015, the most recent figures for 2007 show a further real terms fall in revenue.

“Without a more confident, skilled workforce, we will not be able to grow this vital industry and reach the 2015 goal, nor will we be able to improve the quality of product on offer to tourists.”

Education, training and skills

On education, training and skills within the tourism sector, Tavish Scott added:

  • “This is an area where the current structure is patently failing to deliver. During the course of our inquiry, we were continually amazed at the number of hotels and restaurants which experience recruitment and retention problems. There is a clear mismatch between the skills needed by business and those offered by graduates.
  • “While there are examples of good practice, we do not think it is right to continue with a system that offers more than 4,000 different courses in hospitality and tourism, delivered by more than 40 different education and training providers across Scotland.”

Accordingly, the committee recommended that the Government and key agencies “de-clutter and rationalise” the provision of education, skills and training in the sector and reprioritise the resources towards a system that is demand-led, and enjoys the support of the industry.

As part of that rationalisation it called for a move towards the establishment of a small number of hotel schools along the lines of the high-quality models used in Austria and Switzerland.

Ease of investment

On ease of investment in the sector, the report found that planning problems, building control issues and a difficult environment for inward investment all impacted negatively upon the quality, capacity and scope for new products. This must change in order to drive indigenous and international investment.

Mr Scott said:

“It is of vital importance that we send out a clear signal that Scotland is ‘open for business’ in terms of tourism development.

“We welcome local authorities such as Glasgow City Council which have afforded major tourism projects ‘fast-track status’ and have designed their planning systems accordingly, particularly in relation to pre-approval discussions with developers and statutory bodies. We want to see this replicated across Scotland.”

  • Clarity of functions
  • On the cluttered landscape of public bodies involved in promoting tourism the committee reported that it was very concerned about the current duplication of effort, wasted resources and increasing ‘mission creep’ of certain public bodies which act in a fashion beyond that originally intended.
  • The committee also called on the Scottish Government to “streamline and de-clutter” the myriad of publicly-funded tourism initiatives such as Pride and Passion, Hospitality Assured, Tourism Intelligence Scotland and Scot – Land of Food and Drink.
  • As a quid pro quo for a greater clarity of functions within the public sector, the committee recommended that the leading industry bodies consider establishing a single, more unified trade body.

Direct connections to Scotland

The committee’s report also called for the Government to consider establishing ‘destination marketing initiatives’ targeting customers on potential new flights into Scotland. This would not involve direct subsidies to airlines, but would include clear branding, marketing and air route development. Similar initiatives should also apply to rail companies.

The committee also called for there to be a continuous, fully functioning rail connection between Scotland and England at all times.

Technology, marketing and communication

With respect to (the publicly funded website), the committee believes that the current business model is patently flawed and obsolete. It recommended that this is rethought, focusing on information provision and a comprehensive, free listing service and does not attempt to provide accommodation availability and booking services directly to users but refers them on.

The committee further recommended that the Government investigates whether additional resources can be provided to move towards free provision of software for companies to be web-enabled.


The committee recommended that the Government reconsiders the plans and explores all funding options to enhance the programme for Homecoming 2009, the next major initiative. The committee also called for there to be secure and sustainable funding for some of Scotland’s landmark and signature events, such as the Edinburgh Festivals.

‘Bed tax’

The committee was not supportive of any initiative to introduce a ‘bed tax’ or ‘transient visitor levy’ in Edinburgh or any other part of Scotland to fund events or other tourism projects.

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