Tourism numbers in Fife bounce back from pandemic uncertainty

The most recent figures from 2022 reveal that overnight visitor numbers were 3% higher than 2019.

Tourism numbers in Fife bounce back from pandemic uncertainty LDRS

Tourism numbers in Fife are finally bouncing back after years of uncertainty throughout the global pandemic.

The most recent figures from 2022 reveal that overnight visitor numbers were 3% higher than 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

Tourism also had a £450m impact on the local economy – a 26% increase from 2019. A total 9.3% of Fife’s businesses are tourism-related enterprises.

Hilary Roberts, Fife’s lead officer tourism, presented the council’s latest tourism strategy (2023-30) to the cabinet committee on Thursday for review.

The strategy was published in 2019, but a lot has changed in the interim.

“The landscape of the industry has changed and what our visitors want has changed so we’ve launched a new strategy,” Ms Roberts told the committee.

Consumer trends have changed most prominently in the area of sustainable and responsible tourism. However, there also changes in terms of the type of holiday visitors want, how often and how far they travel and the infrastructure required to fit these changes.

The updated strategy focuses on four main areas – place, people, businesses, and sustainability. It also sets out a target of 2% growth annually in terms of visitor numbers and economic impact.

“Recent and future developments provide a real opportunity for the growth of Fife as a visitor destination, including Dunfermline receiving city status in 2022 and the reinstatement of the Leven rail link which is due to be completed in 2024,” Ms Roberts said.

The vision is that by 2030, the Kingdom will be a world class visitor destination known for being a leader in sustainable tourism, and renowned for the warm welcome visitors receive.

“Fife will be a venue for major events and a first-choice destination renowned for its variety of offering including stunning scenery, relaxing escapes, cultural attractions and experiences, outdoor activities and excellent local food and drink,” the strategy outlined.

“The aims of the strategy are to ensure that potential visitors are aware of Fife and everything it has to offer, that visitors have the best possible experience here, encouraging longer and repeat visits and to ensure that businesses have the support they need to grow and thrive in the current economic landscape.”

As part of its strategy, the Kingdom is looking to capitalise on its proximity to Edinburgh – one of Scotland’s tourism powerhouses.

“Travel trade operators are finding Edinburgh very difficult to work with at the moment – they’re finding it very expensive and over-booked. We see that as a huge opportunity for all parts of Fife to bring people out from Edinburgh,” she said.

Ms Roberts said there is a case to be made for tourists to go to tourist hotspots like Edinburgh and St Andrews for a day while staying somewhere else.

However, Councillor Altany Craik (Labour for Glenrothes West and Kinglassie) said the council should work closely with communities in Fife to responsibily build on tourism figures.

“Building visitor numbers sustainably without passing on negative impacts to our more popular visitor sites is the problem,” he said.

As Fife rolls out its strategy, he said, the council should look to support and engage with communities that will more directly feel the impact of increased numbers of visitors.

A large part of the strategy is aimed at improving work standards in hospitality and helping people recognise the industry as a credible career choice.

“A lot of people see hospitality as low paid and not a credible career choice. We want to be doing some work to change that,” Ms Roberts said. “We want to show off the opportunities in the industry but also work with employers to try to change some work practices to make it more appealing for young people coming into it.”

Gordon Mole, Fife Council’s head of business and employability, added: “It’s about sharing with people that hospitality, tourism and visitor economy is a career and a career you can develop.”

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