Jenny Marra MSP : Tourism (214 Legacy)

Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate      2 December 2014


 

I start what I predict will be a consensual debate by agreeing with the minister about the success of 2014 and say that 2015 is very much a year for building on this year and using it as a springboard to success.

In many ways, we have proven to ourselves the heights that we can reach and the type of events that Scotland can host extremely well.

There is no reason why we cannot have a bold and ambitious agenda for the future.

I welcome the bid fund for conferences.

That public investment is welcome.

In his response to my intervention, the minister said that he would publish the list of conferences in SPICe and that would be very welcome.

It would also be of interest to me and colleagues across the chamber if the minister published where the previous fund was spent and where the investment went, so that we can check that the dividends are being felt in communities across the country.

I am especially pleased to open this debate in this particular week, because this week my home city of Dundee was given the stupendous and incredible news that it has been awarded its title as a UNESCO city of design.

Dundee is one of only 12 cities around the world to hold that title and it is the first city in the United Kingdom to be awarded it.

That new status rewards the people of Dundee who have worked tirelessly in a number of sectors to pioneer design through biomedical research, the discovery of the P35 cancer suppressor gene—a design in itself—a growing video games industry, creative technologies, and the cherished institutions that are The Beano and The Dandy, which in many ways have also sparked creativity.

Recognition of the creative excellence of Dundee is valuable because it reinforces its potential as a city of investment, and because it gives confidence to those who are endeavouring to advance in design within our city.

It puts our city on the map for tourists within and outwith Scotland.

Reflecting further on how the tourism legacy of 2014 has impacted on Dundee, I look to the continued development of the Victoria and Albert museum, which I know the minister supports.

It will make a great contribution to Scotland’s artistic, digital and design attractions, and it will pull in international visitors, thereby cementing our city’s reputation as a place to visit.

Those achievements, along with the growth of the tourism sector in general, highlight the importance of tourism to our country.

Tourism not only allows us to connect with wider communities, but gives us the chance to reflect on what makes our cities, towns, villages and countryside so great.

We are never in a more privileged position to reflect on our home communities than when we are showing round visitors—international visitors and those from other parts of the United Kingdom—and telling them what is great about, and worth visiting in, our towns and cities.

We can tell them where to shop, where to eat and where to go to enjoy themselves.

Sports tourism was dramatically increased throughout Scotland in 2014 as a result of the Commonwealth games and the Ryder cup: two magnificent successes.

Glasgow 2014 has been hailed as the stand-out games in the history of the movement by the Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper.

My colleague Patricia Ferguson will expand on the subject of the games later in the debate.

Areas throughout the country benefited from the Commonwealth games, with shooting events taking place at Barry Buddon military base in Carnoustie; diving taking place at the Royal Commonwealth pool in Edinburgh; and the triathlon being held at Strathclyde country park in Lanarkshire.

The games also helped to enrich the wider tourism sector.

A Glasgow 2014 survey suggested that one in 10 spectators intended to combine a visit to the games with a longer trip to other parts of Scotland.

The minister rehearsed the impressive figures from the Ryder cup: there were 45,000 spectators from 75 countries attending, with more than a quarter of a million visitors over the course of the week.

Arts and cultural tourism were also successful throughout Scotland in 2014, with another outstanding Edinburgh international festival and Edinburgh fringe festival, and Glasgow hosting the 20th MTV Europe music awards, which were expected to boost the city’s economy by up to £10 million.

This weekend, Glasgow will host the BBC sports personality of the year award; I am sure that the minister will not mind me saying that that is an added boost from remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Of course, none of those great successes in tourism during 2014 could have been achieved without a sound infrastructure to serve tourists from within and outwith Scotland.

However, I think that the minister will agree that we still have to improve that infrastructure.

We had a debate in the chamber a few weeks ago on how we can ensure that our infrastructure allows equality of access to Scotland’s tourist attractions, and there was widespread agreement that we still need to make great leaps in that area.

That means not only providing the right facilities for disabled people, but capitalising on the energy of the Ryder cup by improving facilities for schoolchildren to enable them to learn about and play golf, and by expanding such opportunities to all our communities.

On traditional infrastructure, the upgrade and dualling of the A9 will have a massive impact on travel tourism for Perthshire and beyond into the Highlands.

The imperative is perhaps road safety, but nevertheless we will open up the gateway to the Highlands and boost that economy.

From a climate change and integrated transport perspective, the minister needs to join up—if he is not already doing so—with the Minister for Transport and Islands to ensure that rail pricing is fair and equitable and as cheap as possible under the new franchise.

I am not sure whether the minister will remember, but I ran a campaign on rail prices on the intercity route.

We discovered that, at new year last year, the price of a peak return ticket from Dundee to Glasgow was £50.50.

I am sure that the minister will agree that such pricing does nothing to boost the tourism sector.

Thankfully, the First Minister at the time, Alex Salmond, stepped in and reduced the prices, but there are still anomalies across the country.

We need to ensure that visitors are able to get around the country at a fair and reasonable price, not a price that is half that of a hotel room.

That brings me to the pricing of accommodation.

Presiding Officer, how long do I have?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: You have around nine minutes in total.

Jenny Marra: It is especially important that we look at mid-range holiday accommodation for those who earn a middle income.

At a meeting that I had with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, it was pointed out to me that, although the high-end, more expensive accommodation sector in the Highlands is very successful, there is a lack of mid-priced accommodation.

We touched on the issue in the equality tourism debate.

We must make sure that our tourism sector is available not just to international visitors, but to those people in our country who are looking for a holiday that will enhance their family life and their quality of life but which is affordable.

There is a lack of mid-range accommodation in Scotland.

The Lonely Planet tour guide says that accommodation in Scotland is

“fairly pricey, and more so in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen than the rest of the country; the only real bargains are the many excellent museums and galleries that you can visit for free.”

Not only does mid-range accommodation provide a greater pool to a wider spectrum of visitors; it is also more likely to contribute back into tourism in Scotland.

I welcome the debate.

Labour is happy to support the Government’s motion and we look forward to building on the success of 2014 with infrastructure, a spread of accommodation for different budgets and a focus on equality so that we grow our tourism sector in the future.

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