Highlands & Islands

'Traumatic' year for Scottish tourism

Weather affected road at Harthill
Image caption Scotland experienced two spells of severe wintry weather in 2010

Scotland's tourism industry has come through a "traumatic year", according to the chairman of VisitScotland.

Mike Cantlay said businesses had faced the challenges of severe weather, volcanic ash, recession and strikes in the aviation industry.

But he said tourism had proved to be resilient and trade from the Scottish and UK markets had increased.

Mr Cantlay said the focus of 2011 would be on Scotland staying ahead of competition from the rest of Europe.

Scotland was affected by severe and prolonged spells of wintry conditions at the start of this year.

'A tough year'

Flights were disrupted by clouds of volcanic ash drifting from Iceland between April and May, before heavy snow and subzero temperatures returned at the end of November.

Experts have said the effects of ash cloud on society have still to be fully understood.

Mr Cantlay told the BBC Scotland news online: "It has been a traumatic year.

"Starting with the volcanic ash issues and then with various strikes, issues affecting the public sector, the recession and then disruption caused by snow.

"It has been a tough year for tourism, I think it is important to say that."

He said even for businesses that have done well it has been a difficult environment to work in.

The tourist body chief added: "It is important to note, though, that Scotland has proved itself to be resilient in terms of tourism."

He said VisitScotland had been flexible enough to change its approach and focus on the home market through the summer period, which had been threatened by fresh clouds of volcanic ash.

Mr Cantlay added: "The results of that are coming through and looks like it went quite well.

"The UK market was up about 6% through 2010 and the Scottish market up 16%."

The next years will see VisitScotland encouraging Scots to make the most of what is on their doorstep, said Mr Cantlay.

It will also undertake preparations to exploit a future period of two to three years which will see the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and golf's Ryder Cup come the UK and Scotland.

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