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Tourism businesses urged to capitalise on growth in Scotland's sailing market

07 November 2011

Issued on behalf of Tourism Intelligence Scotland

Scottish tourism businesses are being challenged to look at ways of tapping into a predicted 45 per cent growth in sailing tourism in Scotland over the next ten years.

Companies are being urged to take advantage of this predicted growth in a new sailing guide published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland (TIS), as part of its Opportunities for Growth series.

Currently generating just over £100million a year for the Scottish economy - with market share predicted to increase to £145million in the next ten years - sailing is set to become one of the fastest growing activity markets for Scottish tourism.

Audrey MacLennan, Senior Development Manager - Tourism at Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: "Over the last two decades the sailing tourism sector in Scotland has been growing at unprecedented levels. We've seen new marinas emerging together with the development of existing facilities, and these have quickly been absorbed by the rising market. Despite the economic downturn, this growth has continued largely unabated.

"Regular sailing visitors from the UK and abroad have been captivated by our untouched sparking waters, first-rate facilities, beautiful scenery and abundance of wildlife. In fact, the Scottish sailing product has become so popular that in many areas the demand for berths and moorings is exceeding the capacity, and the number of potential visitors just keeps growing."

The new guide provides key intelligence on the sector, as well as offering advice on how businesses can ensure that sailing visitors - ranging from experienced yachters to those attending a sailing event or festival - have the best experience possible.

For example accommodation providers could provide a free shuttle service from the marina, somewhere to store clothing and equipment, and offer little luxuries - such as a cup of hot chocolate or a warming dram - when sailors come on shore. Other tips include having the latest weather and tide forecasts available, and packaging up food hampers to sell to sailing visitors.

Scotland is often described by enthusiasts as one of the top sailing destinations in the world. Recent figures show that more than 167,000 visiting boat nights are made here each year, with over 40% of these made by boats from outside Scotland, contributing particularly to our remote, rural economies.

However the British Marine Federation estimates that over 1 million boats are owned by UK households, and almost 3 million UK adults participate in a boating activity of some kind. A further 4 million Europeans own a boat, over 600,000 of which are capable of sailing to Scotland. The potential market for Scotland is therefore significant.

Katrina Morrison, Tourism Strategic Priorities Manager at Scottish Enterprise added: "Yachting can be an expensive pursuit and traditionally attracts people with a high disposable income. Given this association with the luxury end of the market, it's no surprise that sailing is a good business sector, which attracts large numbers of high-spending visitors. But this visitor market is actually widening as sailing becomes more accessible in terms of opportunities and costs.

"Sailing visitors can spend a lot of their docked time ashore, and once on dry land are likely to spend money on food, drink, entertainment and occasionally accommodation. There is therefore an opportunity for all types of tourism business to benefit.

"With such significant growth predicted over the next few years, sailing businesses and tourism businesses have a great opportunity to work together within an area to give our sailing visitors an unforgettable trip. This is not necessarily about investing more money - it is about working together to combine existing offerings and create sailor-friendly services and packages. The result will be more visitors, more repeat visits, and more business for everybody!"

Mike Balmforth of Scottish Boating Alliance and British Marine Federation Scotland said: "The Scottish sailing tourism industry has been growing steadily for many decades, with tourism businesses of all types now recognising the business potential of this high-spending sector.

"The strength of the market is evidenced by the ongoing investment in new and
improved sailing tourism facilities, amounting to some £12million at 24 locations around Scotland over the last and current financial years. These projects range from improvements in established harbours and marinas to the creation of facilities in remote coastal communities, bringing a much-needed boost to rural economies.

"This excellent new guide from Tourism Intelligence Scotland clearly and concisely sets out the business case for tourism operators getting involved in the market and outlines the practical steps that operators need to take to grow their sailing-related business."

The Sailing Tourism in Scotland guide has been published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland, as part of its Opportunities for Growth series, aimed at helping businesses make the most of new and emerging opportunities in the sector. The guide is available to businesses who register at

To coincide with the launch of the guide, Scottish Enterprise is running a series of free 'Sailing Tourism Innovation Workshops' for businesses interested in exploiting the sailing market. The next workshop, being run in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise will take place in Appin, West Highlands, 15th November.  A further three workshops are also planned for 2012 in Largs, Greenock and Helensburgh. Businesses wishing to book a place should go to

  • For further information contact Gillian Harrower, Tourism Intelligence Scotland, Tel. 01738 860523, E:
  • Tourism Intelligence Scotland is a joint venture developed by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland, in partnership with the tourism industry, to stimulate growth and innovation in tourism.
  • Other guides in the Opportunities for Growth series include: Knowing Our Markets...Scotland's Visitors; Scottish Tourism in the Future; Walking Tourism; Listening to our Visitors; Golf Tourism; Adventure Travel; Food Experience in Scotland; and Mountain Biking Tourism.

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