The Scottish Government last week (Wednesday 24th May) formally introduced the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill into the Scottish Parliament. The Bill enables councils to invest more in local tourism facilities and services through introducing a charge on overnight stays in some types of accommodations.

If passed, this legislation would allow councils to impose a percentage-based charge on overnight accommodations costs, with the specific rate determined by the local council. Any funds generated through the visitor levy would need to be reinvested exclusively in local facilities and services that significantly cater to or are used by visitors. The legislation aims to enhance the tourism experience and benefit local communities and their economies. Nevertheless, the implementation of a visitor levy would require councils to engage in consultations with communities, and crucially, tourism businesses and tourism organisations. These consultations would serve the purpose of gathering input on various aspects, including the appropriate utilisation of the revenue generated from the levy.

The Scottish Government has also invited representatives from the tourism industry, COSLA and other partners to join an expert group to consider how the levy could best be implemented.

In response to the introduction of the bill, Gordon Morrison, Chief Executive of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions said:  ’I am aware that the introduction of such legislation divides opinions withing ASVA membership, when last surveyed on the subject there was an even split between those in favour and those against. However, one thing that unites all on this subject is that, if such legislation is passed, all income raised by any local authority that decides to proceed in implementing a Visitor Levy must be used to enhance and support the tourism offering in this country. From personal experience of working in local authority attractions, I know that there is chronic underfunding in tourism product and infrastructure at local authority level. Using the levy to support our sector can and must be viewed as a force for good, and it is important that we rid the label of ‘tourism tax’, which is extremely damaging for Scotland’s reputation as a desirable tourist destination to domestic and international visitors.

ASVA is committed to continue working with the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure the best possible outcome for Scotland’s visitor attractions sector, ensuring that the Local Visitor Levy will actually contribute to the tourism industry and will support our shared national ambition to become the world leader in 21st century tourism.’’

Read the latest on the Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill here.

ASVA has had a few members contact us over the last week with queries relating to the introduction of Martyn’s Law, asking for any insights into the upcoming UK wide legislation which is being put forward to ensure stronger protections against terrorism in public places. The legislation will impose a duty on the owners and operators of certain locations, including visitor attractions, to increase their preparedness for and protection from a terrorist attack by requiring them to take proportionate steps, depending on the size and nature of the activities that take place there.   

The first thing to note is that the legislation has not yet passed through Parliament and there is no date set as of yet, for when it will come into law. It is also not necessarily the case that there will be a specific new bill as such, as it may simply be the case that Martyn’s Law is incorporated into existing Health & Safety legislation. However, it is important to note that Martyn’s Law is certainly coming and that it will apply to any visitor attractions with a capacity of more than 100 people.  

A handy Martyn’s Law factsheet has been published detailing what Martyn’s Law is, what it will do, how it will work and who it will apply to.  

Members should be aware that there are going to be two tiers to the law – a Standard Tier for venues with a capacity of 100 – 799 and an Enhanced Tier for venues with a capacity of 800 plus.  

For the standard tier, for the venues with a capacity of fewer than 800, the ask appears to be quite a light touch. These venues are asked to complete free counter terrorism training, cascade any relevant information to staff and have some form of a preparedness plan, looking at what the venue does to ensure that it is secure, and that staff are prepared for any threats. There does not appear to be a need for you to document your measures taken or preparedness plan for Standard Tier compliance, as it does not appear that you will be audited on it. However, ASVA would advise that the best practice is that you do have a written preparedness plan.  

At the Enhanced Tier, where you run a venue with a capacity of more than 800, you are going to be obliged to have a risk assessment and a security plan which can be audited. This will include written evidence of staff training and written evidence of the processes and procedures that you have in place.   

If you are looking for support, you can contact your local police force for advice and guidance on counter terrorism training and risk assessments. There are also a number of free counter terrorism courses available online such as this one promoted by the UK Government. The UK Government has also stated that dedicated guidance and support will be provided in due course for Martyn’s Law, to ensure that those in scope have the required information on what to do and how best to do it. A new online platform has been developed by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), Home Office and Pool Reinsurance to support all those seeking to enhance their protective security. ProtectUK is a central, consolidated hub for trusted guidance, advice, learning and engagement with experts in security and Counter Terrorism. It will serve as the ‘go to’ resource for free, 24/7 access to the latest information on protective security and will be regularly updated with new engaging content and increased functionality.  

If anyone has any concerns or would like to discuss how Martyn’s Law may impact on your business, please contact our CEO, Gordon Morrison, at gordon@asva.co.uk.  

Our friends at Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) are now inviting applications to the 2023 ‘Developing My Leadership’ programme. Delivered by Social Enterprise Academy, the programme provides a great opportunity for new and aspiring leaders in the sector to connect and share challenges, good practice and experience with peers.

The sessions for this course consist of three modules which will run from 10am to 4pm on:

Module one: 23rd February & 2nd March
Module two: 23rd & 30th March
Module three: 4th & 11th May

Through these modules you can expect to learn to:

  • Become a more self-aware and confident leader that can step up and make a greater contribution and impact on your work, within your -organisation and the sector.
  • Build the skills required to engage and lead individuals and teams so they can thrive and grow professionally.
  • Develop tools to support your museum or gallery in the current climate.
  • Gain a 10-credit SCQF level 9 leadership qualification through Glasgow Caledonian University.

Looking to the future, effective leadership will be essential to support a thriving and resilient museums and galleries sector in Scotland.

The deadline to apply is 14th February and if you wish to find out more about these online courses, please click here.

As members will be aware, web design specialists and supporters of ASVA – Rubber Cheese – have been surveying attraction operators from across the breadth of both ASVA and ALVA memberships over the last few months, to explore the online customer journey currently being offered to our visitors and establish some benchmarks for quality in visitor attraction websites.

As a result, for the first time ever, benchmarks related specifically to the visitor attraction sector have now been established. This means industry professionals now have a more accurate picture of what good looks like across similar branded websites, allowing for better decision making with genuine insight.

The findings in the research reveal valuable metrics for:

  • Add to basket rate
  • Basket abandonment rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Load times

 Plus, key insights into user experience, booking journeys, mobile experience and more.

Carried out with the full support of both ASVA and ALVA, the report brings you vital information and suggests practical solutions to the problems identified, so that you can concentrate on running a successful attraction, and let your website run itself.
The report can be downloaded from the Rubber Cheese website here.
A huge thank you to Kelly Molson and the excellent team at Rubber Cheese for undertaking that valuable piece of research.

ASVA has teamed up with recruitment specialists, Xpressjobs, to provide practical support to Scottish attractions facing ongoing recruitment challenges and to shine a spotlight on the wealth of fantastic career options available in the sector to those looking for new opportunities.

As a result of this partnership, a whole new range of recruitment support tools are now available to ASVA’s members, completely FREE of charge.  
The new services include:  

  • Unlimited jobs posting on https://www.xpressjobs.co.uk/, when posted through the ASVA jobs portal in the members area of the ASVA website.  
  • As well as jobs being posted onto Xpressjobs and the ASVA website, vacancies will also be posted onto the Bobbll App, a new recruitment tool designed to attract Gen-Z candidates -. www.xpressjobs.co.uk/bobbll/   
  • A candidate database mailer featuring all ASVA job listings, which will be sent weekly to a database of 45k+ jobseekers  
  • Xpressjobs will promote and cover on all social media platforms, ASVA job(s) of the month, with the view to helping support these job opportunities within the highly competitive marketplace 
  • Promoting any good news stories for any members and/or promote members’ job events on the ‘Events Section’ of Xpressjobs 
  • A recruitment consultation with the Xpress team of experts who can provide ASVA members with advice on recruitment within their organisations, including in the following areas – Job Adverts Training / Attraction-Employee Brand / Process / Salary Benchmarking / Recruitment Strategy 

Launching the new partnership, ASVA CEO, Gordon Morrison said: ‘Speaking to attraction operators across the country over the course of this year, it is clear that one of the biggest challenges facing our sector, along with the cost-of-living crisis and impact this is having on the cost of doing business, is with recruitment of staff. Our organisation wants to further shine a light on the amazing opportunities available and I firmly believe this partnership with Xpress Jobs will further highlight the breadth of fulfilling, well paid roles and the excellent career options that can currently be enjoyed in Scotland’s attraction sector.’

Head of Xpressjobs, Ivan Mackenzie said: ‘Hospitality & Tourism is about the people, yet job boards, at times, can feel very impressionable, corporate, and isolated as they come.  Here at Xpressjobs, we want to be as hospitable as possible to our visitors, candidates, and recruiters, bringing together a one-stop-shop for jobs, advice, news, support and more all under our ‘community’ site. Through the Xpressjobs site, the organisation is looking to signpost help and attract people back to work. They aim to enhance the industry’s image by developing the Xpressjobs site as a broader platform across the various roles that Hospitality, Leisure, and Tourism offer.’ 

To find out more about Xpressjobs, please visit – Xpressjobs | Opening Up Your Job Opportunities

A big thank you to all our members who took the time to complete the 2022 ASVA Biennial Membership Survey. The results are now in and are available to view in the Members Area of the ASVA website (click on ‘Management Information’ to be taken to the correct section of the website). 

Along with the complete Qualitative and Quantitative results, a concise summary report has been published, highlighting the key findings from the survey.
The 2022 survey results provide clear evidence that ASVA continues to enjoy a high degree of engagement with our members, with many survey respondents providing very positive comments about  the work of the organisation and its current strategic direction of travel.  

It is very heartening to see that the organisation is regarded as a positive force when it comes to matters of lobbying & representation and sharing information, advice & inspiration, with many members “promoters” of the organisation, particularly when it comes to recommending the organisation to others not in membership.  

A clear steer has however been provided that ASVA should continue to shine a light on best practice within the industry, as well as sharing key industry insights and information across the membership. A renewed focus on training and development programmes on improving visitor experience and providing industry trends and insights is recommended and there is clear desire for ASVA to facilitate more networking opportunities for members over the next 12–24 months.  

The survey further shines a light on the key priorities for our members, and ASVA will seek to further prioritise the actions within our new business plan which most closely match those of our members.  

Our CEO, Gordon Morrison, will provide a more fulsome review of the survey results at the ASVA AGM, being held virtually at 10am on Tuesday 29th November - book your place here

With the main season at an end, ASVA and the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development are asking all Scottish attractions to complete our latest survey to help us ascertain current performance, prospects and confidence levels within the sector. We are particularly keen to assess how Scottish attractions have fared over the main season in 2022 and to examine the impact of the current cost of living crisis & increases in the cost of doing business on the sector.  

The data collected in the survey will be used to provide both the Scottish and UK Governments, as well as other key agencies and funding bodies with robust, up-to-date and specific information about the impact of rising costs, as well as the key wants and needs of our sector, both now and looking ahead to 2023.  
By completing this survey, you will help strengthen ASVA’s voice as we shine a light on how our sector is faring and continue to make the case for additional support beyond that already committed.  

Results will also, of course, be shared across ASVA members to help better inform you in your own decision making about the year ahead.  
We are grateful for your time to complete this important survey, which will remain open until midnight on Sunday 6 November. 

To undertake the survey, please click here.  

ASVA is continuing to work with VisitScotland to promote the campaign ‘Great Days Out in Scotland’ which is now live. Over 40 businesses have now updated their offers on the VisitScotland website here, however there is still time to update your offers through VisitScotland’s business toolkit. 

The domestic campaign in partnership with ScotRail seeks to boost visitor numbers during the autumn and winter and run with their ‘Kids for a Quid’ offer. This will help promote the wide portfolio of attractions and experiences in Scotland, and the stories they have to tell. 

 What is the campaign? 

Great Days Out is a marketing campaign running from October to March aimed at stimulating visitor demand for visitor attractions and outdoor experience operators during the challenging autumn and winter season. 

How can I get involved? 

Update your VisitScotland business listing on visitscotland.com with details of your offer. You have full control of your listing, your offer and it’s terms and conditions. Full details of how to make the updates can be found in the Great Days Out Business toolkit here. Once the listing is updated it will automatically appear in VisitScotland’s offer list here. This is a live link and the numbers will continue to grow in the coming weeks. 

How will this be promoted? 

Promotion will be across VisitScotland’s own channels, including social media, enewsletters, business engagement activity, as well as a short burst of paid promotion via Scotrail and the Year of Stories. Furthermore partners are being encouraged to support the campaign and drive traffic and awareness to www.visitscotland.com/greatdaysout 

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer reports, for August 2022, is now available to view in the Members Area of our website

As has been noted in previous reports comparing 2022 figures to those of 2021 presents a number of challenges, as even as late as August ‘21, the sector was still being disrupted by covid and covid related regulations. It was only on the 9th of August that Scotland moved ‘Beyond Level 0’ in the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework for Recovery, so restrictions on physical distancing were still in place for some of the month. Even beyond Level 0, some significant covid measures remained in place, such as compulsory face coverings for staff and the public and the requirement for test and protect information in hospitality settings. Consumer confidence was also still very fragile, and it is therefore no surprise that, when we compare August 2022 to August 2021, we see visitor numbers up this year by 63.6% for the month and 128.4% for the year to date across all ASVA member sites.

It is only when we analyse the 2022 figures against those of 2019, that we can fully understand where the industry was at the end of August ‘22 in comparison with a more ‘normal’ year. Comparing August ’22 to August ’19, across all ASVA attractions, visitor numbers were down 21.9% for the month and just under 26.8% for the year to date. These are the strongest visitor figures that have been reported collectively by ASVA members since the start of the pandemic, which is very welcome of course. However, the fact that numbers down by over 20% is something to be welcomed, tells us all we need to know about the very fragile state our industry is in just now.

Looking more closely at the different types of attraction, for the most part, outdoor venues still continued to outperform their indoor counterparts in terms of speed of recovery of visitor numbers. Outdoor/Nature attractions were only 1.3% down on 2019 levels, so effectively were operating with 2019 numbers in August. When compared to Castle & Forts (down 41.2% and Museums & Galleries (down 23%), it can be seen that the recovery of the sector is anything but consistent.

Given that the figures being reported now, take us through the main summer season, it is clear that 2022 has not been a year of ‘full recovery’ for our sector. It is, of course, encouraging that the picture has improved with visitor numbers gradually increasing over the course of the year. However, the improvement rate has been slow and is very inconsistent across different attraction types and locations. On top of this, continued and increasing challenges with the cost of doing business, with recruitment of staff and the cost-of-living crisis impacting consumer spending challenges all significantly impinge on our sector’s recovery.

Members can be assured that ASVA will continue to shine a spotlight on these challenging conditions and the need for both the Scottish and UK Governments to take action to support our industry through this winter and beyond.

In September, the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, set out the Government’s plan to support people and businesses with their energy bills, including a new six-month Energy Bill Relief scheme for businesses and other non-domestic energy users.

It was announced that the Government will publish a review into the operation of the scheme in three months’ time, to inform decisions on future support after March 2023. 

The review will focus in particular on identifying the most vulnerable non-domestic customers and how the Government will continue assisting them with energy costs.

These are likely to be those who are least able to adjust, for example by reducing energy usage or increasing energy efficiency.

The review will consider:

  • how effective the scheme has been in giving support to vulnerable non-domestic customers;
  • which groups of non-domestic customers (by sector, size or geography) remain particularly vulnerable to energy price rises, taking into account the latest price position and forward curves, alongside other cost pressures;
  • how to continue supporting these customers – either by extending the existing scheme for some users, or replacing it with a different scheme.

As part of this review, the Government is seeking to survey businesses, organisations and trade associations across the UK to better understand energy needs.

The survey includes questions on a range of topics, including information about your organisation, energy costs and usage, other costs and your expectations for the months ahead.

All data provided will be treated as confidential. The survey will close at 11:55pm on Monday 24th October 2022.

To undertake the survey, please click here.

IMPORTANT: When completing the survey, in response to question 1.3 (Please provide a description of the industry in which your organisation operates), please answer using the relevant sub-criteria. For attractions/experiences, the choices provided by the UK Government are limited to the following, and operators must pick one of these:

  • Theme park
  • Other visitor attraction
  • Miscellaneous outdoor events (Air Shows, Agricultural Shows,  Fun fairs, Community Fairs, Car boot sales, Firework Displays, Flower Shows, Pet and Animal Shows)
  • Bowling
  • Tour Guiding
  • Escape room
  • Laser tag
  • Go-karting
  • Paintball
  • Zip-lining
  • Other leisure experiences

Over the last few weeks, ASVA has heard from a few members asking if there are any ‘visitor friendly’ resources available out there to help with messaging to encourage the public to continue to wear face coverings. We are fully aware that the vast majority of attractions are not looking to be heavy handed with such an approach, but many are still keen to encourage the wearing of face coverings where possible, to continue to do their bit in controlling the spread of covid and, of course, to reassure visitors and staff.
ASVA Trade Member – Hole in My Pocket – has this week provided ASVA with a bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ which ASVA members can download, print and use completely free of charge at their venues, if looking for an additional tool to encourage not just the use of face coverings, but to also advertise further covid mitigating measures in place such as hand sanitiser stations, distancing and queuing etc. All Hole in Return would ask in return is that, if you do download and use any of the resources, please post about it online using the hashtag #holeinmypocket and/or follow them @himp (Twitter) or @himpdesign (Instagram).
A big thank you to Allistair Burt at Hole in My Pocket for providing this free resource to ASVA members. You can access the bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ here and if you want anything tweaked to better suit a particular circumstance, just drop Allistair a line and he will be happy to do this for you – info@holeinmypocket.com.

ASVA members are advised that they can take advantage of a special 50% discount to attend The Cultural Enterprises Conference and Trade Show 2022 at Glasgow’s SEC on 2 and 3 March. In addition to this exclusive members’ offer, ASVA delegates who live far from the city can even enjoy a free night’s accommodation.

Hosted by the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE), the conference has a packed programme covering all aspects of cultural income generation, including creative revenue streams, retail, e-commerce, catering, publishing, sustainability, venue hire, and licensing. Speakers from all types of cultural attractions will share their insights, ideas, challenges, and solutions. The event will also provide a valuable opportunity to catch up with colleagues and make new contacts, particularly at the 2 March welcome drinks reception and the Gala Dinner and Cultural Enterprises Awards event at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on 3 March.

Thanks to a very kind offer from our friends at ACE, ASVA members can book conference tickets at the subsidised rate of £150 + VAT for the full two-day event, saving 50% on the full ticket price. (Please note, you do not have to join ACE to take advantage of this special members’ rate.) In addition, ACE is generously offering a night’s accommodation to ASVA delegates who live more than 90 miles away from Glasgow. (50 free hotel nights, one per delegate, are available and these will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.)

For more details on the Conference and Trade Show, and to book your discounted ticket, please click here.