Scottish holiday parks praised for vital economic role

Scotland's leisure industry was highlighted at a conference earlier this month

by Joe Jeffrey

Event brings together leisure businesses which regenerate over £700m in public spending

Providers of “fresh air holidays” in Scotland met this month in Edinburgh to hear tourism minister Fergus Ewing praise their invaluable support of rural economies.

Ewing was speaking at the annual conference of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (Scotland) attended by many senior members of BH&HPA Scotland’s 200-plus park businesses.

Held at Edinburgh’s Our Dynamic Earth, the event brought together the managers and owners of businesses credited with generating just over £700m of visitor spending annually.

In his address at the start of the full-day conference, Ewing said that by consistently providing both value and quality, Scottish holiday parks were writing their own success story.

But the benefits, he pointed out, were felt right across the largely rural areas in which parks operate, thanks to the millions spent by visitors in other businesses in the regions.

Ewing said: “The holiday park sector offers good quality accommodation for all types of visitors, and helps to sustain employment in some of Scotland’s most remote and rural areas.”

“In this it is a great success story. With the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design just around the corner, there are even more reasons to organise a holiday or short break in Scotland, and I have no doubt that the sector will take full advantage of this excellent opportunity,” he added.

Ewing also noted that parks had also helped contribute to increasing overseas visitor numbers which were up by four per cent compared with last year, and their spending up by ten per cent.

Delegates to the conference were welcomed by Colin Fraser, chairman of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (Scotland) whose own park businesses are based in Aberdeen.

Fraser introduced a succession of specialist speakers on a range of subjects affecting parks which vary across Scotland from small camping sites to major holiday centres.

They included Gill Brittle of Respitality, an initiative of Shared Care Scotland which seeks to link local organisations which support unpaid carers, and local hospitality providers such as parks.

Solicitor Paul Kelly of park industry specialists Tozers outlined the powerful new rights introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which affects all businesses.

The conference also heard from Ruth Badger who became one of Sir Alan Sugar’s favourites when she took part in BBC television’s The Apprentice.

Badger now has a close involvement with the parks sector, and drew on her experience to give advice on how best to attract customers and build their loyalty by creating exceptional experiences.

An entertaining and highly informative insight to the mindset of today’s media-savvy youth was provided by Dr Paul Redmond who is director of student life at the University of Manchester.

Other speakers included BH&HPA national chairman Henry Wild who provided an update on forthcoming changes to UK and EU laws and regulations which will affect park businesses.

Henry also said that the importance of Scottish parks to the tourism economy was underlined last year in an independent study commissioned by the Scottish Caravan and Camping Forum (SCCF).

It found not only that visitors to Scottish parks not only spent £700m each year in mainly smaller family-run businesses, but that the sector supported more than 5,600 full-time equivalent jobs.

Overall, Scottish holiday parks contribute a total of eight per cent of all the revenue produced by Scotland’s tourism economy – a larger figure than the country’s B&B and guest house sector.

Closing the conference, Colin Fraser said the industry was delighted to include Scottish tourism minister Fergus Ewing among its champions, and greatly valued his work on its behalf.

Fraser also thanked Ewing for the time he had dedicated over the past year to assisting the association, which included undertaking a number of fact-finding visits to Scottish parks.