Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Industry Leadership Group (ILG) Members Attending:

  • Andrea Nicholas, Green Business UK Ltd/Green Tourism Certification Programme
  • Anna Miller, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Benjamin Carey, Carey Tourism
  • Calum Ross, Loch Melfort Hotel Ltd/Highlands and Islands Enterprise/Red Roof Business Support Ltd
  • Carron Tobin, RuralDimensions Ltd
  • Chris Brodie, Skills Development Scotland
  • Chris Greenwood, Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development Glasgow School for Business and Society Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Colin Cook, Scottish Government
  • Debbie Johnson, IHG Hotels and Resorts
  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Joshua Ryan-Saha, Traveltech for Scotland TourismTech at Edinburgh Futures Insititute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Joss Croft, UKinbound
  • Judy Rae, OnFife Cultural Trust
  • Kat Brogan, Mercat Tours and Mercat Tours International
  • Karen Jackson, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Kelly Johnstone, The Springboard Charity
  • Leon Thompson, UKHospitality Scotland
  • Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • Melanie Allen, Chair, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere/owner, Nithbank Country Estate
  • Richard Lochhead MSP, Scottish Government
  • Rob Dickson, VisitScotland
  • Stephen Duncan, Historic Environment Scotland

ILG Members Apologies:

  • Aileen Crawford, Glasgow Life
  • Barbara Smith, Diageo
  • Bryan Simpson, Unite
  • Derek Shaw, Scottish Enterprise
  • Chris O’Brien, Nevis Range  
  • Michael Golding, Visit Inverness Loch Ness
  • Russell Murray, Wilderness Group/Wilderness Scotland


  • Caroline Cantin, Scottish Government
  • Karen Christie, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • Eleanor Styles, Scottish Government   
  • Lawrence Durden, Skills Development Scotland
  • Judith Young, Scottish Government  
  • Mark Rowley, South of Scotland Enterprise

Items and actions


MC welcomed everyone to the fourth meeting of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group.

It was noted that due to technical problems Michael Golding was unable to attend online as originally intended.

Apologies were noted.

Introductory comments

Marc Crothall provided a general update on initiatives and activities which are ongoing, and which impact the sector.

New Deal for Business Group

MC shared a presentation outlining the purpose of the Scottish Government’s New Deal for Business Group (NDBG) and the 5 sub-groups which are currently preparing a set of recommendations for endorsement by the NDBG before submission to the First Minister at the end of June.

The four priority areas of focus for the NDBG are:

  • shared awareness of the economic and business environment
  • developing the best environment to do business
  • enhanced partnership working
  • contribution to a Wellbeing Economy

The five sub-groups are:

  • Regulatory Review Sub-Group (the existing Joint Regulatory Taskforce)
  • Business Partnership Sub-Group
  • Non-Domestic Rates Sub-Group
  • Wellbeing Economy Sub-Group
  • Sharing Key Metrics Sub-Group

The presentation was circulated to ILG member after meeting.

Note: On 29th June the New Deal for Business Group Report was published by Scottish Government, following 5-6 weeks of work done by the five sub-groups. 

Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape - James Withers Report

The James Withers report was published on 7 June with an accompanying news release.

A summary of the recommendations from the James Withers report was circulated to ILG members in advance of the meeting.

The Tourism and Hospitality Skills Group are currently digesting the content of the report.

It was noted that Skills Development Scotland met with Mr Dey last week. Mr Dey had advised that it would take time to consider the implementation of the review.

SDS are engaged in the process and see it as an opportunity.

ILG Chairs Meeting

The next meeting of the ILG Chairs will take place in-person on 24 August.

The meeting is co-chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Neil Gray and Nora Senior. For information, a review of the ILG’s in Scotland, conducted by Nora Senior and published in July 2020 can be found here.

The agenda for the next meeting will focus on sharing best practice across different sectors.

MC will continue to discuss the opportunity to bring together representatives from across all ILGs to share best practice.

Scottish Tourism Alliance – Industry Survey – Headline Results

More than half of tourism and hospitality businesses that responded, (52%) are still in ‘survival mode’ or ‘consolidation’, demonstrating the continued fragility of the sector following COVID-19 and the ongoing financial crisis.

Almost half of businesses do not have enough cash reserves for the next quarter.

Nearly 60% of businesses say that they want the Scottish Government to hold off on introducing and progressing additional regulations until the economy further recovers.

39% of businesses responded that current domestic bookings for June to September this year are lower compared to the same period in 2022.

However, looking towards October to December 2023, over half of businesses (51%) are reporting that they feel ‘fairly’ or ‘very pessimistic’ about the outlook for their business.

Only 1% of respondents said their business was ready to expand.

Nearly half of respondents (49%) said they do not support the introduction of a visitor levy and a quarter of those that do, only do so only if the net revenue raised is ‘used solely for tourism investment and enhancement’.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade

RL highlighted that he was delighted to attend his first meeting of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group with ‘Tourism’ firmly added to his title and noted that he was very proud to be the Tourism Minister.

RL advised that he was looking forward to getting out and about during the summer recess visiting as many tourism and hospitality businesses as he can.

As the peak of the season approaches it is very heartening to hear such positive feedback from across the sector such as visitor attractions, hospitality businesses. Geographically the feedback is also positive, Edinburgh is doing very well as is Moray.

Despite positive visitor numbers and spend it is recognised that the sector continues to face significant challenges such as skills shortages, inflation, high interest rates and that this is creating a very tough landscape in which to operate.

RL noted that it was encouraging to see the latest IPS data which shows international visitor numbers in 2022 to be slightly behind 2019 but international visitor spend to be ahead of 2019.

Continuing on a positive note RL highlighted that the number of inward investment projects in Scotland is outperforming the UK and Europe. Scotland +3.3%, UK -6.4%, Europe +1%. Scotland is the top UK location for FDI outside London.

RL emphasised that he recognised the mix of the tough economic picture with the positive tourism news stories in Scotland.

RL highlighted the Scottish Government’s intent to reset relations with Scottish Businesses – to work together with business to put the right solutions in place recognising that we continue to work against a backdrop of uncertainty.

The Joint Task Force on Business Regulation (co-chaired by Minister Lochhead and COSLA) met yesterday. This group (now a sub-group of the New Deal for Business Group) will identify recommendations to improve the way government develops and implements policy proposals which have an impact on business and will also address how business can engage with that process.

RL reinforced his support for the delivery of Scotland Outlook 2030, highlighting an appetite to do more to address the challenges on skills and labour, to further explore opportunities within the innovation space and to ensure that government agendas are joined up, for example, transport and housing.

Note of previous meeting

The note of Previous Meeting (14 March 2023) was approved by the ILG on 14 April. MC reaffirmed this and advised that the meeting notes will be published on the Scottish Government website imminently.

Recap – ILG journey so far

To set the context for the workshop later in the agenda, Karen Christie, National Tourism Strategy Project Manager, provided a recap of the ILG journey so far.

Scotland Outlook 2030 – a brief reminder

Vision: Scotland – We will be the world leader in 21st century tourism.

Mission:  Together we will grow the value and positively enhance the benefits of tourism across Scotland by delivering the very best for our visitors, our businesses, our people, our communities and our environment.

It was noted that 21st century tourism is defined within the strategy document and provides a helpful context for the Vision and Mission. For example, “21st century tourism is about creating sustainable growth with everyone playing an active role. It’s about purpose and profit in equal measure, protecting people and place.”

Delivering SO2030

During the pandemic all COVID-19 response and recovery plans were aligned to the principles of SO2030.

Post pandemic, SO2030 is and will be delivered through three core elements:

  • Core Activity (Business As Usual): Everyday business operations for public sector agencies and industry aligned to SO2030.
  • Actions and Initiatives Over and Above Core Activity: S/M/L Actions which are beyond core activity (BAU), and which will help realise the vision and outcomes of SO2030.
  • Strategic Game Changing Actions: Medium to long term game changing actions critical to becoming the world leader in 21st century tourism.

It was noted the ILG’s key area of influence is the strategic game changing actions – actions which will shift the dial and have a long term impact. This is where the ILG can add the most value to the delivery of the strategy moving forward.

ILG journey so far:

A recap of the work done by the ILG over the course of the first three meetings (23 November, 19 January and 14 March) was provided. It was noted that this work included a review and assessment of SO2030 as well as evidence and information gathering.

A high level summary of the output was shared. This included a number of common themes which could impact/support the delivery of SO2030.

It was highlighted by the ILG that one of the common themes identified, “challenges with transport infrastructure”, should also refer to other infrastructure challenges such as housing.

Action: A summary document, which summarises the output from the first three meetings (plus the conclusions from the meeting today - 21 June) is work in progress and will be completed in advance of the next ILG meeting on 27 September. (Secretariat)

Where are we now:

Five potential areas of focus were distilled from the output of the ILG work so far. These are five areas which will impact all the strategic priorities in SO2030 and where game changing actions are needed to achieve the ambitions of SO2030. The aim is to explore each of the five areas further and to challenge and stretch the thinking to 2030 and beyond.

Next Steps – shaping the ILG forward agenda:

It was noted that the five focus areas would be explored during the workshop today and if agreed, would form the basis of the ILG agenda moving forward.

Following the workshop, the five areas, are to be scoped out and developed further by producing a draft ‘Mission’ document for each one. This document will outline the ambition to be achieved and what it will take to achieve it.

Each of the draft ‘Mission’ documents will be reviewed at the next ILG meeting on 27 September.

Workshop introduction: Defining the game changing actions to make Scotland a world leader in 21st century tourism

Joshua Ryan-Saha shared the working titles for the five areas which had been identified as the initial focus areas for the ILG:

  • Technology to Enable
  • Sustainable Labour Supply
  • Community Empowerment
  • Net Zero Acceleration
  • Sustainable Transport

JRS stressed that these five areas were not a fait accompli – they were just a starting point for further exploration.

JRS and ILG colleagues provided an overview of each of these areas, sharing why they were strategically important areas, a very brief overview of the work which is already underway in these areas and what the potential opportunities were for the ILG to add value.

It was noted that these five areas are intended to form the basis of the ILG agenda moving forward.

JRS provided guidelines for the workshop which would help explore these five areas in more depth.

ILG support framework

Rob Dickson, VisitScotland shared an update on the ILG support framework which VisitScotland will coordinate and facilitate. Information was provided on the following areas:

ILG communication support.

The roles and responsibilities of VisitScotland, individual members of the ILG and organisation members of the ILG were outlined.

  • it was noted that ILG comms will use the Scotland Outlook 2030 identity
  • ILG messaging will be drafted by VS resource and approved by the co-chairs
  • all ILG members are encouraged to use the messaging as appropriate
  • messaging in the first instance will be triggered by the quarterly ILG meetings and will continue to be updated as required, incorporating any substantive changes
  • oppportunities for proactive industry-facing communications to support the ILG’s activity will also be considered when there are substantive changes

Action: ILG Communication Protocol to be shared with the ILG when the draft meeting notes are circulated. (Secretariat)

The following points were noted in discussion:

  • communication is critical – it is important to make stakeholders aware of the work which the ILG is doing
  • Highland Tourism was referenced as a good example of effective communication
  • the work of the ILG must be transparent and reflect the collaborative working and partnership model being adopted by the ILG
  • the language and messaging must be ambitious for the ILG to drive change

Support to progress the ILG agenda

This will take a programme approach and will initially focus on the five areas which have been identified, Technology to Enable, Sustainable Labour Supply, Community Empowerment, Net Zero Acceleration, Sustainable Transport.

ILG Secretariat.

RD advised that work was ongoing to determine the framework which will support the overall delivery of Scotland Outlook 2030, including monitoring progress of the strategy and identifying gaps in delivery.

Action: RD to share further details on the framework to support the overall delivery of Scotland Outlook 2030 when available.

The slides were shared with the ILG after the meeting for reference.

Close of morning session

Mr Lochhead thanked ILG members for their passion and commitment to tourism in Scotland and noted that their role as leaders and thought leaders was invaluable. The following points were highlighted in summary:

  • tourism in 2030 will look very different to 2023 as the pace of change gets faster – this offers a very exciting opportunity for Scotland
  • RL emphasised that his role was to create a better Scotland in which tourism can thrive as an industry
  • ensuring a joined up approach between Scottish Government and agencies will be important to ensure that we can deliver on our vision for the future
  • communities are at the heart of the kind of society that we want to build for the future

Mr Lochhead concluded that he was looking forward to getting feedback on the afternoon workshop session.

Workshop: Defining the game changing actions to make Scotland a world leader in 21st century tourism

JRS facilitated a workshop to explore the five focus areas, Technology to Enable, Sustainable Labour Supply, Community Empowerment, Net Zero Acceleration and Sustainable Transport. The workshop specifically considered what tourism in Scotland would look like in 2030 and how each of these areas could enable Scotland to be world leading. It also considered what the sector would need to start doing now to achieve this imagined future.

ILG colleagues created a narrative which described the future and identified initial actions.

ILG colleagues shared the output with full group.

The output from the workshop will be collated and analysed by JRS and his team. It was noted that the output from the workshop would form the basis for the ‘Mission’ documents.

Action: A summary of the workshop output, the key conclusions, and the next steps will be circulated with the draft meeting notes. (JRS and Secretariat)

ILG colleagues are to progress and develop a draft ‘Mission’ document before the next ILG meeting on 27 September.

Action: ILG colleagues to consider which of the five focus areas they would like to contribute to and confirm to (All)

Any other business (AOB)

No AOB was noted.

Meeting Close

MC noted that it had been a good, productive day and thanked all ILG members who had contributed to the preparation of the meeting.

In summarising the meeting MC highlighted the following:

  • the New Deal for Business Group, the Regulatory Review Group, ILG Chairs meeting and the Wither’s report are tangible evidence of an attempt by Scottish Government to positively shift their commitment to business. There is genuine recognition of the need to change the culture and approach to how Scottish Government and business can work together
  • the recap at the start of the day was very useful to bring everyone up to speed on the journey so far and was a good foundation for the afternoon workshop
  • the ILG support framework should provide reassurance to the ILG that there is a backbone in place to support the work of the ILG moving forward and its contribution to SO2030. It was noted that there is still more information to come

MC thanked everyone for their time and their contributions during the meeting noting that it was important for this group, as a strategic group, to constructively challenge as necessary.

ILG members were invited to reflect on the meeting and forward any additional thoughts on the topics which were discussed.

Action: All comments to be sent to

The next meeting is Wednesday 27 September 2023, 11am to 3pm, at Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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