£159 million tourism hit to Argyll and Bute, report finds

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, a popular tourist spot.

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The coronavirus pandemic is estimated to have caused a £159 million year-on-year drop in tourism revenue in Argyll and Bute during the first six months of 2020.

A new report also reveals that for the first eight months of 2020, the number of tourists visiting the area plunged by 89 per cent on the same period last year.

Yet other figures have shown that the number of tourists visiting the area from December 2019 to June 2020 was just seven per cent of the council’s target number.

The stark numbers are laid out in a report which will be considered by the authority’s environment, development and infrastructure committee at its meeting via Skype on Thursday, December 3.

Information has been gathered from the Moffat Centre, a consultancy and research facility for travel and tourism, based at Glasgow Caledonian University.

A council officer said in the report: ‘It is recognised that there has been a substantial decline in tourism numbers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘The latest visitor attraction report from the Moffat Centre showed 33,243 visitors to attractions in Argyll and Bute in August, compared to 218,618 recorded in August 2019, down 85 per cent.

‘Comparing the period January to August 2020 to the previous year, there has been a decrease in visitors of 89 per cent.

‘Significant attractions such as Mount Stuart House [on Bute] have remained closed to visitors for the 2020 season.

‘Dunollie House [in Oban] for example, has moved to offer bespoke tours, as the new rules have severely constrained the museum’s effectiveness as a visitor attraction.

‘Although interest in campervan touring and informal camping has been steadily rising over recent years, search data from Google Trends shows a considerable spike in searches relating to campervans and motorhomes in the UK, which has peaked in popularity in 2020.

‘The search terms were roughly double those of 2016.

‘STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) data estimated a 71 per cent drop in visitor numbers as a whole for the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

‘In terms of total economic impact, direct and indirect, Argyll and Bute had lost approximately £159m for the same time period when compared to 2019.’

Data which follows the analysis in the report then shows that visitor numbers to the area from December to June were measured at 24,195.

This was against a target of 328,593.

The council’s economic strategy aims to increase visitor numbers in Argyll and Bute by 15 per cent by 2030.