Concern about the achievability of the Scottish Government’s tourism targets has been expressed by the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee.
In a report examining some of the issues currently affecting Scottish tourism, the committee heard evidence from Visit Scotland that the 50% growth figure set in 2006 was no longer realistic in the current climate.
To address any uncertainty, the committee has asked for yearly statements from Visit Scotland on progress towards meeting the target, as well as plans to address any shortfall in progress.
The committee also heard of the frustration amongst industry practitioners about the lack of access in Scotland to reliable and up-to-date tourism statistics.
Committee Convener Murdo Fraser MSP said: “Tourism plays a vital role in the Scottish economy. It generates approximately £4.2 billion worth of income and employs around 215,000 people.
"Whilst the committee welcomes the ambitious 50% growth target in place, we are concerned about the apparent lack of clarity in the sector around the ability to meet this target.
“There is a great opportunity over the coming years to showcase Scotland’s tourism sector. In order to maximise these opportunities, the Scottish Government must work with the tourism industry to provide a centralised source of information to help understand trends within the sector."
With a number of major events taking place in the coming years, the committee welcomed the planning already done to create a lasting legacy for Scotland.
Visit Scotland’s Winning Years strategy would be crucial in allowing tourism businesses to maximise the impact of these major events.
However, the committee was clear that more detail on the strategy and its objectives were needed in order for it to make the desired impact.
The committee held a one-off evidence taking session on 23 November 2011.
The session was organised to provide a forum for an initial look at the state of Scottish tourism and, in particular, the impact of the current economic downturn.
The committee is publishing the report in advance of Scottish Tourism Week, which begins on Monday 5 March.
According to the recent Great British Tourism Survey, the number of visitors to Scotland rose by 8% in the first nine months of 2011.
During this period, spending by visitors from the rest of the UK to Scotland rose by 21% whilst expenditure by overseas tourists fell by 6%.
The report also heard evidence about the steps being taken to improve skills, education and career progression in the sectors as well as information on the work being done to improve the infrastructure and connectivity throughout Scotland.