As Chair of the volunteer group Tourism St Andrews (Local Tourism Association) I have been asked a number of times about what the future holds in store for us from a tourism perspective. The short and honest answer is that it is difficult to gauge timelines and who will come to visit us! Although what is absolutely certain is that our wonderful town of St Andrews will still be here, our beautiful beaches will be here, our famous golf courses will be here and people will still want to visit us! Our audience may be more local and national in the short term, but visitors will come.
However, it will be up to us as to how we re-emerge on the tourism stage as the world class destination that we have always been. Our hearts, our commu
nity and our unique, special town will still be here and St Andrews will still be a number one destination for many visitors whether they be from the UK or much further afield.
People visit us for many reasons and we therefore need our infrastructure, our shops, our bars, our restaurants and a vibrant High Street to remain in tact and active. This is probably the most difficult challenge for us to preserve currently given the compulsory closure of so many businesses, venues and attractions and the challenge of commercial interruption to fragile businesses with limited cashflow resources. Even with government aid, the uncertainty of the longevity of this crisis does not offer any comfort in the long term.
So we, as locals and as a community that thrives on our fantastic tourism offering, need to step up and do what we can, to support our local businesses and to shop locally where and when we can. Unfortunately, a decimated High St will not encourage visitors.
As a volunteer tourism focused group we are limited with resources but we will attempt to support businesses as fully as we can during this time by sharing government and business information, any business initiatives emerging and supporting all local businesses who are supporting and feeding our community. This will be done mainly through our social media channels and the St Andrews App which can be downloaded free of charge. We will also engage and work with official tourism bodies such as VisitScotland, ASSC, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Fife Tourism Partnership, Local and National Government and the Council where appropriate. We will also host Tourism St Andrews meetings on the Zoom platform in order that we continue to engage with our members for networking and support and we will continue with our regular social media updates and mailings.
We are looking to align with the “Scotland Will Wait” campaign and deliver our own “St Andrews Will Wait” campaign and engage with local businesses to support this whilst promoting the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” message. It is important for us to offer a glimpse of the future and a reminder of what will still be here in St Andrews when this pandemic is over.
Caroline Warburton (Regional Leadership Director of VisitScotland) has offered her support where appropriate and comments: “For the time being, VisitScotland is pausing proactive, paid for marketing activity and is updating visitscotland.com and five language sites to spread the clear message that at this time we are asking everyone not to travel to or around Scotland.”
“Understandably, people’s health and wellbeing is paramount at this moment and we believe that this is the best route to take in these challenging times. We will continue to share inspiring and generic destination messaging across our consumer social media channels with a clear stay safe and stay at home message. There will be a time when we can welcome visitors back with open arms to enjoy all that is special about beautiful Scotland – but now is a time for staying safe and close to home. We intend to run a fully integrated staycation campaign – working in partnership with destinations around the country – once confidence returns and travel starts to recover. For now we are working to support the industry during this uncertain time and have created a Coronavirus advice page which can be found on VisitScotland.org.”
Looking to the future and the halcyon days when we are once more going to be free to go wherever we wish to travel, the Open Championship 2021 will be critical to driving our international audience back to St Andrews and to encourage international travel. This will hopefully drive the re-emergence of the golf travel business both from an international and national audience. Typically, the year after the Open is always a significant economic upturn, so the timing of the Open 2021 could not be better and hopefully will assist with rebuilding our tourism economy.
The return of our University students – whether in September or January – will also be critical to the revival of our town and businesses as there is no underestimating the massive impact our academic tourists have on St Andrews and the surrounding area, and they are absolutely vital to our economy and community. We hope that the international demographic of our students will return, but it is to be assumed this may take longer than the UK students’ return. However, vitally, it will all be about consumer confidence to travel and a global economy that facilitates this.
In the early stages, supporting Staycation campaigns will be key and we as a town need to work together to be ready for this – with enticing accommodation and travel offerings, identification of key markets and marketing campaigns which will support this. As a volunteer group this will be difficult, but we will certainly do what we can collaborating with others where possible. . Our tourism group is made up of the very people who are struggling to deal with these daily business challenges and, whilst we are trying to secure our own family and business futures, we will look to work on the bigger picture when we can.