A core pillar of our approach to the recovery of Scotland’s tourism sector is ‘supporting and protecting our passionate people’; those who work in the industry and are ultimately at its heart, helping to make Scotland such a desirable place to visit.

The continuing employment shortages in the tourism and hospitality sector have been well documented. This is having a disproportionate negative impact on businesses trying to recover from the COVID pandemic. UKHospitality estimates that vacancy rates in the sector are at least 30,000 and could be as high as 50,000, whilst ONS data shows that sector vacancies are 49% higher than pre-pandemic. If not addressed, this could cause damage to Scotland’s reputation as a world leading destination.

We need to ensure skills gaps do not continue to cause problems in the future, and importantly, do not unduly restrict the recovery of the sector. Recovery from the pandemic and the transition from Brexit will not be quickly resolved.

Improving and increasing opportunities for young people to train to join the tourism and hospitality sector is crucial for success, both now and in the long term. It’s also important that we work to convey the vibrancy of this industry and the opportunities it presents for young people as a career of choice; a message conveyed through the #DoWhatYouLove recruitment campaign, which was funded by the Scottish Government and run by the Scottish Tourism Alliance with other partners, including VisitScotland, in 2021.

The goal of Scotland’s tourism recovery programme is for tourism to contribute responsibly to communities and the economy of Scotland, while also putting us on track toward the ambitions of our national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, and for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism.

There are ten projects across Scotland’s tourism recovery programme which will accelerate recovery in the short term and provide the foundation for recovery in the medium to long term. A number of these projects look to boost skills and talent development, in recognition of the importance of our passionate people to the recovery.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) is coordinating the delivery of these recovery projects. Skills Development Scotland leads on the Talent Development programme, designed to retain and develop talent in the sector by supporting 1,600 employees within the sector through a programme of online management, leadership and supervisory training, while promoting Fair Work practices. A national skills development programme has also been created, which includes a chef training programme, talent attraction programme and climate literacy training.

And in recognition of the importance of leadership in helping the sector recover from COVID-19, Scotland’s enterprise agencies are leading on delivering free courses to drive leadership skills development. These will provide support for between 200-250 course delegates from across a range of areas – community tourism, city tourism, rural tourism and sub-sectors.

Though work by the industry and key partners is proactively improving skills and talent within the sector, support needs to continue in the form of investment. This will make a career in tourism and hospitality an attractive proposition, growing future generations of our diverse and passionate workforce.