THE tourism sector must attract more Scots as Brexit cuts off European labour, a new visitor boss has said.

Tourism employs more than 200,000 people across the country, and visitors spent £10.4 billion here in 2018.

But Susan Morrison, the new chair of the industry body Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), told The National the sector has traditionally been underappreciated within Scotland, with too few embarking on careers in this area.

Morrison, who is the first women to hold the post, said the likely reduction in European workers due to Brexit means more opportunities for Scots to build a future in the industry.

However, she said more needs to be done to change attitudes to such jobs and attract more young people to join.

Morrison, who is also chief executive of The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, said: “Tourism wasn’t seen as a proper career. That’s beginning to change.

“But recruitment is an issue we are all going to face. A lot of our employees have come from Europe and we need them, we need their linguistic ability. There have been some attempts to promote tourism as a career in secondaries. That will begin to snowball.”

Morrison has spent her entire career in tourism, having studied in both Scotland and Austria.

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The Scotch Whisky Experience welcomed almost 385,000 people through its doors in 2018, making it the country’s most-visited whisky attraction.

That’s against a backdrop of massive gains for whisky makers in the tourism sector, with more and more investing in visitor experiences that are proving a valuable new income stream.

Morrison expects the whisky industry to continue that change and take advantage of both its iconic status and the growing body of international holidaymakers.

This group surpassed three million in 2017.

However, the success of initiatives like the North Coast 500 touring route in the Highlands has led to concerns about overcrowding and lack of infrastructure in some areas, while Airbnb and other short-term letting operations are blamed for eroding housing stock and pushing up living prices for locals in high-pressure areas like Edinburgh and Arran.

Plans to give local authorities the power to bring in new licensing regimes on that were announced earlier this week.

Morrison says it’s too early to say what that will mean for tourism, but says the “positive” sector is preparing for strong results this year. On that and potential Brexit disruption, she said: “We are good at adapting and rolling with the punches.

“Scotland has such an amazing tourism offer. People accept there is a bit of uncertainty but they have a positive view that we will find a way.”

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