ONE in five visitor attractions in Scotland are concerned about their long-term survival.

Gordon Morrison, CEO of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), said that while many were enjoying good visitor numbers over the summer, he had “very grave concerns” about the off-season, especially when the cost of living crisis hits even harder as a result of rising winter bills.

“Approximately one in five attraction operators are concerned about their businesses’ survival through the off-season due to the increasing cost of doing business and the impact that the cost of living crisis will have on visitation going forward,” he said.

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The latest figures show that overall visitor numbers to ASVA member attractions from January to June are down 30% on 2019 levels.

“This indicates that there was a further upturn in visitation from May, but that the sector in no way is experiencing a ‘full recovery’,” Morrison said.

“The majority of ASVA members I speak to have enjoyed good visitor numbers, but the fact of the matter is, the cost of doing business has accelerated by such a level that any money made through growing visitor numbers is being swallowed up completely by rises in utility bills, costs of fuel etc.

“Some operators who look after large sites have been reporting to me that utility bills have gone up by more than 300% this year already and, of course, this is only likely to get worse.”

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Morrison pointed out it was a seasonal industry, where the business model for most attractions is to maximise income in summer to sustain them through the winter.

“With all profits in the summer being eaten up by the cost of doing business, there is a very real fear that we will be facing a hugely tough winter, especially as there is no sign of any meaningful government support,” he said.

Some parts of the sector are outperforming others, with outdoor operators such as wildlife and nature attractions performing better than indoor operators such as museums, galleries, distilleries and breweries.

As well as rising costs, recruitment problems have dogged many attractions, meaning many are unable to operate at full capacity.

“Our most recent research showing that approximately 55% of the sector has struggled to recruit front of house staff this season,” said Morrison. “Also, a number of attractions are not yet open, following the Covid disruptions of the last few years.”