An increase in visitor numbers to Scotland has been welcomed but experts have warned that short-term licensing legislation will hit the growing agritourism sector.

Statistics show the number of tourism day visits in Scotland by British residents in the first three months of 2023 was up 12% on the same period last year.

Great Britain residents took 71.6 million leisure day visits lasting three hours or more in Scotland with £2.6 billion spent during these visits.

Commenting on the figures Tourism Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland is increasingly seen as an attractive place to visit and we strive to support and work with the tourism and hospitality sector to grow its economic value, while delivering the very best for visitors, businesses, and communities.

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“I recognise the importance of the tourism and hospitality sector for Scotland’s economy and these encouraging statistics reinforce the resilience, creativity, commitment and innovation of the sector in response to what has been an incredibly challenging time.”

However, moves to increase the length of stay by visitors, boosting the agritourism sector could be hit by a short-term licensing scheme being introduced by the Scottish Government.

More than 60% of agritourism members offering accommodation such as glamping and self-catering and multiple surveys of agritourism members have shown a “tremendous number of rural businesses have expressed profound concerns about both short-term let licensing and planning.”

Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers Chief Executive Fiona Campbell and board member of Scottish Agritourism said: “Scotland is an incredibly attractive destination so the statistics showing the rise in day visitors from the rest of the UK should come as no surprise.

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“However, we need to encourage these visitors to stay longer in our country, thereby benefiting communities even more through their guest spend in local businesses.

“Self-catering, including our agritourism offering, is the perfect means to entice people to stay for an extended period and experience the unique hospitality, landscapes, history, larder, and culture.”

Ms Campbell said the deadline for licensing applications for agritourism businesses with a self-catering offer “looms large” but the sector is “staring into what feels like the abyss.”

She said: “Make no mistake, the industry is continuing to implore the Scottish Government to pause their regulations and take them back to the drawing board so we can have a fair, legal and equitable framework that works for all affected stakeholders.

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“After showing so much resilience through the pandemic, the cumulative impact of botched regulation and the cost-of-living crisis will be too much for many businesses to bear.

“In its current form, it will cost jobs and livelihoods throughout Scotland, including in small and micro businesses in rural and remote communities who depend on tourism.

“Rural Scotland will once again bear the brunt of a policy designed in Edinburgh to address perceived issues in urban areas and by those with no experience of running a business.

“The First Minister may have ignored our request to meet – despite this being promised during the SNP leadership election – but the ASSC are not taking this lying down.”