A bold new six-part strategy aims to make north-east tourism a £1 billion industry in just five years.
A new report is being presented to the city council next week with the aim of massively increasing tourist spending in the region.
At present, the industry is said to be worth £630 million annually, but officials believe there is scope to boost that by almost £400 million by 2023.
To do so, the region has been urged to concentrate its efforts on drawing visitors through business events, cruises, golf, culture and heritage, food and drink and touring.
And last night the council’s co-leader Jenny Laing said she still backed a controversial “tourist tax” to fund city centre improvements.
Under the plan visitors would have £1 a night added onto their hotel costs, with the additional funds collected by the council.
Legislation is not in place to allow councils to implement such a charge, but Mrs Laing will give evidence to Holyrood this week on the subject.
The report reads: “With improved facilities for cruise ships in Aberdeen and a world-class exhibition centre opening soon, the volume and value of day and overnight visitors is set to increase.
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“Therefore, our ambition is bold. We aim to help grow visitor spend in Aberdeenshire to £1 billion per year by 2023; the sum of £500 million in overnight spend and a further £500 million in day visit receipts.”
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “Attracting visitors to Aberdeen is key to the renewed economy of the next decade. Visitor spend continuing to rise is crucial for the success of small and large businesses alike.”
The strategy would not be taken forward by the council in isolation, with a wealth of partners on-board to help deliver the changes needed.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of city centre business improvement body Aberdeen Inspired, said: “I think there has been a shift in culture recently where people realise that, yes the oil and gas is still here, but that we need to diversify our portfolio.”
Russell Borthwick, the chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, added: “The north-east’s tourism ambitions are a key element of our economic ones and, through the work of partners like VisitAberdeenshire and others, we are seeing a lot of positive movement as we continue the transformation into a modern, well-connected, culturally diverse city region capable of supporting our future growth.”
VisitScotland is also backing the effort.
Regional director Jo Robinson said: “Tourism is leading economic transformation in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire through redevelopment and expansion of existing products, innovation and bringing new opportunities and jobs to the visitor economy.”
Opposition SNP city growth spokesman Alex Nicoll added: “The administration have previously promised big on tourism with grand announcements about a City of Culture Bid and bringing the Tall Ships back – both of which were swiftly put back on the shelf.
“These failed stunts, plus a complete inability to deliver vital projects like the Art Gallery, Provost Skene’s House or the Music Hall on time or near budget has done little to stem the tide of negativity which they have created.
“Hopefully this strategy, coupled with the new Harbour and AECC, can act as a springboard to a more prosperous future for the tourism in Aberdeen. We will certainly do what we can to support the development of this key sector.”
Readers can find out more about Scottish Tourism at: visitscotland.com/