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New strategy to boost Scotland's marine tourism to over £500m by 2025

Read the Giant Strides strategy document here. 

An ambitious new strategy for Scotland’s marine tourism sector aims to take ‘giant strides’ towards supporting communities, the environment and economic growth around Scotland’s coasts, lochs and waterways.

The five-year plan ‘Giant Strides’, launched at the Marine Tourism Conference March 2020, aims to boost Scotland‘s reputation as a world-class sustainable marine tourism destination by meeting changing consumer, workforce, community and environmental needs and grow the industry’s economic contribution to over £500 million by 2025.

The strategy, which was developed by British Marine with support from Scottish Canals, Royal Yachting Association Scotland and Sail Scotland, builds on the success of the 2015-20 strategy ‘Awakening the Giant’, which set out to grow visitor expenditure from £101m to £145m and increase the sector’s overall economic value from £360m to over £450m by 2020. It will see a Partnership Plan delivered through the Cross Party Group for Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism.

The launch of Giant Strides, which values all of Scotland’s waters and focuses on delivering great experiences, involves all businesses and benefits people and communities through partnerships working across all sectors.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, said: “We are proud to have evolved the hugely successful Awakening the Giant Strategy. Working with James Stuart, RYA Scotland and Scottish Canals has been a pleasure and the Giant Strides partnership approach, alignment to the National Tourism Strategy and commitment to people, places and the environment is testament to the team’s ambition to see marine tourism play a major role in building Scottish tourism into a leading force, both in national and international markets.

Building new partnerships will be key to the new strategy’s success. Our challenge now is to push our sector to refresh and evolve in order to meet customer, workforce, community and environmental needs. In so doing the sector can unlock long term, sustainable and inclusive growth and drive an economic contribution that exceeds £500 million a year.

Stuart McMillan, Convener of the Cross Party Group, said: “I’m delighted to be supporting the launch of Giant Strides, the marine tourism strategy for Scotland in the Year of Coasts and Waters. This is a different kind of strategy as it takes a much broader and fuller view of marine tourism and its unique role in rural, coastal and island communities.

“It marks a pronounced shift away from the classic narrow focus on financial growth to become a strategy that drives multiple benefits across communities, the environment and the economy. It will lead to a Partnership Plan that will be developed through the Cross Party Group for Recreational Boating and I hope organisations across all sectors will embrace the opportunity to get involved in shaping the vision for years to come.”

Boasting the longest coastline in Europe, varied wildlife, rich heritage, breathtaking scenery and some of the world’s most beautiful and varied waters, Scotland’s marine tourism sector already attracts visitors from all over the world, with visitor expenditure reaching £131m[1] in 2016, and the overall contribution of the sector reaching £411m[2] in 2017/18.

The strategy was developed in consultation with a wide range of individuals and industry groups including British Marine, Sail Scotland, Scottish Canals and Royal Yachting Association Scotland. The consultation ran in 2019 and feedback was used to shape the strategy.

Catherine Topley, Chief Executive at Scottish Canals, said: “Scotland’s canals have welcomed £1.53 billion of investment since 2002, leading to significant business growth, job creation and value for both rural and urban economies. From the iconic Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel and our destinations in Fort Augustus, Ardrishaig and Bowling Harbour, to our regeneration work in North Glasgow, we’re delivering real social, economic and environmental benefits to canalside communities across Scotland.

“Following the success of Awakening the Giant, we’re confident that the next five year strategy will support a sustainable future for the marine tourism industry and we look forward to working with partners across the country to drive benefits for businesses and communities over the coming years.”

Today’s launch will lead to the development and publication of a Partnership Plan before the end of 2020 that will set out activity to be delivered by various organisations. This will be overseen by the CPG on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism, convened by Stuart McMillan MSP, a long-term supporter of the sector and both Awakening the Giant and Giant Strides.


Launched at SailScotland’s conference in West Kilbride today, Giant Strides was supported by speakers Mark Crothall CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Chair of the National Tourism Strategy Steering Group, Karen Yeomans Director of North Ayrshire Council, Scottish Canals’ CEO Catherine Topley and Gordon Watson, CEO of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.


Giant Strides challenges perceptions of marine tourism as purely boat-based, with its four strategic themes instead focusing on delivering clean and blue waters, authentic experiences, sustainable businesses and engaged communities.


Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “Water flows through the identity of the National Park with its iconic lochs, rivers and coasts and provides many benefits from supporting biodiversity to boosting mental and physical health.


“In 2020, Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters it seems fitting to recognise the significant growth in active water-based recreation such as open water swimming and paddle sports, alongside more established boating and fishing activities. This growth has boosted the economy and is a truly sustainable way of enjoying Scotland’s natural assets. Investment in the right shore-based facilities that improve access to water is key to stimulating this growth and we will continue to play our part in delivering the ‘Giant Strides’ Strategy by supporting further growth in the coming years.”

Marc Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: “This new strategy is a welcome evolution of Awakening the Giant and is very well aligned to the priority areas and aims of Scotland’s recently announced future  wider tourism strategy, ‘Scotland Outlook 2030’ which is built around four cornerstones – Our Passionate People, Our Memorable Experiences, Our Thriving Places and Our Diverse Businesses.

“The marine tourism sector through Giant Strides and together with others play a significant in helping us achieve the overarching national vision as outlined in Scotland Outlook 2030 which is for Scotland to become acknowledged as “The World leader in 21st Century tourism over the coming decade, by delivering responsible tourism for a sustainable future.

For more information on Giant Strides please click here.