Half of Scottish tourism businesses say they have fewer bookings this summer compared with 2019, a survey has found.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) survey also found almost 40% of businesses reported spending was down compared with last year.
Businesses believe the drop-off is due to the UK cost-of-living crisis, the appeal of outbound international travel, Scotland’s inability to compete internationally on value for money and people taking late decisions on holidays.
More than 700 tourism businesses across Scotland took part in the survey, which ran from May 17 to June 8.
Some 60% of hotels said they were unable to trade effectively with the current level of staff they have.
A total of 55% of businesses reported that their international bookings for June-August are lower in comparison with May 2019.
STA chief executive Marc Crothall said: “The results of what has been one of our most robust surveys to date in terms of number of respondents and depth of data confirms very much what businesses have been telling us for many weeks now; recovery is happening albeit at a much slower pace than anticipated and certainly not across all tourism sectors.
“The cost-of-living crisis is hitting Scotland’s tourism sector very hard on many levels.
“People are hesitant about committing to booking a break due to household financial challenges and uncertainty, consumer spend is down and with the rise of energy prices and supplier costs, many businesses are finding that the level of recovery is almost static.
“This impacts the ability for our tourism industry to remain competitive globally; we struggle to compete on price and we’re unable to retain and attract the quality of staff required to deliver the level of service demanded by today’s consumers.”
He continued: “The majority of our businesses cannot move beyond running to stand still, despite the fact that we’re now almost into the main tourist season.
“The transport disruption and planned rail strikes only make the challenge that much harder.
“The market is still fragile and businesses are finding it increasingly hard to trade their way into a place of sustainable recovery.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “The survey underlines some of the challenges facing the tourism and events industry.
“We know that the move towards recovery is not consistent and businesses are experiencing a shortage of workers, while the cost of living is also a concern.
“There are, however, some encouraging signs with the return of international visitors and consumer research which shows more UK residents expect to take an overnight domestic trip between June and September than in 2021.”