Getting Tourism Grants can be a Real Challenge
If you run a tourism and hospitality business in Scotland, then you’ll know just what an extraordinarily welcoming and exciting holiday location it is. But with subdued international visitor numbers combined with higher overheads, even businesses in prime locations can struggle to increase revenue and profitability.
One way to build a more secure foundation for your business is to apply for funding successfully. There are several grant opportunities open to companies and organisations in Scotland. While your business might not meet the requirements for each one, there’s almost certainly going to be funding opportunities out there designed to support and empower the Scottish tourism and hospitality sector.
Grant Resources at Your Fingertips
So, just how do you go about getting tourism grants in Scotland?
To get tourism grants in Scotland, you need to ensure that you thoroughly research the available funds and their relevant awarding timeframes, recognise your organisation’s offer concerning the demands of each fund, and understand how to navigate the complex administrative process successfully.
This article’s valuable points will help you understand which grants are available and give you pointers for fund applications. You’ll also discover how you can use grants to promote the Scottish travel and tourism industry, build facilities and improve the success of your business.
About Tourism Grants in Scotland
Tourism plays a massive part in the Scottish economy, making it an important sector for the country and those working. Scottish tourism businesses that want to improve their facilities, build a strong brand and promote themselves abroad can often benefit from tourism grants offered by national agencies such as VisitScotland.
Tourism grants are available to help spread awareness of the Scottish hospitality industry worldwide; for example, your business can use them to facilitate and publicise events or initiatives.
It can draw visitors to your real-life and virtual sites and focus on retail products and travel packages that link with the theme or ethos fund. Grants are also available to facilities that want to improve their appearance or facilities, encouraging tourists to spend more time in some regions of Scotland.
Tourism is vital to Scotland’s economy, with 17.6 million visitors arriving in 2019. These numbers should rise as more tourists come to experience all that Scotland offers, including its vast green spaces and unique attractions.
Tips for Applying for Tourism Grants in Scotland
As you work your way through applying for tourism grants in Scotland, it’s essential to make sure that you complete each step as accurately and as fully as you possibly can. The specifics of each grant application will differ, but there are some common areas of good practice that it’s wise to adhere to:
1. Follow instructions carefully
The funder will have specific guidelines on the details required for the application, so make sure that you read all the criteria thoroughly and plan your responses before you begin the formal process of writing the application. If your business or initiative isn’t immediately a good fit with the fund you are researching, then move on and find a more relevant one, making sure you take note of all the requirements.
2. Make sure that you include all relevant information
This information includes your organisation(s) experience or history, why you need a grant, how you plan on using the funds and what your organisation will do with any unused money. If gaps in your information or questions are left unanswered, your application will likely be unsuccessful.
3. Double check that all information included in the application is correct
Typos, factual errors, incorrect calculations and other mistakes could cause the funder to reject your application. Equally, make sure that your application reaches the funder before the deadline. It might be worth planning out a timetable for writing and checking your application to make sure you stay on track.
4. Include information from previous awards if applicable
Including information from previous awards shows a funder that you are serious about your application and will lead to them looking more favourably upon it. Seek to reassure that you have successfully met guidelines in the past, been a positive custodian of funds and that you have a developing vision for your Scottish tourism business.
5. Remember that funders want to know what impact they will have
How many people will you serve? How much money will you spend? What are the long-term goals of the organisation you are funding? What are the immediate plans? How will you measure success?
Most importantly, of course, your funder will be looking to ensure that their goals and the goals of your business are aligned. You need to pick funds that are most likely to have relevance to your organisation (see below), and your initiatives should benefit your targeted people and locations.
6. Shop around for funding
Only one grant will rarely cover all your needs, so consider other sources of funds before submitting a grant application. Other potential funders include corporations, foundations and individual donors.
7. Follow up with contacts at the funder
The funder might be very busy, and your application could get buried under others, so it is always best to send a friendly reminder when they haven’t responded to you in several weeks. If you didn’t think it would be successful, you wouldn’t have made the application, so don’t be afraid to push the funder for feedback.
You can find more advice on writing funding applications here.
Working with the HIE and VisitScotland
Official agencies that offer funding via tourism grants in Scotland include the Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and VisitScotland. These are just two of the most prominent organisations that have made substantial contributions to tourism through their respective grant programs and should always be at the top of your funding research list.
The HIE manages a wide range of support for Scottish tourism and hospitality businesses, with grants related to restarting and recovery after COVID-19, post-Brexit operations, community programs and investment funds.
Similarly, VisitScotland offers tourism grants for various purposes, including developing new products, destination marketing and individual business plans. Still, it’s always worth double-checking which funding programs are active, as many have cyclical applications or close permanently after a short time.
To be eligible for VisitScotland grants, applicants must meet specific basic requirements:
- The organisation must have a precise aim to increase tourism in Scotland
- The organisation must not be affiliated with any political party
- The organisation must not receive public money from another body such as the national lottery or local council.
When applying for a VisitScotland grant, it’s always ideal to have a solid tourism marketing strategy in place. This strategy should contain your short and long-term objectives, product/marketing research, target market, product strategy, and other information that may be of value to the assessing panel.
Developing a viable business plan is essential to secure a VisitScotland grant. You should have both short-term and long-term goals clearly stated in this document. Your business plan should also detail the amount of money you will be investing in these projects and the type of activities you will take to achieve these objectives.
The following funds are three of the most popular and worth exploring:
Three Important Visit Scotland Funds
1. EventScotland Funding
VisitScotland has recently launched EventScotland, a new grants program that will help to boost Scotland’s events industry. This initiative aims to increase the number of events held in the country by £5 million annually across various categories.
From the National Events Funding Programme to Scotland’s Winter Festivals Funding award, there are several small funds under this umbrella that could be highly beneficial to your tourism and hospitality business.
2. Scotland’s Themed Years Funding
Scotland’s Themed Years Funding programme was established in 2009 and regularly supports organisations contributing to nationally themed initiatives. These years now take place biennially, which gives organisations and businesses a great deal of scope for planning appropriate initiatives and developing successful applications.
3. Visit Scotland Growth Fund
The VisitScotland Growth Fund helps businesses in the Scottish tourism industry who plan to work collaboratively on tourism marketing campaigns. In particular, if your joint initiative focuses on generating growth in the tourism and hospitality sector, then this might be the fund for you.
As well as a financial aspect, funding recipients also benefit from working with VisitScotland to develop digital capability and marketing opportunities and measure outputs and success more effectively.
COVID 19 Business Support and Continuity Tourism Fund
This fund offers financial assistance for small businesses that have been hurt by the global economic downturn, enabling them to get back on their feet more quickly. The fund will distribute grants up to £28.8 million to the tourism and events industry, with up to £9 million in grants earmarked for Scottish tourism and hospitality businesses who have suffered from the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has identified that businesses in the following sectors are eligible for top-up grants if other funds have already supported them:
- coach operators
- day tour operators
- inbound tour operators
- visitor attractions
So, whilst this last fund may not be focusing on new initiatives, it’s a valuable form of support for tourism grants in Scotland. Short-term, emergency relief funds and significant, long-term grant programmes each have a role to play, and both should be considered by Scottish businesses developing funding portfolios.
Whatever form your Scottish travel, tourism or hospitality business takes, understanding the funding opportunities and processes available to you is a vitally crucial operational element. Just remember the key steps:
- Clarify the short and long-term vision for your business, ensure that your branding and marketing reflects that vision and seek out partnerships that will allow you to move forwards.
- Identify funding opportunities that connect with your ambitions and align with your ethos – don’t try to re-shape your vision to fit funding criteria. Keep checking the availability of all applicable funds as they open and close independently of one another.
- Complete your applications accurately, in detail and in good time, including as much evidence as you possibly can to reinforce your eligibility. Be ready to show how the grant will benefit and that you have a strategy to measure your award’s impact.
Suppose you’re looking to develop your business branding, increase your profile and invest in a valuable asset for your travel business that could generate 10X more online bookings. In that case, we’d love to hear from you. We’re excited to learn more about the challenges you face how we can support you to overcome them and become your go-to partner for all your travel website marketing in the future.