How Scottish adventure tourism is coping amid the cost of living crisis


MUCH discussion around the energy crisis has focused on how cities and urban areas have been affected, with less attention given to the unique issues that rural communities and industries are facing.

One of those industries is the seasonal adventure tourism sector, with many firms set up in the north and west Highlands where dependency on oil and gas fuels is more prevalent than mains electricity.

Karl Bungy of Otter Adventures, based on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, spoke exclusively with The National about the particular issues his business was facing.

For Bungy one of the starkest challenges is the skyrocketing bills which are affecting the B&B he runs as part of his sea kayaking business.

He said: “We’ve got a B&B here so we’re noticing the cost of electricity and heating oil – which has gone up massively. And that’s having an impact on the profit margin in the B&B. So we’re having to put prices up on that.”

Bungy says rural areas have as much to offer tourists as the regular hotspots

Bungy’s rising costs haven’t been limited to the monthly bills, as he reported that in the last 18 months – when Brexit and Covid were hitting his business the hardest – prices of the kayaks essential to his business have soared.

He said: “The price of the boats has gone up by I think about 30% overall, which is quite a huge increase in 12/18 months. So that’s going to have a big effect on what we’re able to do and how much we’re able to expand or replace. And then there’s going to get them.

“Delivery costs have gone up massively and now it’s now significantly cheaper for me to drive down to the middle of England to get them and come back again.”

READ MORE: Meet Nick Ray: The man who kayaked almost 2000 miles across Scotland’s coasts

Another issue facing revenue streams is the changed perception people have of traveling to rural areas in the UK as restrictions lift and fuel costs rise, Bungy says.

He explained that the combination of the two has given British travelers the idea that domestic holidays are relatively more expensive.

He said: “One of the big things that was stopping people from traveling in May/June time was that they were constantly being told by the media that we’ve got no money, there’s an economic crisis, petrol’s going up, food is going up, and people are getting scared.

“I think that was putting a lot of people off travelling. I think a lot of people also tried to book two holidays. They would book a domestic trip and an international one and then decide in the last minute if they could go abroad.”

According to Bungy, attracting people to the area was hard enough without the fear of rising costs as travelers would not see past the most popular hotspots like the Northcoast 500 and Edinburgh.

Bungy says that this is often down to a lack of awareness where some of the most beautiful spots Scotland has to offer aren’t on the radar of the average tourist or traveller.

The National: A mirror calm day on Loch SunartA mirror calm day on Loch Sunart

He said: “I go on to various social media travel sites and everyone’s always going to Inverness, to Edinburgh, to Cairngorm and the North Coast 500. It’s always the obvious ones.

“So I think we need more people to put the message out. As well as all the obvious places, there are equally beautiful, quiet areas that have the wildlife and the scenery that Scotland is famous for. You just need to go out and find them.”

To the serious issues the local industry is facing, Bungy has pointed to community spirit as the solution. He says that local businesses have responded by pooling together and promoting each other to get as much hype around the area as possible.

The National: Bungy says the costs of kayaks has soaredBungy says the costs of kayaks has soared

He said: “Whereas places in Edinburgh would have massive budgets for marketing, we just don’t have that. We have to get ourselves more organized and become more of a powerful tourism force and say ‘Look, we are a joined up organisation, as opposed to individual companies’.

“We are working together in this remote area for tourism for each other. So we cross-promote and share information with each other. So that’s something that we need to do ourselves. But we could do with more people championing these rural areas as well.”

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