The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) is closely monitoring the Boycott Scotland campaign by protesters in the USA angered by the release of the Libyan Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. The website BoycottScotland.com is an anonymous Internet protest calling upon Americans to avoid Scotland and Scottish products in protest at al-Megrahi’s release.
VisitScotland, the Scottish national tourist board, has received emails from a small number of people cancelling their trips to Scotland since this news, but apart from this they say it is “business as usual.”
“We understand that feelings are running high. However, the strong and enduring relationship between Scotland and the US will continue, as will the friendship between the American and Scottish people. Our priority is ensuring that American visitors and tourists are extended a very warm welcome to Scotland,” said Kerry Thomson, VisitScotland spokeswoman.
The USA is Scotland’s biggest overseas market and 2009 is an important year for inbound tourism. ‘Homecoming Scotland’ 2009 is an ongoing cultural events program celebrating Scotland’s contribution to world culture and heritage. “We are not running a new campaign to respond to the Boycott Scotland web site, but of course if the situation changes we will be ready to respond.”
The anonymous Internet protest is receiving wide publicity in the US media, including the New York Times, Bloomberg, CNN and Forbes magazine, and is growing in its scope, to include calls for a boycott of the whole United Kingdom and British products and services including banking and BP oil. The boycott has the tacit support of Andrew Lanza, Republican Senator for Staten Island in New York. Senator Lanza suggested that Americans “exert economic pressure on Scotland to express dissatisfaction with their dangerous decision.”
The website appears to have been organized for personal reasons by a group of friends and relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing. “Americans need to respond to this outrageous miscarriage of justice and betrayal of the victims’ families, who were mostly fellow Americans, by refusing to spend their tourist dollars in Scotland and avoiding any kind of business there. Boycotting is the only way to send a clear and direct message to both the Scottish and British governments that Americans will not tolerate such a flagrant betrayal.”
According to VisitScotland, visitors from the US accounted for 340,000 trips to Scotland in 2008 and spent £260 million (US$429 million) in the country, or about 21% of spending by people from outside the UK.
Adam Buckmaster of ETOA said, “While we recognize that this is a highly sensitive issue, we would advise against any tourism boycott of Scotland. This would threaten the livelihoods of many hard-working Scots at this time of economic uncertainty. Scotland is a spectacular destination with a rich culture and history; it has always been a popular destination among American tourists and we encourage them to keep visiting.”
Source: ETOA Briefing