Banks double cash pot for tourism firms

The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest have announced plans to make another £150 million available to help tourism businesses in Scotland expand.

The banks are doubling their Leisure Fund to £300 million after the first £150 million was snapped up within six months.

The fund was launched earlier this year amid fears one in four leisure businesses felt they were losing out due to lack of investment. It offers fee-free loans and an option including two six-month repayment holidays to accommodate the seasonality of many leisure enterprises.

In Scotland more than 80 leisure businesses have taken advantage of the fund, borrowing around £32 million.

Andrew Taylor, head of leisure for commercial banking at RBS, said: "From day one this fund has attracted incredible interest. Its success so far proves the real desire for investment and growth and we are dedicated to continuing our support of leisure businesses.

"The fund has now been running for 20 weeks and we have agreed over 250 loans totalling some £160 million. Given lending in the equivalent 20 weeks of 2012 was around £60 million, this is an incredible step forward which proves that confidence is returning.

"It is also really encouraging that the funding has not just gone to a handful of large businesses, but to a wide range of clients."

Hotels have generated the largest demand for the fund so far, borrowing around £90 million, followed by restaurants and pubs.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: "Ongoing investment in Scottish tourism is vital in a highly competitive market. I am delighted to see so many businesses taking advantage of the Leisure Fund, particularly as we look forward to welcoming the world next year, when the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming combine for an unforgettable year for Scottish tourism."

In July this year, Diane Stuart, owner of Elgin-based business Kaizen Kickboxing, was able to purchase new premises for her growing business with funding from RBS.

She said: "It's a really exciting time for us right now - this move has opened up so many doors, and of course it has been a morale boost. Owning our own property gives us much more stability."