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By Caroline Warburton, Destination Development Director (Central and North East)
2022 was another rollercoaster of a year for Scotland’s tourism industry. With the sector still reeling from the effects of the pandemic they, like everyone else, have faced further challenges, none more so than the rising cost of living which affects the cost of doing business, the cost of living and therefore the cost of going out or on holiday.
At VisitScotland, we have continued to look ahead and remain focused on the need to support businesses and drive demand from visitors. In order to do this, we need to ensure that Scotland, and all that it has to offer as a day trip, short break or international holiday destination, remains visible. We look to achieve this through our own marketing and promotion activities, those of our partners as well as helping businesses to promote themselves.
Right now, we have focused marketing activity aimed at inspiring visitors to take a winter break in Scotland, whatever their budget.
One example is our Great Days Out campaign where we have teamed up with the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, Historic Environment Scotland and others to offer 50% off entry to attractions until the end of March. In Courier Country, this includes Arbroath Abbey, The Black Watch Castle and Museum in Perth, St Andrews Cathedral and Action Glen Adventure Park in Crieff.
Our ‘Scotland is Calling’ campaign continues across the rest of the UK working with Hostelling Scotland, Caledonian Sleeper and LNER to promote breaks in our region.
Our international visitors are as important to the region as our local ones, and it was reassuring to hear from businesses last summer that international visitors were once again visiting us. We continue to work closely with airline partners and Transport Scotland to secure the return of international air routes, with the first direct flight between Scotland and the west coast of North America starting this summer.
In April, we are hosting our annual travel trade event Connect 2023 at P&J Live in Aberdeen. Tour operators and travel agents from around the world will meet with local businesses and it is an excellent opportunity to highlight all that we have in Tay Country for visitors throughout the year.
With 17% of visitors from our top international markets* telling us that they visit a filming location whilst they are here, we recently launched our film guide ‘Set in Scotland’ which features over 25 films shot in the region including Chariots of Fire, Outlaw King and Under the Skin.
As well as marketing, we are working closely with others in the region to bring together new experiences in areas where we know visitors have a growing interest. These include learning new skills, health and wellbeing and outdoor activities amongst others.
In November, VisitScotland as part of the Forth Bridges Tourism Group launched the Forth Bridges Trail, a new 5-mile visitor route showcasing the iconic bridges and North and South Queensferry. It was designed as a year-round activity which encourages visitors to stay longer in the area and explore it more widely, supporting year-round tourism businesses.
Although the sector has its challenges, it is always also brimming with new ideas and opportunities, so here are just a few things to look forward to in 2023: The V&A Dundee celebrates its 5th anniversary this year, with the April opening of ‘Tartan’, their first curated major exhibition. Discovery Point’s new Discovery Dome, which opened at the end of last year, continues to wow visitors with its unique telling of Dundee’s story and BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend announced earlier this week will provide another major boost for the local economy and tourism businesses. There are plenty of experiences to whet the appetite too including the new tours at Arbikie Distillery near Montrose and lunch within the walled garden at Hospitalfield House in Arbroath.
The Scottish Crannog Centre is busy creating a new Iron Age village across Loch Tay from their former site and are hoping to open in Spring. And of course, work continues apace on the conversion of Perth City Hall into Perth Museum which is due to open next year.
Fife will be celebrating one of Kirkcaldy’s most famous residents, Adam Smith and the tricentenary of his birth. Meanwhile, Dunfermline is enjoying its first full year of city status, with work continuing on the newly restored 15th century Abbot House.
Across Scotland, the arrival of 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships this summer aims to remind all of us of the ‘power of the bike’ and there will be plenty of opportunities to watch international champions, join community events or simply be reminded of the fantastic year-round cycling trails we have here on our doorstep.
For more information on VisitScotland’s cost-of-doing-business support and advice, please visit: https://www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/advice/cost-of-business