The long-awaited return of international visitors, along with much-loved annual events gave us cause to celebrate last year – and we can continue to be cautiously optimistic about the coming tourism season, writes Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Destination Development Director.
“Our focus at VisitScotland is on the responsible growth of our industry, including the regional and seasonal spread of visitors and attracting higher-value visitors who stay longer and spend more.
“Our enthusiasm is, of course, tempered by understandable concerns over the continuing high cost of doing business, which remains a challenging backdrop for many in the industry.
“With the increased cost of materials, challenges in recruiting staff and energy costs, combined with double-digit inflation, the pressures are being felt by every business in Scotland.
“Advice, guidance, information and signposting for other areas of support can be found on our website, at www.visitscotland.org.”
Chris went on:
“There is much to look forward to this coming year, including the Etape Loch Ness next month, The Gathering, Lyth Arts Centre Summer Sessions, Clynelish Whisky Festival and Under Canvas – to name but a few!
“Events throughout Highland – and starting next month – include Taste of Nairn, Glencoe Watersports Festival, St Duthac Book & Arts Festival and Dornoch Whisky Festival.
“Celebrating success early in 2023 were a number of Highland businesses who won accolades at the national Scottish Thistle Awards, which recognise and honour the very best individuals, businesses, partnerships and events in the industry for their innovation, excellence and success.
“MacGregor’s Bar in Inverness won Best Bar or Pub; Graham Rooney at Platform 1864 in Tain won the Tourism and Hospitality Hero award and Glenmorangie House, at Cadboll, Tain, won the Best Luxury Experience.
“I would like to congratulate them all on their successes.”
“Next month, we are thrilled to be hosting the VisitScotland Connect 2023 travel trade workshop, on April 19 and 20, at Aberdeen’s P&J Live.
“This will be our first in-person, industry-wide, travel trade event for four years, exclusively promoting Scotland as a leisure destination.
“More than 20 businesses from the Highlands will be attending, including Loch Ness Hotels, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, Tour Skye Ltd, Rothiemurchus Estates, Balmacara Hotel and Downright Gabbler, to meet representatives from 23 countries to Scotland, including the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, China and Asia Pacific.
“Looking ahead to the summer, Scotland will play host to the first ever UCI Cycling World Championships, which sees 13 world championships over 11 days of action in August.
“Tickets are now on sale for the various events – including BMX, indoor cycling, para cycling, mountain bike downhill and trials – and people can also volunteer and be part of history.
“Nevis Range will welcome three events as part of the Championships – Mountain Bike Downhill: Junior qualifying; Mountain Bike Downhill: Elite – qualifying and junior finals; and the Mountain Bike Downhill: Elite – finals.
“These events will undoubtedly be a huge draw to bike enthusiasts, visitors and locals alike and we’re looking forward to giving them all a warm Highland welcome.
“VisitScotland has also created a cycling tourism industry guide for businesses, to help them make the most of the cycling tourism market and help Scotland establish itself as a world-class cycling destination.”
Speaking about the Highlands’ tourism offering, Chris said:
“Our local attractions are going from strength to strength, with work on Inverness Castle to create a new visitor attraction continuing apace and the major transformation of the Loch Ness Centre to welcome visitors in the coming months also underway and the re-opening of Strathnaver Museum following its £1.2m refurbishment.
“Other new additions to strengthen our tourism offering include the AC Hotel (Marriott) in Glebe Street, Inverness; the Uile-bhesit Brewery and Distillery in Inverness, Corrieshalloch Gorge and next month, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.
“Responsible tourism is at the heart of everything we do at VisitScotland and it is vital that we put the welfare of the individual and communities, as well as our natural environment, at the centre of our approach.
“Tourism must value our cultural heritage, our attractions, events and activities that make Scotland unique.
“This year will see us continue to work in partnership with businesses and communities to ensure all visitors and locals can have a fantastic experience and that tourism can be a force for good across the Highlands, creating employment opportunities and responsible growth in our rural communities.
“Our new look consumer website www.visitscotland.com supports our work to build international demand and to reflect consumer needs.
“Partnership marketing is also a crucial part of our wider marketing strategy.
“Collaboration makes economic sense; it allows us to extend our reach and help bring our visitor offering to a wider range of audiences.
“Our close working relationship with Visit Inverness Loch Ness to promote this corner of the Highlands is an excellent example of this.
“Another example of effective collaboration – between VisitScotland and High Life Highland – has been the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands campaign, aimed at highlighting the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands and helping grow capacity by encouraging visits in the ‘shoulder months’ outwith the typical holiday season.
“The campaign aims to bring benefits to local communities and unlock economic potential by creating and sustaining jobs, businesses, and services.”
“Our knowledgeable and friendly staff at our iCentres across the Highlands are always available to offer our visitors a warm welcome and a wealth of information on the wide variety of things to see and do locally, where to stay and the best places to eat and drink.
“Our iCentres also stock a range of beautiful gifts, including our Shop Local range.
“The retail initiative works with local artisans and craft makers who make a positive social and environmental impact and offers them the opportunity to promote and sell their products to visitors via the VisitScotland iCentre network, all helping support and grow many local businesses across Scotland.”
More information about our marketing activity, help with digital skills, consumer trends and information, regional insights and the cost of doing business – from cutting costs or improving efficiencies to attracting new customers – can be found at www.visitscotland.org