A NEW campaign to promote Scotland’s natural beauty has got off to a flying start after the country was named the world’s top travel destination in 2013.
CNN Travel’s feature cites the newly-unveiled Scottish National Trail, Scotland’s “pristine lochs and haunting glens”, and the dramatic countryside featured in Bond film Skyfall as key reasons to visit.
Major events like the HebCelt music festival and the Open golf championship are also cited in the travel website’s annual guide to latest “hot” destinations, which says there is no better time to visit than the Year of Natural Scotland.
The year-long initiative was instigated by the Scottish Government as part of a series of themed years in the run-up to the second Year of Homecoming, which is being held next year to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
CNN Travel said it had taken into account international buzz, major events, savvy marketing and economics when compiling its top destinations.
It states: “When compiling our list of 2013 hot spots, we took into account all of the above and more while canvassing travel sites, experts and organisations to identify up and coming destinations based on bargains, significant events and important new services, such as added airline routes and major hotel openings.
The other seven destinations named in the guide included Amsterdam, Colombia, Slovakia, and Morocco. These were all rated above other “trending” locations for 2013 like Montenegro, New Zealand, Miami and Japan.
CNN Travel said of Scotland: “Anyone who saw the 2012 James Bond thriller “Skyfall” walked away wishing they too could race through Scotland’s dramatic countryside and hide out in its misty Highlands
“Of many outdoor events and special deals planned around the Year of Natural Scotland, highlights include the Dumfries & Galloway Wildlife Festival, the HebCelt music festival, Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight and, of course, the Open golf tournament.
“More independent-minded trekkers will find 2013 a good year to tackle part of Scotland’s great trails, a network of long-distance routes across the country. The entire length of the country - all 750 kilometres of it - can be walked via the trail, which runs from the English border to Cape Wrath, travels past pristine lochs and haunting glens as it follows mainly existing routes, such as the West Highland Way and Rob Roy Way.”
The Year of Natural Scotland is aimed at raising awareness of Scotland as “a land of outstanding beauty”, while promoting ways to enjoy spectacular landscapes, wildlife and heritage sites responsibly.
Among the bodies backing the initiative are Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, EventScotland, Creative Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.
Scotland’s tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “To have Scotland recognised in this way is testament to the hard work and drive of the industry and as CNN say we have even more to come with the Year of Natural Scotland which will showcase our breath taking natural environment to the world.”
Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland’s chairman added: “This is a tremendous accolade for Scotland and what a great way to start the New Year. 2013 is a massive year for Scotland with a plethora of things to see and do and a host of events to participate in across the country, all under the banner of Year of Natural Scotland. “Undoubtedly the global success of Brave and the awe inspiring images of Scotland in Skyfall will have whetted the appetite of many potential visitors from home and around the world.
“Throughout 2013 we must capitalise on this success and position the majesty and magnificence of Natural Scotland on the world stage.
“Despite the tough economic environment, momentum is building ahead of 2014. Endorsements such as this really help to secure Scotland’s leading position on the global tourism map as a must see destination.”
SNP MP Angus MacNeil, whose constituency covers the Western Isles, said: “It is great news that one of the world’s biggest news networks nominates Scotland as the number one tourist hot spot this year.
“Our combination of natural beauty as well as increased number of air routes direct to Scotland and the fantastsic events of the Year of Natural Scotland have given the country even more appeal as a place to take a great holiday this year.
“Whether it is outdoor pursuits like walking and climbing or city break and visiting Scotland’s many cultural destinations, tourism is a major industry across the country, from Shetland to the Solway shores.”
Helen Todd, campaigns manager for Ramblers Scotland, said: “We’re obviously delighted with this news.
“Scotland is a great place to go outdoors. You can get a wild experience in Scotland just by parking your car and going for a walk without too much effort.”