Scotland's towns make memories for visitors

The vision of the National Tourism Strategy, Tourism Scotland 2020, is for Scotland to be a destination of first choice for a high-quality, value for money and memorable customer experience, delivered by skilled and passionate people.

Scotland's towns are at the heart of tourism boom
Scotland's towns are at the heart of tourism boom

Our destinations, towns, villages and cities are at the heart of the visitor experience – it’s where our visitor eats, sleeps, discovers and explores.

It’s where our visitors’ memories are built and it’s the place they recommend before and after they get home, through the range of digital platforms available to them.

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Tourism is perhaps one of the biggest income generators for your town that you may take for granted. We rarely see our home, town, destination as others see it and we forget that many of the people who support our local economies are visitors.

We say that tourism is everybody’s business – from the flower shop in your high street to the coffee shop next to the station to the tour guide leading visitors round a castle.

Tourism is also the biggest economic driver for Scotland. It’s 217,000 jobs, and for 2015 it was 14.9 million visitors spending just over £5 billion.

Increased income flowing into your destination stimulates inward investment – from businesses, local government and the Scottish Government to ensure that we’re able to offer visitors a consistently great experience from the moment they arrive to the moment they pay their bill and swipe their phone ready to submit their TripAdvisor review.

The infrastructure and accessibility of your town from a transport and digital point of view is what can be the “make or break” to a visitor and it’s crucial that we get all the elements of the visitor experience right and also capitalise on everything our destinations have to offer. One of the key objectives of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) is to help support individual businesses, marketing services, trade associations, local area tourism groups and any organisation with an active interest in tourism to realise their potential by maximising and building on opportunities to ensure future growth of our industry.

This year marks an important time for Scotland’s tourism industry and our destinations with it being the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology – a year which offers all of our towns, villages and cities the opportunity to celebrate the richness of their intriguing history, impressive cultural heritage and fascinating archaeology through a range of exciting events, activities and a wealth of visitor attractions.

Scotland’s history and heritage is what defines the country for many visitors. It is also a key motivator for visits to Scotland and an important part of the visitor experience with 32 per cent of visitors citing “history and culture” as a key motivator for their trip – second only to the “scenery and landscape”

(49 per cent) in the Visitor Survey, 2015.

This is the year of the “heritage tourist” so what can your town do to capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead and encourage visitors (and your residents) to discover the past and present of your destination?

The key, as always is in fostering collaboration with businesses, local government, national government and associations to bring to life your destination’s cultural past in a modern, vibrant way and attract new visitors, generating benefits for your local economy.

A number of businesses and destinations have been capitalising on the opporuntities presented by Scotland’s themed years, knowing this will be a huge draw for visitors to their area and a boost to their economy.

The opportunities for you to put your town on the map are there – please do connect with the STA to find support for growing your business and your town as a tourism asset and have a look at the range of ways you can engage in this hugely important focus year by visiting the VisitScotland website.

Marc Crothall is chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance

This article appears in the SPRING 2017 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version can be read here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.