Scots firms urged to benefit from ancestral tourism

The guide has been launched today at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney. Picture: SNS
The guide has been launched today at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney. Picture: SNS
Share this article
Have your say

Scottish businesses are being urged to tap into the opportunities posed by ancestral tourism – which it is claimed has the potential to boost the economy by £2.4billion.

Tourism Intelligence Scotland has published a new guide aimed at helping firms take advantage of the growing sector, particularly in the run up to 2014 when Scotland welcomes the World for Homecoming, the Ryder Cup and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The guide, which is based on ancestral tourism research commissioned by VisitScotland, shows that some 10 million people worldwide with Scottish roots are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, with around two-fifths of these planning to visit the country in the next two years.

The study shows the sector has the potential to grow significantly in the next five years, from the current 800,000 visitors per year to 4.3 million visitors.

Based on these figures, the opportunity for businesses to capitalise on these visitors is estimated at £2.4billion in additional revenue.

The guide has been launched today at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney.

He said: “Scotland is preparing to Welcome the World in 2014 when we take to the global stage with our second Year of Homecoming.

“Ancestral tourism will be a key component of next year’s festivities with many visitors looking to trace their ancestry or just soak up the atmosphere of their forefathers’ land.

“Tourism Intelligence Scotland’s new Ancestral Tourism guide will help Scottish businesses utilise opportunities available to them within the emerging ancestral tourism sector, encouraging more genealogy tourists and boosting the economy.”

Commercial opportunities

Audrey Maclennan, Senior Development Manager for Tourism at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “With an increasing number of people interested in tracing their roots, ancestral tourism can offer new and exciting year-round commercial opportunities to business across the Highlands and Islands.

“Some, such as Timespan in Helmsdale, have already identified ways in which they can capitalise on this market and this new guide will offer advice and guidance to others who wish to follow their lead.”

George MacKenzie, chairman of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group, said the guide would help Scottish businesses grasp the opportunities of the ancestral market and bring more visitors to Scotland in search of their family roots.

Marc Crothall, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance, added that Tourism Scotland 2020, the National Strategy for Scottish tourism, identified our “Distant Cousins” - USA, Australia and Canada - as a key growth market.

He said: “We are therefore delighted with the development of this relevant resource which will help the industry to better understand this key market and inspire them to develop memorable experiences tailored to their needs.”

Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies globally, dramatically increasing in popularity as access to the internet and online resources become more plentiful.


Research shows that the overseas ancestral market represents a smaller number of visitors, however it is the most lucrative sector and one that businesses should examine more fully.

Studies also show that ancestral tourists spend significantly more per day than the average tourist to Scotland, they stay longer than other visitors (average of 10 nights compared to 4.5 nights for all visits to Scotland), visit throughout the year and often visit places that traditionally have little tourist trade outside of the usual tourist centres.

Ancestral tourists from all countries are highly likely to make return visits to Scotland (92%) and to recommend Scotland as a destination to family and friends (97%).

The new guide is available to businesses by registering at

It offers a raft of practical hints, tips and ideas to help businesses make the most of the year-round opportunities, including gathering local information and knowledge of ancestral landmarks such as churches, castles, battlefields, stately homes and museums to direct tourists to places of interest

Homecoming Scotland 2014 will bring a number of major historic celebrations to the country including the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and over 50 ancestral and clan events and activities.