It’s always the same, you wait for something for what feels like an entirety, it finally arrives and then – bang – it is over in a flash – that’s exactly what 2014 has felt like. A fun-filled whirlwind of celebration, success and most importantly all things Scottish.
From fictional battles during Bannockburn Live to real battles on the green at the Ryder Cup. From the dancing teacakes and giant Nessie in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games to the spectacular pyrotechnic finale of the Forth Road Bridge’s 50th anniversary celebrations. 2014 has been unforgettable.
Now, as the New Year begins, there is a misconception that we have to pack away the figurative decorations of 2014, that we will never see the likes of this year again. But why? The party isn’t over, in fact it has only just begun!
2014 was the launchpad for tourism. It’s given us a taste of what is possible and created an appetite for success. Now we must use this momentum and continue to grow and develop Scotland’s tourism industry in 2015 and beyond.
This year we will host nine world-class sporting and cultural events. Events that cement Scotland’s reputation as a country with the facilities, skills and, most importantly, the people to host major events.
2014 has also gifted us the chance to introduce a global audience to Scotland’s strengths and assets. All across the world during the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, as well as the sporting stars, images of our landscapes, our people and our culture were beamed to homes across the globe. And that’s exactly why the party is far from over, a whole new audience of people are learning about Scotland for the first time. We must use this opportunity to showcase some of the features that make Scotland so special.
That’s why I believe 2015 is so exciting. There is a new confidence within the tourism industry and in the country as a whole. We may be small, but we are big people with big aspirations and we have shown the world we can compete on the international stage. This is the year we take Scotland to the world, starting with a culinary journey in the form of the Year of Food and Drink.
At Hogmanay, our biggest party of the year, we started a 12-month celebration of Scotland’s natural larder, a chance to promote our unique cuisine and authentic dining experiences through an exciting programme of activity.
Food and drink is an integral part of our cultural identity and the tourism experience. Sampling traditional dishes and local produce is the second-top activity undertaken by visitors to Scotland, while two-thirds of visitors think quality food is an important factor when deciding where to go on holiday.
Food and drink was also a crucial part of the success of 2014 with our culinary delights playing a key role during major events like the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the Year of Homecoming.
Scotland’s reputation for food and drink is growing. Throughout 2015 we will celebrate our unrivalled produce from fresh seafood from our coasts and estuaries to raising a glass to our world-famous whisky distilleries. Our famous food and drink comes from our unique landscapes, our unspoiled habitats and, as much as we grumble about it, our varied weather, which is perfect for producing a wide variety of high-quality fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat and much more.
If we look at this as a business opportunity, and of course tourism is, at its heart, a business, promoting Scotland’s food and drink is a recipe for success. The industry has the potential to provide significant growth for tourism. Visitors are willing to pay up to 15 per cent more for goods that are of Scottish or regional origin, while recent figures suggest Scotland’s food and drink tourism industry is worth an estimated £2.5 million per day to the economy. The year 2015 is a chance for Scotland’s tourism industry, buoyed by the success of 2014, to show the world that it can offer a unique holiday experience, whatever the year and whatever the occasion. The last year created an appetite for success and now we will use that for economic growth next year and beyond. So let’s keep the party going and ensure 2015 is another year of brilliant moments for Scotland.
• Mike Cantlay is chairman of VisitScotland www.visitscotland.com