Industry leaders aim to rebuild the lucrative market, worth more than £2.5 billion in 2019, by encouraging people to spend more time in the one place, seek out lesser-known destinations, and explore environmentally-friendly options for travelling around.
VisitScotland will be repositioned as a place to “slow down, re-charge, escape and enjoy immersive and sustainable tourism experiences.”
Potential visitors will be told: “Scotland is famous for its outdoor playground, but adventures don't always need to happen at 100 miles per hour.”
Signalling a move away from “bucket lists” and the influence of social media, VisitScotland will be encouraging potential visitors to “leave behind likes, check lists and tick boxes.”
The Scottish Government hopes the new campaign, which will be worth around £8 million over the next six months, would help realise ambitions of the country being “one of the top destinations for visitors from across the world” in future.
The Scotland is Calling campaign is being rolled out now to help secure bookings from long-haul destinations for the main 2022 season, but is also hoped to boost business for the autumn and winter periods, particularly from within the UK.
Bringing back overseas visitors in large numbers is seen as crucial for the revival of Scottish tourism, which was worth more than £11 billion to the economy in 2019. They were responsible for more than 3.5 million overnight visits two years ago.
The Scotland is Calling campaign will encompass everything from food and drink experiences and wellness holidays to cultural events, adventure activities and quiet get-away-from-it-all destinations.
VisitScotland has set aside £1.5 million to help tour operators create and promote new “responsible tourism” itineraries.
Rather than embark on whistle-stop tours and extensive road trips around Scotland, the campaign will encourage alternatives such as an extended stay in the Small Isles, in the Inner Hebrides, heading to a wellness retreat and digital detox amid the “calming landscapes” of Argyll, a sailing holiday on a “Viking Trail” from the Caledonian Canal to Shetland and Orkney, and a walking holiday on the Isle of Bute.
Slow travel experiences being promoted include a cruise to St Kilda, the isolate cluster of islands off the Outer Hebrides, trekking on the Affric Kintail Way, which is described as a “much less crowded alternative” to the West Highland Way, a “spa experience on wheels” through the Highlands on the Belmond Royal Scotsman train and a week-long cycling holiday in the “often bypassed wilderness" of the Galloway Forest Park.A new “slow travel” section of VisitScotland's new-look website states: “Ditch the check-list of places to see and things to do on your next visit to Scotland and discover the pleasures of slow travel.
“Slow travel is best described as an outlook that inspires travellers to take the time to really immerse themselves in a destination.
“You can do this in a variety of ways, but the main idea is to slow down and allow yourself the space and time to properly rejuvenate - to fully experience the journey, rather than simply getting from A to B. It's about getting to know a corner of the country and making a connection with its people, food, culture and natural environment.”
Suggestions for rural and remote “escape” holidays for overseas visitors include eco-bothies on the banks of Loch Ken, in Dumfries and Galloway, staying in an old post office or school building in the “secret peninsula” of Morvern, in the West Highlands, Foula in Shetland, which is thought to be the UK’s most remote inhabited island, and the Crinan Canal, in Argyll.
VisitScotland's website adds: “Slow travel is a more meaningful way of travelling. In short, it's about forming connections with a place and keeping them with you forever.
"It's about taking your time and savouring the moments along the way - the journey, the destination and the people.
"It's going back home with a sense of calm and relaxation and leaving behind the likes, check lists and tick boxes. Invest your energy, save the planet, and stay a wee bit longer.”
Vicki Miller, VisitScotland’s director of marketing, said: “International
visitors are critical in helping Scotland’s tourism industry to build back sustainably as it recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.
"We know there is pent-up demand for travel and we want to ensure we inspire potential visitors with what Scotland has to offer and make it their first-choice destination when they can travel.”
Scottish tourism minister Ivan McKee said: “Scotland is one of the world’s leading tourism destinations and we want it to remain one of the top destinations for visitors from across the world.
“This funding will ensure tourism businesses that would normally rely on international visitors are ready to welcome guests back to Scotland.
"We have so much to offer, from crystal clear blue waters and white sands to rolling hills and bustling cities. There is something for everyone and we want visitors to start thinking about and planning their trips to Scotland when the time is right.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the industry, said: “The launch of the new campaign could not be a more timely comfort and much needed boost for our industry, particularly for businesses which have barely traded in almost two years, such is their reliance on the international market.”
“Our industry cannot survive on domestic tourism alone; this campaign will inject a much-needed stimulus into our tourism sector, with benefits which will stretch across our wider economy and communities, marking a hugely important step in the direction of recovery and building a sustainable future for Scottish tourism.”