Scots to be urged to help reboot nation's ailing tourism industry

Scottish tourism chiefs will try to reboot the nation's ailing industry with 'stay local' and ‘hidden gems’ campaigns aimed exclusively at Scots over the summer.

Scots will be encouraged to "re-explore" their own country under plans to reboot the tourism industry over the next few months. Picture: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Families and friends emerging from lockdown will be urged to take advantage of attractions and beauty spots on their doorstep rather than drive long distances as part of a bid to get the ailing industry back on its feet within weeks.

National tourism agency VisitScotland is drawing up plans to “build national pride” by encouraging Scots to rediscover their own country as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased over the next few months.

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However it is unlikely that people living outwith Scotland will be encouraged to book a holiday until the autumn under the government body’s current plans.

VisitScotland has also pledged that some parts of the country, particularly in remote areas, will only be promoted when local communities and tourism operators are ready to welcome back visitors.

Industry leaders have warned of the prospect of mass unemployment” across Scotland unless there is immediate support for the sector amid claims more than 2500 businesses are at risk of closure over the next few weeks.

Under the Scottish Government’s plans to take the country out of lockdown, families and friends from different households are expected to be able to visit parks, beaches and garden centres from next week.

Bars and restaurants may be permitted to serve customers outdoors at some point next month, while hotels, guest houses, museums and galleries could reopen in July, when the first events could be staged again, as long as social distancing measures are in place.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the industry, says it is “disheartened” at the suggested timetable for the reopening of the industry.

However Vicki Miller, VisitScotland’s marketing director, insisted a cautious approach would be taken in all its campaign work over the next few months to ensure the industry was ready to welcome back visitors in different parts of the country

Ms Miller said: "We are very much working to a phased plan. We will start very slowly and gradually, when it will be about reinforcing a 'stay local' message and what people can do that is closer to home.

"It will then be about encouraging Scots to make day trips and have overnight stays.

"It will be very important during this next period that we balance our messaging around supply and demand, so that we signpost to visitors what is safe and what is open.

"We will have a phase where it will be about Scotland only and reconnecting Scots with Scotland, really building that national pride and I guess encouraging Scots to re-explore their own country.

"We will then move into a phase where it will be more about travel across the UK. We will only do that when we know that the industry is ready.

"Unfortunately, given all the circumstances, we are going to miss the main season this year.

"This will be about trying to get as much recovery for the industry over the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year.

"Our thinking is that the autumn will be the time to have a bigger push.

"We are trying to keep Scotland at the top of people's minds in all our key markets at the moment.

“The autumn gives us that window, which means we'd probably need to be out there with a campaign around August time to get that boost.

"We know from our research we are seeing that people will travel if we know we are taking their health and safety seriously.

"Will will reinforce that in our message as it is really important in terms of building trust in Scotland as a destination."

Ms Miller, who was speaking in an online Q&A, said VisitScotland would ensure that its forthcoming campaign did not promote areas where there was a "fear factor" about the return of visitors or "hotspots" which had suffered overtourism problems in recent years.

She added: "It will be really important for us to work with the industry and local communities around the country to make sure that we are getting the message right for each part of the country and are promoting things that people can do.

"We need to make sure we include remote communities in our activity when the time is right.

“We need to be responsible and understand it is not a one-size-fits-all picture around the country. It will be about balancing supply and demand for the next wee while.

"We know there will be communities that might still be shielding. We know there will be capacity issues within public transport.

"We were in a situation before where we had hotspots around the country where we were talking about overtourism.

"We have got an opportunity now to talk more about hidden gems, things that are off the beaten track, and coasts and countryside that are maybe less explored."

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