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My top takeaways* from the 2017 Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) conference.

With ASVA members reporting visitor numbers up c.9% (the numbers have risen year on year since 2012) tourism in Scotland is an industry we can be proud of.  We all play our part in contributing to its success – from strategic, national decisions-makers right through to giving a friend in the pub a recommendation for a weekend activity, we’re all proud champions of what our fine country has to offer.

My Takeaways

N500
Scotland’s very own Route 66 is giving thousands of people a compelling reason to visit the North East. It’s already 5th in Now Travel Magazine‘s “Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World”. The genius part about this project is that the roads were already there and it just took some clever thinking to outline and market a route (or rather two) as a destination.

Whisky Distilleries
From casual visitors interested in learning how our national drink is made, to whisky pilgrims who will travel thousands of miles to visit their favourite distillery, to bag as many as possible. The numbers will only keep growing (c.1.7m people are visiting distilleries each year) which, in some cases, is creating its own challenges. A reminder that a quality of the visitor experience should be at the heart of every tourism plan.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
As well as attracting c.220,000 people to Edinburgh Castle in August (and around 100 million people on international TV each year), the Tattoo (under the leadership of Brigadier David Allfrey) has global ambitions. Last year they attracted c.250,000 people (outselling U2 and One Direction) to five of their shows in Melbourne. This is staggering as it’s only one city in one country… just the tip of the iceberg.

Accessible Tourism
My colleague Lorna spoke passionately about this at the conference. Accessible tourism is a growing, high-value market and Scotland is aiming to be recognised as a leading destination for people with particular access needs. Our Founder Lucy previously banged this drum on the same stage as Chris McCoy (VisitScotland) who is championing accessible tourism.

Film tourism
Movies like Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, James Bond and Avengers have inspired people to visit Scotland. What other movies can we attract to our unique and wonderful locations?


‘China ready’

The Chinese market is growing. The extent of this emerging trend is not fully known yet but we’re already gearing up to become ‘China Ready’. A typical itinerary for a Chinese visitor might be
London – Dublin – Loch Ness (to look for the monster of course).

More to do

All’s not perfect and we’re arguably behind the toughest competition, like Ireland. Investment is still much needed in many areas like broadband, a new film studio, roads etc, but there’s an army of people working hard to drive this to the top of the agenda. Brigadier David Allfrey also talked about ‘the bits in between’ in the tourist offer, such as clean streets and clear signage which are vital to the quality of the visitor experience. This is a useful reminder for us to consider, how are our ‘bits in-between’?

 

 Pie Bobs, Arbroath, 5-star rating on Trip Advisor

*My Top Takeaway
The best insight came from my local taxi driver. When I explained what the conference was about, he gave me a full rundown on his usual holiday town of Arbroath. The passion he spoke with about Arbroath left me in no doubt I must visit and try the ‘scrumptious steak and gravy pies’ from Pie Bobs Bakery, which has a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor. He even asked Siri on his phone to confirm that Pie Bobs has the best pies in Scotland, which she did.

No doubt in my mind that even the best marketing can’t beat the humble honest word of mouth (from the taxi driver, not Siri).

We’re a tiny country but have so much to offer, and I for one plan to play my small part wherever possible in creating unforgettable experiences.

– Andy

 

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