I have been keen to write about VisitScotland and its activities for a while now, so I was glad to be able to ask some questions to Lindsay. I first met her when we both worked at Maxxium UK, a few years back.
Inside the Cask: Thanks so much for sparing the time to talk with us, Lindsay. Can we start by asking you about your own background and also your work?
I started my career working in drinks the industry, firstly for Kronenbourg Breweries in France, and then at the premium spirits company Maxxium UK. I have now been with VisitScotland for 9 years in the Business Events team.
The Business Events team (pictured below) focuses entirely on attracting conventions, conferences, business meetings and corporate incentive reward trips to Scotland.
Our sales and marketing activity contributes towards convincing corporate event planners and professional meeting organisers that Scotland can deliver an outstanding quality of meeting, conference or incentive, as well as a lasting positive memory for delegates.
We drive these business events into Scotland from the UK and key global markets by providing the direct connections with Scotland’s world class hotels, venues, universities and event organisers who can host them.
Inside the Cask: OK, so what exactly is VisitScotland? What is its role and how did it get started?
The Scottish Tourist Board was established in 1969 with its core objectives to encourage people in Britain to holiday in Scotland, while encouraging the improvement of tourism facilities.
VisitScotland in its current format came into being in 2005, integrating 14 area tourist boards into one single national tourism network.
VisitScotland Purpose: To grow and develop Scotland’s visitor economy sustainably through our core activity of marketing and events and by working in partnership with businesses and communities
Inside the Cask: Who are the VisitScotland stakeholders? What is the purpose of the organisation?
VisitScotland is the national tourist board of Scotland. Its core purpose is to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth, which it does through a range of activities including marketing, support for businesses, attraction of major events and collaborative working with partners. These are highlighted in our corporate objectives relating to Marketing, Quality and Sustainability, Events, Inclusive Tourism and International Engagement.
Note that further information on VisitScotland is available from the corporate website – www.visitscotland.org – in particular the section “About Us” which includes the Corporate Plan.
The direct audiences/customers of many of VisitScotland activities are leisure and business travellers, local tourism businesses and organisers of events and conferences. But the organisation also has important stakeholders and partners who have a considerable influence on VisitScotland’s ability to succeed. Such stakeholders and partners can include organisations or individuals which have decision-making or influencing positions relating to VisitScotland funding, those which have a strong influence on how VisitScotland is perceived, or those which we would seek to work in partnership with. These stakeholders and partners are the focus of this research.
In the public sector, these include
- Government officers – national and local
- Local Authorities
- Other public sector organisations operating in similar fields (e.g. enterprise agencies)
In the private sector, these include
- Tourism industry leaders
- National and local media
- Other influential business leaders
Inside the Cask: How important is travel and tourism to the economy of Scotland? What impact does it have and what role does the Scotch whisky industry have?
A strong visitor economy helps to position Scotland on the world stage.
The diagram below shows how the economic impact of the Visitor Spend spreads out from the traditional component parts of the tourism industry into other sectors such as arts and crafts, food and drink, cultural activities, sports events and activities, and retail. Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain.
The whisky industry is recognised as the UK’s largest single food and drink sector, which accounts for 25% of the UK’s food and drink exports, and 80% of Scottish food and drink exports, impacting 200 markets worldwide.
Other facts relating to Scotch whisky:
- The whisky sector generates £3.3 billion directly to the UK economy, and totals £5 billion when Gross Value Added (GVA) is added to the overall to UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- France and USA generate the greatest levels of volume and value in terms of exports of Scotch Whisky.
- Emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Mexico, and UAE have achieved overall growth between 2012 and 2013 in terms of both volume and value in exports.
- 43% of visitors from Germany visited a whisky distillery whilst in Scotland, the 2nd most popular activity for visitors from this market.
- Visits to whisky distilleries are most popular with overseas visitors, who are usually first time visitors to Scotland.
Inside the Cask: What are the top destinations visited in Scotland by visitors/ tourists? Which countries send the most visitors to Scotland?
In 2015 almost 15 million overnight trips were taken in Scotland. Visitors from GB account for 12million of those. International visitors made 2.6 million trips.
The average length of overseas trips is 8 nights, 2-4 nights if from GB, and 3 nights from within Scotland.
The largest markets for international visitors are:
- United States
Inside the Cask: Have you got any great examples of government and industry working well together to grow travel & tourism in Scotland?
Yes, a programme of themed years has been running since 2009 covering :
- 2009 Year of Homecoming
- 2010 Year of Active Scotland
- 2011 Year of Food and Drink
- 2012 Year of Creative Scotland
- 2013 Year of Natural Scotland
- 2014 Year of Homecoming
- 2015 Year of Food and Drink
- 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design
- 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
- 2018 Year of Young People
The objectives of the themed years are:
- Celebrate Scotland’s unique assets
- Create opportunities for businesses to get involved
- Promoting tourism in Scotland
- Encouraging collaborative work between sectors
- Raising Scotland’s profile in the UK and abroad
They have increasingly helped public and private sectors work together with engaging themes, and joint marketing, under the same umbrella initiative.
Inside the Cask: How important is the commercial revenue generated in travel retail/ duty free in Scotland to stakeholders involved in travel & tourism?
I don’t have any statistics on this specific element, however each step of a visitor’s journey impacts on their overall travel experience. Shopping is a huge draw for visitors, from wanting to purchase souvenirs from their travels, to having shopping as a key part of their trip.
Travel retail and duty free provides attractive options for tourists to buy local and worldwide brands.
Inside the Cask: What is VisitScotland’s view on Brexit and its impact?
It is still too early to know the full impact of the results of the EU Referendum, although it is clear, in the short term, the low value of the pound could be an incentive to overseas travelers, while domestic visitors may wish to holiday at home. In our experience, long-haul markets, such as the United States, are not as influenced by currency exchange rates as short-haul markets, such as France, due to the longer planning and booking periods required. However, all potential visitors will take value for money into account when planning their holidays.
Inside the Cask: What will travel & tourism look like in future? How will technology evolve and improve the overall PAX (passenger) experience?
There are a number of travel trends emerging:
- Micro-experiences: micro-hotels for short stay opportunities e.g. for business travellers, micro-adventures – activities that allow for escapism, but don’t need much planning
- Genuine discovery rather than personalised marketing. Consumers still want to be in control of their purchase decisions want to seek unique products and experiences
- Geotagging – capturing images or feelings of a particular time and place and sharing on social media.
- Travelling for “bleisure” mixing business and leisure trips
- Wellness and recovery – escaping the fast-paced lifestyle of urban life and seeking relaxation
Trusting the online world – consumers are increasingly reliant on review sites and social media for holiday inspiration.
Inside the Cask: Thanks Lindsay!