As we approach the halfway point of the ‘Year of Creative Scotland’ campaign, part of VisitScotland’s ‘Winning Year’s’ strategy in the build up to 2014 – the inevitable question has to be asked – what happens beyond the winning years? Without doubt, the next two years represent an unparalleled opportunity for Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sectors. A chance to showcase Scotland on the world stage as never before, culminating in 2014 with the second year of ‘Homecoming’, the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire.
In the run up to this spectacular scenario, VisitScotland launched its innovative strategy, with 2012 themed as the year of ‘Creative Scotland’ to promote our inventive output and will include premiering the European launch of Disney Pixar’s 3D animation ‘Brave’ in June at the closing of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Next year, 2013 will headline as the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’, celebrating much of our country’s integral beauty. The intent of the industry, which according to the latest figures from the Scottish Tourism Alliance contributes £11 billion to the Scottish economy and employs over 220,000 people in 20,000 businesses, is to present a unified tour de force that not only embraces the next three years, but sees beyond this by creating a sustainable legacy – a ‘can do’ attitude for hosting that keeps us in the running for future world events.
However, that legacy has to be forged during the ongoing challenges of the economic downturn and also against the rise in the east, as it is expected that by 2030, China will be the world’s largest tourism destination, as underlined in ‘Tomorrow’s Tourist’ by futurologist Dr Ian Yeoman, Associate Professor of Tourism at Victoria University, New Zealand. So when the spectacle leaves town in 2014 and the spirit of the ‘Winning Years’ is perhaps a little jaded, what must be done to keep the momentum going?
When Freshwater Scotland’s client, Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) launched its strategy for the continued success of growing the capital’s tourism sector over the next eight years in January - the message was for all to get involved in bringing that strategy to life. One imagines a similar approach with the forthcoming announcement of Scotland’s National Tourism Strategy on 19 June by the Scottish Tourism Alliance - in essence, it is very much a partnership approach. As clichéd as it may sound, we all have a role to play in keeping the momentum going, from encouraging visitors to come and explore our shores to the moment they arrive, whether they are asking directions, seeking sustenance, road testing our infrastructure, indulging in our festivals or savouring our wild harvest.
As marketeers, creatives and PRs, that role extends even further – we constantly need to think outside the box in order to attract the world’s tourists inside our border. From time ad memoriam, Scotland’s natural assets have captured visitors from the four corners of the globe and still do. However, today’s man, or indeed woman, cannot be enticed by landscapes alone.
A recent VisitScotland survey indicates that scenery and landscape continue to be the top reason for attracting visitors to Scotland, with 58% of respondents citing this – nature-based tourism alone accounts for an impressive £420m turnover per annum. In recent years, the economic climate has swelled our appetite for staycations and the steady rise in rural holidays is also set to continue. The industry has responded with imagination and flair by creating ‘catch, forage and survive’ breaks, ancestral holidays, sustainable excursions and even glamping. Gone are the days of exploring the natural heritage and great-out-doors in an ex-army, two-man tent with no groundsheet. Instead there is a choice of old world offerings complete with all mod cons, from Tipis and Wigwams to Yurts, Ekopods and even Bedouin tents.
PR and marketing has become much savvier and innovative, both from within the sector itself and also from those supporting it through the creative industries. It has embraced a quirky and inventive side, with an element of style thrown in for good measure, which appeals to today’s well-travelled, tuned-in and rarely switched-off global voyagers.
For those of us providing communication campaigns, we too have responded to each emerging trend, constantly generating new ways to maximise industry initiatives. With client Glengoyne Distillery, Freshwater took a simple idea that embodied the ‘Year of Creative Scotland’. As with its whisky, Scotland is internationally renowned for the quality of its crime fiction. To celebrate this synergy and tie it in with VisitScotland’s campaign, we launched a Glengoyne Short Story Writing Competition as part of The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival. Similarly with The Glasshouse Hotel, Edinburgh’s five star boutique hotel, this striking building is located on Picardy Place, the birth place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – providing a gem for devising initiatives around the illustrious Sherlock Holmes!
The fast-paced reality of the modern world, emergence of a new world order and the ‘will it ever end’ economic global crisis, mean that now more than ever a collaborative approach to ‘getting the job done’ is fundamental. Three years will be over in the blink of a creative eye. Do we really know what the world holds in store beyond the winning years of 2014, not to mention a Scotland post referendum? The short answer – no. But what we do know is that for tourism to continue to flourish and for Scotland to hold its own, strong partnerships across the sector are key and are already paying dividends. Both the World Artistic Gymnastic Championships and the IPC Swimming European Championships will be held in Scotland in 2015. EventScotland recently announced it plans to work with British Cycling and UK Sport to deliver a bid to host the opening stages of the 2017 Tour de France in Scotland and Glasgow is a candidate city for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. And of course, a little bit of creativity goes a long way!
Robyn Glynne-Percy, Managing Director, Freshwater Scotland
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