Marketing Scotland can be difficult at the best of times. The demise of “Scotland the Brand” and the continual derision of “Glasgow: Scotland with Style” means that anything to do with the marketing of our great nation is not for the faint-hearted.
Now, however, VisitScotland has got in on the act, launching its latest website, myvisitscotland.com, earlier this year, promoting Scottish cities to not only the rest of Scotland, but also to the rest of the UK, positioning Scotland as a place to visit and discover in the space of 48 hours. An easy job, eh?
The man in charge of this difficult job is UK and Ireland marketing manager Chris Lynch. Lynch, whose background in the tourism industry comes from the hotel trade, having worked at the Apex Hotels for the past eight years, is now tasked with the job of placing Scotland on the map as the place to rival other long-weekend haunts, such as Barcelona, Prague or Amsterdam.
The origins of visitscotland.com lie in extensive research undertaken by VisitScotland into the growing city break market, which accounts for 35 per cent of all holidays taken in Scotland by UK and Ireland residents. Research showed that 66 per cent of visitors to Scottish cities are aged between 16 and 44, with high to medium disposable incomes and a passion for eating, drinking, good nightlife and shopping. Launched in April this year, the site has been a huge success, maintains Lynch, with over 45,000 people using the site to access information on places to see and do in the six main cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness) of Scotland. Lynch explains: “What we are trying to do with visitscotland.com is to really encourage people from the UK to come and visit Scotland. We are aiming to attract our core audience, who will be aged under 45, to come and spend the weekend in Scotland and show them what they can actually get in the space of 48 hours. The type of people we are trying to attract will be those who perhaps don’t go for just a two-week holiday in the sun. Instead they are going for between three and six holidays and most of them are long weekends. That’s where the website comes in and really helps us.”
It is undeniable that the Scottish countryside is a beautiful proposition for travellers (as long as they are not counting on getting much of a sun tan, that is) but how did visitscotland.com go about promoting Scotland’s cities outwith the country? Lynch comments: “The tourist industry is worth a great deal. For example, with every £1 that is spent in the country, a further £8 is generated, so the tourism industry in Scotland is worth a great deal, and we simply are looking for a variety of ways to encourage tourists into the various cities within the country. People now are coming to Scotland to stay in Dundee for a long weekend, whereas traditionally in the past I would say that the majority of visitors would have stayed in Edinburgh, or Glasgow at a push. We are also placing adverts in regional press, such as the Manchester Evening News, to really attract people who perhaps live in a city and are wanting a short-break city destination to go to.”
One of the ways that Lynch is encouraging visitors to the country is through the use of a city ambassador – a local of the city, who takes tourists and acts as a guide as to how they would spend their time in that particular city. “We wanted to give it a more personal feel, and show people the variety that they can have within a weekend. The people that we chose, therefore, are in the age group that we are aiming for and, hopefully, offer some of the same interests that might attract someone to that particular city.”
MyvisitScotland.com has also gone down the celebrity endorsement route – using TV and radio personalities Tess Daly and Colin Murray (who took part in the second phase of the campaign, entitled CityActive) to encourage users to the site. Lynch comments: “We used Colin and Tess as I think they are within the age group that we want to really appeal to. Both of them have been fantastic in encouraging people to go on the site, and Colin in particular has spent a lot if time in Scotland.”
Capitalising on this, one of Visitscotland’s most recent ventures has been to launch a website to showcase the range and depth of adventure activities that can be undertaken in Scotland, visitscotland.com/adventure.
“Colin hadn’t really done much outdoor activity,” continues Lynch, “so being able to show off the variety of activities that you can do just outside of the six cities was really appealing.”
Lynch admits the campaign and websites are still in the early stages – the second stage of the campaign will be launched soon. However, he is optimistic that the return will be felt by all who come and visit the six cities. “We are working with Glasgow Tourist Board to really capitalise on its “Scotland with Style” message, which was launched at the start of the year. The press have attacked that campaign, which I think is a real shame. But, at the same time it is only the local press that have really been negative about it. Outside of Scotland I think the campaign has been warmly welcomed and it is something that is going to benefit us too.”