Now that travel is slowly coming back, people are travelling more consciously and are looking for destinations that allow them to reconnect, reset and reinvigorate with nature. Prompted by the recent pandemic, travellers are seeking more sustainable destinations. Scotland sits on the axis of all of these.

Scotland is calling louder than ever to all travellers as a place to enjoy world-class food and drink, events, films, history and culture. Having worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to adapt to and embrace the new normal, Scottish businesses are open once more and are ready to welcome visitors.

TD sits down with Vicki Miller, director of marketing at VisitScotland and passionate storyteller and improving customer experience, about Scotland’s responsible recovery and its new offerings.

Travel Daily (TD): How important is responsible recovery for tourism in Scotland?

Vicki Miller (VM): The COVID-19 pandemic has made people pause and reflect about the future, the environment, and their impact on it. Visitors have always had an interest in sustainability however it is now more acute than ever. For example, when surveyed, 73% of long-haul travellers expressed great interest in travelling more sustainably in future and selecting destinations which are less crowded and with a commitment to making tourism sustainable. VisitScotland can help travellers plan and enjoy an eco-friendly trip.

We are examining our own operations to ensure we are more sustainable, through our marketing activity we are promoting sustainable experiences and encouraging visitors to travel more responsibly. We are also encouraging visitors to stay longer, buy local, visit all year round, explore more widely and, in turn, contribute to the sustainable quality of life of those communities. This will ease pressure on extremely busy areas and ensure the economic benefits of tourism are evenly spread across the country throughout the year.  VisitScotland is also committed to working with the tourism industry to provide support and guidance on how to become more sustainable through the Destination Net Zero programme.

In line with the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030, and our own framework for sustainable and responsible growth, our four priority areas are economic, environmental, social and cultural. We are working to support the protection and considerate enjoyment of Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage and we are supporting the transition to a low carbon economy. We are ensuring that tourism and events contribute to thriving communities and making sure that tourism and events in Scotland are inclusive.

TD: What are the changes in your message and brand in line with responsible tourism recovery?

VM: In October 2021, we launched our Tread Lightly campaign – this is a new environmental strand to our global Scotland is Calling marketing campaign. It includes a film and content which encourages visitors to “tread lightly” when visiting Scotland, whilst highlighting the many experiences, destinations and businesses which allow them to make their visit more sustainable. It is being distributed through paid and social media in some of Scotland’s key markets (UK, Europe, USA, China). As an island, air connectivity will continue to be significant for international travel. International travellers are an important market and Scotland Is Calling is focused on supporting Scotland as a responsible destination where travellers can slow down, re-charge, escape and enjoy immersive and sustainable tourism experiences.

From some of the most spectacular off-the-beaten-track destinations and unique eco-friendly places to stay, to easy trips by public transport and train-accessible bike routes, VisitScotland has collated some fantastic resources for travellers to take a trip that they can feel good about.

VisitScotland is committed to working with the industry to create a long-lasting sustainable tourism destination supporting the ambition of Outlook 2030, for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in responsible tourism, which will protect the natural and cultural environment and benefit visitors and residents alike.

TD: Why people should visit Scotland post COVID?

VM: There are so many reasons why Scotland is Calling – it’s a unique and special destination that means it’s at the top of travellers’ must-see lists. Our welcoming nature and humour, the proximity of our cities to unspoiled nature, our light and air, the magical and mysterious history, even our use of language and dialects… to name just a few! All of these elements are calling visitors to Scotland in 2022.

Whether meeting new people, sharing new experiences, reconnecting with nature, or just breathing in the fresh air, memories to last a lifetime are waiting to be made in Scotland. Scotland is a place where visitors can feel connected, even if it’s their very first time here, but at the same time, they can disconnect as they leave everything behind and explore the great outdoors, uncover the fascinating history and discover Scotland’s cultural highlights.

Scotland is a place where visitors will be left speechless by the scenery, the history and the architecture they encounter yet they won’t be able to wait to tell all their friends about what they have seen. The destination is full of one-of-a-kind, only Scotland moments and it’s only by being here that visitors can truly experience the wonder and beauty of the destination. That’s why Scotland is Calling!

2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories where we will celebrate stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Stories are a vital part of Scotland’s culture and every community has a different tale to tell. Shared stories, whether spoken, written, sung or filmed are what give a sense of place, history and belonging. As part of the themed year, we will be launching travel trade itineraries inspired by the Year of Stories. Scotland’s stories reflect who we are and shape how others see us. Our stories enable us to inspire others to discover Scotland and we hope that our stories are calling travellers in 2022 so that they can come and create their own stories and memories here in Scotland!

TD: What are the new programs and training you offer to travel agents?

VM: In April this year we hosted Discover Scotland: Reconnect 2022 which connected 298 international travel trade buyers with 324 trade ready Scottish suppliers over a series of nearly 4.5k virtual meetings. This will be complemented by live regional showcases (fam trips) in May and September, where selected buyers will have opportunities to experience unique Scottish products for themselves.

Our SCOTSagent programme is designed specifically for the travel trade, providing an introduction to the destination, in-depth exploration about what to see and do in Scotland, and showcasing the very best of what the country has to offer clients. Our Travel Trade teams Send out a monthly email newsletter, highlighting what’s new in terms of product, marketing inspiration, and new resources that can help our intermediary partners sell Scotland to their clients. We also regularly offer webinars to provide destination inspiration and Q&A opportunities. Additionally, the VisitScotland Travel Trade website is a great resource for travel trade representatives.

TD: What travel trends do you think we will see this year and how do you plan to capitalise on these trends?

VM: Firstly, the importance of travel advisors in the booking journey across all markets is a trend that we are responding to. We understand that, as travel returns, more and more prospective travellers will be looking for reassurance and a level of security around their holiday bookings; this is where advisors and agents will have a key role. This is why in our recovery strategy we are placing such importance on education, training and engagement with the travel trade.

The recent success of our industry event Discover Scotland: Reconnect 2022, enabled our intermediary partners to connect with businesses here in Scotland to understand their products whilst also creating opportunities for businesses here in Scotland to engage with travel trade at a pivotal time in post-pandemic recovery, demonstrates the integral role travel agents and advisors will play in the tourism recovery here in Scotland.

Secondly, with 16-34-year-olds expected to be among the first to travel this year, and global insights suggesting this age range will lead the international travel market’s post-COVID revival, VisitScotland is focusing the second phase of our Scotland is Calling campaign on attracting younger visitors. It aims to ensure Scotland is front of mind with those who are yet to make their travel plans. VisitScotland is focusing on audiences we know want to travel again and using the channels we know they use to help show how Scotland can fulfil their emotional needs.

While younger visitors are expected to travel sooner, VisitScotland recognises the importance of its core audience and continues to engage and inspire them about all that a visit to Scotland can offer. This next phase of Scotland is Calling will help build new, deeper connections with visitors in our key markets, inspiring them to plan a trip to Scotland in the future. Working together with industry, stakeholders, and the Scottish Government we want to increase momentum and ensure that Scotland is the destination of choice for all visitors in 2022 and beyond.

Source: Travel Daily Media

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