It amazes me how things have changed in travel and tourism over the past 40 years. In the late 70s, I embarked on my travels armed with a map, a ticket and enough linguistic ability to ask directions.
It really is a different world – now all you need is a phone to find your way, get insider tips of the best places to visit, share stories and images.
We live in a digital global village. Time zones have disappeared and there is a greater understanding among consumers about what drives, inspires and interests them. We know that high-profile media events, such as movies or celebrity visits, magnified on social media channels, can generate interest which needs to be turned into the action of coming to Scotland.
Our job at VisitScotland is to deliver the best information at the most appropriate ‘touch points’. Increasingly, this is digital, which is why we are working more closely with TripAdvisor and other travel search engines. VisitScotland.com remains a powerful portal and is working hard for the industry with over 20 million visitors a year, and around 1.6 million referrals to hotels, guest houses and B&Bs through web listing.
As more people are digital – and 60% of international visitors use online searches to find out local information – so the reliance on traditional tourist information centres has decreased. Therefore, we need to ensure that as an information channel they remain relevant and part of the wider mix.
The way visitors access information has changed significantly and we need to reflect that by investing in new initiatives to reach more people with personalised information so they stay longer, spend more and grow the visitor economy. For example, we are mobilising our workforce with a fleet of coo vans – and they do look like Highland cows – to take information to visitors.
We are also working with tourism businesses to deliver a VIP programme of tourist information, straight from those in the know – the tourism businesses with fantastic local knowledge. There are more than 1500 businesses in this programme – all able to give the visitor the inside track on their own area. Just as well, because recent research tells us that 46% of visitors look to locals to give them the best tips on what to see and do – with 33% asking their accommodation provider.
Our I-Know online community on visitscotland.com is a platform for those seeking insider tips, reassurance or just general information from their peers.
There are millions of reasons why visitors come to Scotland. At its heart and soul, it must be the people of Scotland who unlock the magic and mystery of their area. We want every person in every community to be an advocate and ambassador for Scotland – informing and inspiring visitors with local highlights, hidden gems and must-see attractions.