Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
VANCOUVER — Canada is a top tier travel market for Scotland and the two countries have a long-standing affinity. For Canadian travellers looking for a taste of home, there’s even a Tim Horton’s now in Glasgow.
“Canada is our fourth largest market,” says Keith Campbell, the Canadian marketing representative for Scotland, based in Toronto. The market has been growing. “It is my job to see it continues to grow.”
Campbell spoke with travel agents attending a supplier session in Vancouver earlier this week, featuring Scotland product updates from a delegation of Scottish suppliers.
Scottish tourism figures show double-digit increases in tourism in 2017 over 2016 with Great Britain the largest market, followed by Europe and then North America, with the U.S. the larger sector.
Scotland tourism reps credit the popularity of movies made in Scotland such as the Outlander series, James Bond movies featuring Scotland, Harry Potter flicks and new Mary Queen of Scots movie to be released January 2019.
The Scottish delegates, making up the North American Business Development Mission, offered up details about Scotland’s unique accommodations and tours rich history, fine whiskey, ancestral haunts and cruising on Loch Ness, famously home to the Loch Ness Monster.
The growing popularity of Scotland as a destination has prompted suppliers to invest.
Here’s a look at what’s new:
Caledonian Sleeper’s new cars
One of the largest investments involves Serco, which took over operating the Caledonian Sleeper trains from the Scottish government in 2015. Caledonian Sleeper comprises a fleet of overnight sleeper trains with 43 destination in Scotland as well as London.
The company announced earlier this year it was receiving 75 new rail cars to replace the aging fleet. Five cars are in service and being tested with the remainder expected to be in place by spring 2019. The new sleeper bedrooms offer private bathrooms, a new feature.
“The new fleet represents a £140 million investment (or $240 million in Canadian funds),” said Rhiannon Merritt, BDM for the rail company. The service out of London is popular as travellers find it expensive to stay overnight in the city, she said.
Merritt can be reached at Rhiannon.Merritt@serco.com or visit www.sleeper.scot.
Loch Ness Cruises
Celebrating 50 years in business, Cruise Loch Ness recently rolled out a new 210-passenger catamaran vessel costing £1.5 million ($2.5 million) to cruise the waters known as the haunt of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. “It doubles our capacity,” said Ronald Mackenzie, company director and second generation owner of a family.
The previous vessel, still operating, carried 108 passengers while the company also has a fleet of 12-man rigid inflatable boards, built for those who enjoy zipping along the 37-kilometre lake. The cruises take in the rugged shoreline, wildlife, and for those who like old ruins, Urquhart Castle.
The cruise company can arrange drop-off and pick-up at the shoreline, said Mackenzie. The company also does weddings, with approximately 12 a year on board the larger vessels. Approximately 60% of the business is through partners who are packaged local tours, and the rest from the public and travel agents.
The company negotiates rates with agents. Contact Mackenzie at email@example.com or visit www.cruiselochness.com for more information.
Dunstane House and Hampton House
These two restored houses are a family business and the owners recently updated the boutique luxury property Dunstane House, an 1860s neo-classic five-star property. Hampton House, also updated, is a four star property. The market, said owner Shirley Mowat, is the higher-end client wanting to stay in a property that feels like a catered home. The top international clients come from the U.S., she said, but “Canada is coming up. Word is getting out to come to Scotland.”
One of the features of the properties is that there are few rules. Clients can schedule their own meal times and there is a staff member on duty at night to get that nightcap from the vintage cabinet that stocks 90 malt whiskeys. Mowat works with agents, with rates varying according to the client’s needs, but she says commission averages 10%. The properties also work with local tour operators and can book clients.
Contact Mowat at Shirley@thedunstane.com or visit the website at www.thedunstane.com.
This company does ancestral tours, fielding queries regarding ancestors and planning itineraries for people. “Sometimes it is just a bit of information (about a family) and sometimes people have a whole book,” director Emma Chalmers, said, adding that the tour company can help research ancestral haunts. It recently brought a visiting family searching its roots to its ancestral castle for a stay, arranged a dinner there, and served food that would have been representative of their ancestral heritage.
Mary’s Meanders is based near Linlithgow, Mary Queen of Scot’s birthplace and it provides local walking tours of the area. The company also specializes in film tours, visiting filming locations. It has access to self-catering cottages where groups can stay for a week, available themselves of organized events and tours. Contact Chalmers at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.marysmeanders.co.uk for further info.
Other suppliers on the tour included The Clydeside Distillery which offers daily tours of its single malt scotch whiskey distillery (contact: Andrew Morrison at Andrew@theclydeside.com or www.theclydeside.com). Three Contini Restaurants, run by third generation Italian Scots, are located in Edinburgh and offer scenic views and local fare (contact Stephanie Zahra, sales, at Stephanie.Zahra@contini.com or visit website at www.contini.com). And fashionistas will want to visit Johnstons of Elgin, established in 1797, which turns raw cashmere into clothing with historic designs and patterns. Contact: Stewart Marshall at s.marhall@johnstonsofelgincom or visit www.johnstonsofelgin.com for further information.
VisitScotland’s travel trade website is traveltrade.vistscotland.org.