TORONTO — A long-time favourite with Canadian travellers, Scotland is anticipating strong numbers from the Canadian market in the coming months as travel rebounds.
In this exclusive interview, Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland talks about what Canadian travellers heading to Scotland can look forward to in 2022, why sustainable travel is so important coming out of the pandemic, and why travel advisors are crucial to the destination’s recovery.
Travelweek: Scotland has reopened and is welcoming Canadians back. That’s great news! What can visitors look forward to?
Roughead: Scotland and our tourism industry are fully open and after two long years we excited to be welcoming back Canadian visitors.
In 2019, Canada was one of our top 10 international markets in terms both of visitor volume and spend with the return of these visitors important for the recovery of our industry.
Returning and new direct routes via carriers such as Air Canada, Transat and WestJet to our two biggest cities mean that Scotland is now more accessible than ever to Canadian travellers.
Scotland is a destination that appeals to travellers on many different levels. For Canadian visitors, our history and culture are strong motivators with almost five million claiming Scottish ancestry. Meanwhile in recent years we have also seen film and TV shows set in Scotland such as Outlander, and our reputation as the ‘Home of Golf’ as key prompts to visit.
2022 is a big year for Scotland with the return of live events. We are looking forward to The 150th Open golf tournament in St Andrews, 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festivals and return of the Highland Games across the country. We are also celebrating Scotland’s Year of Stories where we will celebrate stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland.
We know Canadians love to explore different parts of Scotland as part of their trips. Offering a new experience is Scotland’s UNESCO Trail. Launched in October, this world-first trail brings together all 13 of Scotland’s UNESCO sites including Forth Bridge and Edinburgh World Heritage Sites, Highland and Shetland Global Geoparks, Galloway Biosphere and Glasgow and Dundee Creative Cities into one dedicated trail.
There has never been a better time to visit Scotland. Our message and that of the entire Scottish tourism industry is simple: we are open and cannot wait to welcome back Canadian visitors!
TW: What should Canadians keep in mind when it comes to requirements for travelling to Scotland right now?
Roughead: In terms of Covid-19, all restrictions on international travel into Scotland have now been removed, including quarantine and pre and post arrival testing. However, we still recommend visitors check requirements of the country they are departing from and any countries that are travelling through. Within Scotland all Covid-19 domestic restrictions have now lifted, however many businesses continue to have safety measures in place such as enhanced cleaning and hand sanitizer stations for visitor peace of mind. For the latest advice visit our dedicated travel trade section of our website: https://traveltrade.
TW: Is VisitScotland promoting off-the-beaten-track cities, promoting shoulder-season travel, and any other sustainable travel measures?
Roughead: Like many destinations as emerge from the pandemic, we want the recovery of Scottish tourism to be sustainable with our marketing and travel trade activity focused on encouraging visitors to explore all types of the year and discover destinations in Scotland they may not have experienced before, off the beaten path.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing global tourism community. Hosting COP-26 last year provided us with an opportunity to position Scotland as a leading destination for responsible tourism. As an organization, we were very proud to add VisitScotland to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.
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.
Through our marketing and PR activity we promote sustainable experiences and encourage visitors to travel more responsibly. For example, our Tread Lightly campaign encourages both international and domestic visitors to visit all year round, explore destinations they may not have experienced before, stay longer, buy local and contribute to the sustainable quality of life of communities. This will ease pressure on busy areas and ensure the economic benefits of tourism are evenly spread across the country throughout the year.
To help consumers make more sustainable choices we highlight sustainable products and experiences to our travel trade partners, for example, through our year-round program of webinars and we are committed to working with the tourism industry here in Scotland to provide support and guidance on how to become more sustainable for example through our Destination Net Zero program.
TW: How important are travel advisors to Scotland’s recovery post-pandemic?
Roughead: The importance of travel advisors in the booking journey is a trend we are seeing across all markets following the Covid-19 pandemic including Canada.
As travel returns, increasingly prospective travellers are looking for reassurance and level of security around their holiday bookings.
This is where advisors and agents have a key role and why as part of our international recovery strategy, we are placing such importance on education, training, and engagement with travel trade.
The recent success of our industry event ‘Discover Scotland: Reconnect 2022’, which 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 advisors will play in the tourism recovery here in Scotland.
To support the reopening of more direct airline routes between Scotland and Canada, our travel trade team is hosting a series of destination training webinars for Canadian travel advisors in-person in Toronto on June 1 and virtually on June 2. Join us to learn about the latest Scotland developments including new products and experiences, Q&A opportunities with our team along with one or two surprises on the day. Sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/
TW: Is Scotland seeing a strong uptick in forward bookings from Canada?
Roughead: Pre-pandemic, Canada was a growing market and as travel returns, we are seeing high pent-up demand for Scotland from this market. From recent conversations with our travel trade partners the outlook is positive with the return of more direct routes from Air Canada and WestJet this month further sign of optimism from the industry.
Anecdotally, tourism businesses in Scotland are reporting stronger bookings for the months ahead from Canadian visitors with the latest VisitBritain international consumer research supporting this with a rise in interest in holidays in Scotland and fall in concerns around Covid and travel in this market.
Like many destinations it will take time, however. Scotland has to offer and now travel has reopened we look forward to working with our valued travel trade partners in Canada on promoting and getting their clients excited about Scotland Scotland again. Get in touch, join our webinars, learn more about why Scotland is the destination for your clients in 2022 and beyond.