A Pause For Understanding

Keith Campbell, Marketing Manager — Canada & Golf, VISITSCOTLAND

After the UK entered lockdown on March 23, Keith Campbell, Market Manager – Canada & Golf for VisitScotland, says the organization decided to pause all destination marketing to focus on understanding the impact of the coronavirus. This included cancelling its biggest travel trade exhibition, VisitScotland Expo, for which they were due to host buyers from across the globe.

“We recently published a phased market recovery strategy to help reopen Scotland to visitors and like most countries will be focusing on the local and domestic market first, with international arrivals completing the route to recovery,” Campbell tells Travel Courier. “While some international visits may be expected in 2020, the likelihood of wider recovery will be most probable in 2021.”

Being mindful of how much this crisis has impacted different countries across the world, Visit Scotland’s first piece of content focused on sending a message of support and hope to travellers around the world.

“This was our Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder video that aims to assure Scottish fans that, whilst they can’t visit just now, we will still be here with a warm welcome for them when the time is right,” he says. “In its first two weeks, it had more than a million views from across the world.”

For the recovery of the tourism industry in Scotland, Campbell says it’s important to work together as one to ensure the best possible outcomes for the whole of the visitor economy.

“We will continue to support businesses and help the tourism industry become an economic and social powerhouse again,” he says. “There is no doubt this is an opportunity to reset tourism and look at how we can take it forward in a responsible manner. Local management will be as important as local promotion. Central to that will be communities — they are the people that are both affected and benefit from tourism. It is this balance which will be the biggest challenge and we have to get right to ensure the experience is positive for everyone – but still bring jobs, enhance well-being and develop economic growth.”

Moving forward, he says Scotland’s natural resources are hugely important to communities and visitors alike and should be protected.

“Another challenge is knowing when we will be able to receive international travellers as we know this will be the last phase in the recovery plan to be executed,” he says. “While we at VisitScotland can keep Scotland top of mind with inspirational marketing messaging, we will not be able to promote a ‘book now’ message until we know it is safe for visitors to travel and our communities across Scotland are ready to receive visitors. We are relying on external factors such as border controls and air routes being operational.”

Although tourism has been devastated globally, he says Scotland is still a highly desired country to visit by Canadians.

“Our travel trade partners still tell me that they have clients wishing to visit Scotland when it is safe to do so,” he adds, noting that the organization continues to value travel agents. “The insight I see from the travel industry in Canada is that travel agents and tour operators will become more sought after not only for their expertise in destinations and planning vacations but also for their knowledge on the complexities of travel insurance and handling re-bookings and cancellations should that ever need to happen.”

In order to come out stronger than before, he says collaboration, communication and strategic partnerships are going to be key.

“Ensuring that there is a collaborative approach to destination development and promotion will be key,” he says. “Since March, VisitScotland has worked with agency and industry partners on a joint recovery strategy ensuring that we do everything in tandem to guarantee the safe reopening to visitors both from closer to home and those in countries around the globe. VisitScotland remains committed to the Canadian market and our recovery strategy includes continued collaboration with our strategic partners, such as the Canadian airlines, to ensure we can support the reinstatement of the direct air routes to Scotland when we can.”

Although travel will not be the same as before with physical distancing measures and an increased emphases on hygiene, he’s confident the industry can be more sustainable on the other side.

“We’ll need be looking at what tourism delivers in terms of the future for communities and the environment. Where we’ve had over-tourism and concerns for carbon emissions reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis we’ll see a shift towards visitors wanting to support communities and destinations, and businesses that are demonstrating their commitment to conservation, the environment, re-wilding and cultural heritage preservation,” he says. “Creating meaningful connections between visitors and hosts is one of the characteristics of responsible tourism and we see tourism as part of the solution to a sustainable and successful future.”

The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye. Photo courtesy: VisitScotland.