VisitScotland’s Visitor Survey 2015 (published March 2016) provides useful insights into why people visit Scotland, and what they like to see and do while they’re here. Based on data from this survey, I believe that the Nationally Significant Collections have a big role to play in creating a unique tourism visitor experience, on both a local and national level.
I am a marketing professional in the tourism industry, and have been serving on the Recognition Committee for six years. As I’ve got to know the 49 collections that form the ‘Nationally Significant Collections’, I have realised what extraordinary assets they are. As a dispersed national collection, they help tell Scotland’s story in all corners of the country. They can encourage visitors to stay for longer and explore new areas, and therefore to spend more too. The Collections are one of the jewels in the crown of Scotland, providing a distinctively Scottish experience. I believe that over time, with the help of the Recognised Collection branding, our visitors will grow to appreciate just how special these collections are.
The Visitor Survey tells us that they are interested in the following things: 32% of visitors say History & Culture; 14% enjoy the range of attractions available; and 10% come to visit a particular attraction. The main activities for visitors include Museums & Art Galleries, Historic Houses, Stately Homes & Castles and Visitor or Heritage Centres. Over 3/4 of visitors to Scotland are repeat visitors, with our Nationally Significant Collections meeting the need of finding new things to see and do. They can also give visitors a compelling reason to visit an area or attraction that they might otherwise have overlooked.
49% of those surveyed say ‘talking with locals’ is their top source of info. The next most popular source was Information Centres on 34%, while 33% value advice from accommodation providers. So, it’s critical that local residents know about the Collections and are enthusiastic about what they have to offer. Personal recommendations are also important when planning a trip, with 58% of visitors talking to friends and family.
The Visitor Survey really shows the importance of the digital economy and social media. Over 70% of visitors look to websites when planning a holiday, compared to just 18% who use printed travel guides. It also confirms that many people these days make plans based on user-generated feedback on sites like Tripadvisor. This might include reviews, ratings or photos from other travellers. Online resources, like interactive maps showing where to find accommodation and attractions, were also very popular. I think it’s clear then that the Collections should prioritise creating a strong and appealing online presence.
One last key point from the survey that local collaboration is crucial to make the most of tourism opportunities. The Collections need to work with local communities and tourism industries to build awareness of where they are and what they offer. This way, the Collections can hope to reach more visitors in a way that the survey tells us they will trust.