Introduction from Chris Taylor
Welcome to the first regional update of the year. In this update, we look back at our key activity in the last quarter of 2022.
Our industry continues to adjust to tough new financial circumstances and it is clear that these will continue to impact in the year ahead. But there is much to build on and how we remain committed to doing what we can to support the industry, whether that’s bringing people to Scotland, offering support and guidance to businesses, or creating opportunities for growth and investment.
Our marketing, funding and business support activities are all aimed at building on these shoots of recovery to support the responsible growth of our industry.
It 's been a busy period in the Highlands – from the much-anticipated return of the Highland Tourism Conference to the launch of ours film guide - and much more.
Find out more in the regional update on how all our work is helping to support the ambitions of the national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism
Hear from our iCentres
Our iCentre teams are always ready to give you and your visitors a warm welcome, and to share all the best places to see, visit and experience across the Highlands.
Let's hear from Portree iCentre about what's been happening in the past few months.
Portree iCentre has had regular positive feedback from customers - many wishing to highlight our helpful and positive attitude in our efforts to provide the best customer service possible.
Although, the last quarter hasn’t been the busiest in terms of footfall, the iCentre has managed to maintain a consistent level of performance and it’s something we pride ourselves on.
There have been many examples of positive customer experience, one we feel worthy of a special mention is the new shop and visitor centre at Talisker Distillery. Towards the end of November, they held an event which included live music with food and drink on offer. This allowed one of the most popular visitor attractions on the island to enhance their relationship with locals and visitors alike as they look towards a successful season in 2023.
The festive season was a fun-filled one for Skye its local community as a number of events were organised to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Portree and Braes Community Trust played a pivotal part as they hosted a “Reindeer Parade” in late November before welcoming in 2023 with Portree’s “Hogmanay Hoolie” in the town’s Somerled Square.
Further events were held across the island, too. Kilmuir Hall, in Skye’s north end, went back to its traditional roots with a good old-fashioned ceilidh, while the well-known band, Trail West, helped revellers dance the night away at the new Isle of Skye Candle Company Visitor Centre – formerly Aros – on the outskirts of the capital. As if that wasn’t enough, the stars of the Scottish traditional music scene kept coming as Manran returned to Skye after a three-year absence to rekindle some memories in the renowned Skye Gathering Hall. The 2022 SEALL Festival of Small Halls took place in late November, again, playing host to some excellent musical talent. Gathering in every corner of Skye, the highlight perhaps came in the shape of Daimh’s visit to Skeabost Hall where they entertained the audience with a typically lively performance, only serving to cement their place among the best in their field.
For 2023, we’re looking forward to continuing our warm iCentre welcome! We look forward to seeing what the year brings and serving customers from all around the world. Additionally, on the theme of live music once again – Skye Live – the island’s very own three-day festival takes place on the amply named “Lump” overlooking Portree. I’m sure we will see a number of visitors enjoying the most scenic of soundtracks.
Regional Marketing Activity
Spirit of the Highlands and Islands
Spirit of the Highlands and Islands Campaign
Spirit of the Highlands and Islands is a £1.6 million project funded by the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund under NatureScot, and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project aims to promoting and protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands in the following ways:
- encouraging people to visit more rural areas
- grow capacity by encouraging seasonal and geographical spread, and
- inspiring deeper engagement with the region's distinctive heritage and authentic connections with rural communities
Partnership with The Guardian
As part of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands campaign, we worked with the Guardian on a £60,000 publishing partnership in October - November. This promoted the hidden gems and unique heritage of the Highlands and Islands in the autumn and winter.
The Highlands were showcased in some rich content articles covering winter experiences, slow adventures / wildlife, history and ancient kings / wildlife as well as display adverts.
The campaign delivered 28,605 unique user views (114% of our target) with the users spending an average of 2 minutes and 52 seconds on the article (achieving almost double of our benchmark).
Highland Winter Campaign
From 26 October - 29 November, we delivered an £18,000 collaborative campaign between 7 destination management organisations (DMO's) across the Highlands. This campaign raised awareness of the Highlands as a winter destination and engaged with potential visitors through a dedicated campaign video. It also included locations and content for the Highlands.
The activity generated great visibility and achieved:
A total of 3,047,581 ad impressions reaching 1,029,249 unique users
Video adverts reached 288,000 views (exceeding our forecast by 135%) and achieved a great return on investment with a Cost-Per-View (CPV) of £0.04 for 15 seconds
7,255 clicks to our Highland Winter landing page.
Corporate Press Activity
Our corporate PR team work closely with Scottish and UK media to raise awareness of our work to promote Scotland - and the Highlands - to visitors and support for industry.
Some of the highlights include:
STV News, the Ross-Shire Journal, John O'Groat Journal, Northern Times and the Press & Journal all covered the return of the Highland Tourism Conference, with interviews with Destination Development Director, Chris Taylor.
Press statement issued to national and regional media supporting National Geographic’s decision to include the Highlands in its ‘Best of the World 2023’ list, in the nature category. Coverage included STV online and Scottish Daily Express
Press release issued to media about the successful Highland recipients of Rural Tourism Infrastructure Funding in Round 5. Coverage in the Press & Journal
The Inverness Courier ran our press release about a marketing campaign with Highland Destination Management Organisations, promoting the area as a winter destination and inspiring visitors to responsibly explore the region.
A press release was issued to Highland media about the launch of our Set in Scotland film guide, with coverage in several regional titles including the Oban Times
Chris Taylor spoke to BBC Radio Scotland about the impact of the Kessock Bridge on tourism in the Highlands.
Global PR update
Through a range of activity, including our Scotland is Calling campaign, we've promoted the Highlands to a global audience. Here's a breakdown of some of the activity across a variety of global markets:
Global PR - UK activity
Highland actvity for UK PR included:
A broadcast campaign for the Spirit of Highlands & Islands campaign around Halloween. This secured 38 items of media coverage, covering a range of locations througout the Highlands and Islands. Coverage highlights include features in the Times Radio and BBC Radio Wiltshire
The Guardian ran an article on skiing in the Highlands, following a press trip for journalist Stuart Kenny
Strathspey Storywalks in the Highlands featured in Scotland’s Witch Trail. Tis resulted in PR featuring in the Sunday Mail, the Love Exploring website among other publications.
The Mallaig Book Festival was included in a round-up of book events in the print edition of Sunday Mail for Year of Stories
An interview for the Times with Olympian Lesley McKenna to discuss her favourite places in the Cairngorms
Kinloch Lodge and Inverlochy Castle featured in coverage which appeared in the Telegraph online, following a sustainably-focused press trip arranged by Luxury Scotland
We organised a press trip to north-west Highlands for writer Emma Gibbs for JRNY magazine. The itinerary included sustainability-focused messaging and off-season visits as part of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands campaign. This trip featured visits included Alladale Wilderness Reserve; Knockan Crag; Ecotone Cabins near Ullapool (also included travel on the Caledonian Sleeper)
We hosted two journalists from Le Figaro, a French Magazine, in spring 2022 to write a feature on rewilding in the Highlands. This resulted in a 10-page article which was published in the magazine's autumn edition and on LeFigaro's website. The journalists went to Alladale, Glen Affric and Dundreggan centre, plus other locations
We hosted a French journalist from cultural TV channel Arte for a broadcast on wild swimming in the Highlands
On the back of recent pitching efforts, we received a number of fantastic coverage results on the various Rewilding initiatives we are seeing in the Highlands. One of them was a one-pager about Alladale Wilderness Reserve in National Geographic Traveller Germany
The new Dundreggan Rewilding Centre featured in a travel documentary "Unterwegs in Schottland") which aired on both German TV channels, Arte and ZDF in December 2022.
This broadcasted almost one full hour of travelling through Scotland by train and included interviews with a number of spokespeople including a ranger at Dundreggan, the the owner of Prickly Thistle, a Gaelic teacher on Skye and more. We supported the producer over many months through suggesting locations, spokespeople and building a filming itinerary
A Hiking feature focusing on the Torridon area in Germany’s Outdoor magazine.
- The Highland's featured in National Geographic's Best of the World 2023 list, under the Nature category. The North America PR Team coordinated filming for the announcement and liaised with partners in a very short space of time which resulted in broadcast and print coverage looking at rewilding efforts and practices in the Highlands. This included online coverage on CNN.
- An exclusive announcement on Good Morning America to support the National Geographic announcement. Watch the broadcast.
- In October 2022, the North America PR team hosted a media visit in collaboration with Vacations By Rail for four media contacts on a train trip across Scotland. This included partnership working with a tour operator based in the US to showcase the ease of exploring Scotland on public transport. The group explored the West Highland Line, Glencoe, Inverness and The Kyle Line during their stay visiting attractions such as The Jacobite Cruise, Eilean Donan Castle and Ben Nevis Distillery. Read the coverage from Matador Network on this experience.
China and Emerging Markets
- In November, the Fortune Life (circulation: 375,000) featured an article of the Black Shed at Isle of Skye and the scenery across Skye
- In November, Australian Financial Review featured a two full-page spread print article featuring a family road trip to Isle of Skye in motorhome.
Year of Stories 2022
The end of 2022 has closed the book on the Year of Stories, however there’s a wealth of resources and information on VisitScotland.org to continue the legacy of the Year.
Recent Year of Stories paid campaign activity between 1 October and 31 December included:
The List Campaign
A media partnership with The List ran from March to November 2022 to promote the Year of Stories events programme. It included native articles, e-newsletters, display ads and social posts. Events highlighted in October and November included The Northern Stories Festival and Travel in Time, both based in the Highlands.
Year of Stories Community Stories Fund with Reach PLC and Mediaforce
- events supported were promoted in September and October via two media partnerships.
- the campaigns included display ads, social media posts and online articles. The partnership with Reach PLC included four articles in the Daily Record
- the partnership with Mediaforce published content on the websites of The Scotsman, The Herald, The Aberdeen P&J, The Dundee Courier and Inverness Courier
- events that were showcased in October for the Highlands included Lost Inverlael Community Ceilidh, Journey to the Isles and St Duchac Book & Arts Festival.
We worked in partnership with influencer Megan Beaudry took place across October and November through a series of videos promoted through Megan’s Instagram (@megbeaudry) and Tiktok (@megbeaudry) accounts.
Her activity included a feature of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which generated 290,000 views.
Partner activity update
Here's some recent news, events and activity from our partners across the Highlands.
- The Flow Country has recently submitted documentation to the UK Government, who will submit the nomination for World Heritage Status to UNESCO by Wednesday 1 February 2022.
We recently supported a number of partner events throughout the Highlands at the end of 2022. These included:
Visit Inverness Loch Ness for their member networking event on 7 November, which was themed around Sustainability. Our Chairman Lord Thurso opened event
Cairngorm Business Partnership Conference on 9 November which discussed the Climate Emergency and current opportunities and challenges. Our CEO, Malcolm Roughead was in attendance
Lochaber Tourism Day which was themed around sustainability for destinations and businesses on 16 November. Our Director of Marketing, Vicki Miller presented
SkyeConnect Business Event on 16 November. This event was themed around ‘regroup, reflect, recover’ and Destination Development Director Chris Taylor presented and delivered a networking session.