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Article published 16/10/2023

It’s been another busy few months for our intermediary marketing team. We met with stakeholders and tour operators across our key markets at events both at home and abroad.

Opportunities like these help us develop Scotland as a top destination that's front-of-mind for visitors. It also helps the team gather news, information, and trends to plan for the future.

Read on for some of our latest findings.

Travel demand to Scotland

Demand remains strong for Scotland, particularly in the United States. There, travel has reached pre-pandemic levels with 40 million Americans flying out of the country in July 2023.

Most popular destinations for the North American market are the UK, France, and Germany. North American tour operators are already selling their programmes for Scottish holidays in 2024.

There's an expectation of further growth in bookings for Scotland. Many of our key account operators are planning to put 2025 on sale from January 2024, as people once again begin to book further in advance.

People are also spending more across the board. This is due to continuing favourable exchange rates and people prioritising international travel.

In Germany, there are signs of increasing plans to travel abroad, with France and Spain all showing recovery. French operators are reporting that they are also seeking rates from Scottish businesses for 2025 already.

China included the UK on the latest batch of countries with approved destination status. There's a speedy recovery and demand, especially private tours for international students’ families.

Visiting during the shoulder season

More tour operators are looking to extend the season and spread their clients across Scotland's regions. We'll be helping them to identify and promote lesser-known regions with capacity.

People from some markets (often first time visitors) are keen to visit "bucket list" sites. So, work continues to actively inspire travellers to visit Scotland more widely.

Increasing numbers of other destinations are looking to promote their shoulder seasons. This is especially true for Europe. Thus, Scotland needs to continue to develop reasons to visit throughout the year.

Businesses can work together to highlight local and unique experiences. Using seasonal produce and events, you can attract the attention of tour operators that want to extend into the shoulder season.

What are tour operators looking for?

  • A unique, local experience

    Tour operators are looking for experiences to make their itineraries stand out.

    You can really set yourself apart by working in partnership with other local businesses. Together, you will be able to create new experiences around your location or community.

    For example, agritourism experiences or events celebrating local history or anniversaries. These can also help to encourage visitors stay longer and out of season.

    We're working closely with a number of destinations to develop this type of experience and attract more visitors.

  • High quality service and facilities

    Tour operators are reporting even higher costs in 2024, making Scotland less competitive as a destination.

    Visitors are thus expecting a higher level of service for the price they're paying. They also want to see businesses invest in renovations, and new and improved facilities.

  • A quick response

    A fast response time can reassure a tour operator of the level of service you provide and help to secure new business.

    Over the summer, some operators reported that businesses were not responding to their enquiries as quickly as they would like. This experience could impact on their likelihood to book with you.

  • Rates well in advance

    Tour operators are already preparing their 2025 offerings so it's a good idea to have your prices for 2025 available now. This will help you respond to early requests for rates and capacity.

How well is Scotland connected to the world?

  • China

    China is a market where flight costs are competitive and where visitors are taking advantage of reasonable fare prices. Elsewhere flight costs are continuing to rise, generally due to demand exceeding supply.

    Hainan Airlines' direct route between Beijing and Edinburgh is performing well. This is also the only direct flight between China and Scotland.

  • Europe

    European airlines will see the expected reduction in flights during the winter. Some regional airports, especially within France and Italy, only fly to Scotland during the summer season.

  • North America

    North American carriers are reporting strong continued demand.

    We're keeping a close eye on the ongoing situation in American legislature and the presidential election next year. These may impact travel potential through 2025.

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