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Article published 24/01/2024

Introduction from Chris Taylor, Destination Development Director

It’s been a busy time for the Highlands over recent months with a number of campaigns and initiatives underway to support tourism growth in the region.

It was great to see the Highlands featuring once again in our Spirit of the Highlands and Islands campaign. And, we’ve got some exciting news of our recent campaign with Scottish Canals, promoting sustainable options when exploring Inverness and Loch Ness by bike, find out more about both within this update.

Back in November, we were delighted to welcome more than 160 local businesses, along to the Highland Tourism Conference at the Kingsmills Hotel. If you'd like to revisit presentations and key topics from the day, take a look at our follow-up article.

In recent months it was fantastic to see Lonely Planet feature the Far North in their “Best in Travel 2024”. What a privilege for the region, with Caithness and Sutherland, listed on the coveted annual list. Milestones like this help us to promote responsible tourism opportunities, inspiring visitors to discover all parts of our region and to explore amazing experiences in the Highlands year-round.

We also continue to work closely with partners in the region to support businesses and highlight opportunities.

Read on for more information on our recent activity to support tourism and events in Highlands.

I hope you have a successful 2024.

Chris

Scotland and UK PR

Our corporate PR team work closely with Scottish and UK media to raise awareness of our work to promote the Highlands to visitors and how we offer support for the industry.

Some of the most recent highlights include:

  • providing a comment for a Lochaber Times article about three locations in the Highlands included in Booking.com's "most welcoming places in the UK" list
  • we announced the return of our successful travel trade event – Connect – in April 2024 and issued a regional media release encouraging businesses from the Highlands to sign-up
  • In October, we issued a release to local media about the latest part of the Spirt of the Highlands and Islands project. This was a seasonal marketing campaign highlighting the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands throughout the autumn months.
  • our Chairman, Lord Thurso, provided a supportive statement following Lonely Planet’s inclusion of the "Far North of Scotland" as one of its "Best in Travel" destinations for 2024. Coverage included the Northern Times, The Herald,  Press & Journal and the Daily Record 
  • in November, we provided a quote to BBC Travel about the rising Scottish surf scene, referencing Thurso
  • we announced, as part of the Scottish Thistle Awards programme for 2023, businesses shortlisted in the Highlands and Islands Thistle Awards. We later revealed the winners of the regional final in November, which included  Wilderness Scotland in Aviemore and Edinbane Lodge on Skye.
Visit the media centre to view our press releases

Regional marketing - Spirit of the Highlands and Islands:

  • Multimedia

    Our Multimedia team has created three new autumn videos and a wider suite of multimedia content and imagery to showcase the region’s distinctive heritage and authentic connections with rural communities. Watch them on the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands playlist on our YouTube channel.

    Highland locations include Glenelg, Caithness, Dornoch, Loch Migdale, Ratagan Lochalsh, Beinn Eighe and more.

  • Spirit of the Highlands and Islands

    We worked with High Life Highlands on the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project, which included the creation of a new, immersive website. The autumn landing page immersed readers in community stories, inspirational video and audio content, alongside 10 themed itineraries. Visit the website. 

  • Paid Marketing

    Our £185,000 autumn 2023 campaign ran from late August until November and included UK and EU digital media (including social media channels such as YouTube), a UK partnership with The Guardian and a EU partnership with Die  Zeit. 

    Campaign results include:

    • UK paid digital media delivered over 17 million impressions and a reach of five million. It received more than 60,000 clicks to the campaign page, with a total of 1.4 million video views 
    • The publish partnership with The Guardian generated 62,000 website visits and readers spent approximately three mins 47 seconds on the page. This exceeded our forecasts
    • The Dutch campaign delivered 12 million impressions, and a reach of two million. It also generated 42,000 clicks and 408,000 video views
    • The German market partnership with Die Zeit achieved 1.5 million ad impressions and 5,800 web visits to the article. Users stayed on the page for an average of two min 56 seconds, which also exceeded our forecasting.
  • Press trips

    Part of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands activity included a number of press trips. This includes publications such as:

    • Country & Town House – Guide to Skye (press trip July 2023)

    • Scotland Magazine – Highlands & Skye (and Shetland) (press trip August 2023) 

    • Best Magazine – Loch Ness (press trip September 2023)

    • Rheinische Post – Kinlochbervie and Skye (press trip September 2023).

Social media stats for the Highlands

over 9.5 million

reached through organic Highlands content across all channels

Over 1 million

engagements, likes, comments and shares and saves

Over 183,000

video views of Highland content

Partnership Marketing

We've continued working in partnership with Scotrail to deliver our Beano themed family focused promotions. Designed to capture the family audience, these promotions focus on sustainable days out and geographic spread across the Scotrail network.
As part of this activity Inverness featured in the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, both online and print. Inverness also featured in our digital display ads to create thumb-stopping and engaging content to captivate our audience and drive engagement to the landing page on visitscotland.com.

Beano characters at Loch Ness for Scotrail campaign

Scottish Canals

We partnered with Scottish Canals on a joint-funded campaign. The campaign promoted the amazing slow adventures, communities and destinations of the Caledonian Canal through sustainable and responsible influencer activity from YouTuber's, King-ing It. 

The content featured 16 businesses from Inverness and Loch Ness area.  

Watch the video on YouTube

Global PR

Our Global PR team works to promote Scotland across key media outlets which have been identified through years of work and relationship building. The team can place the right story, at the right time, in-front of the right audience.

Working primarily with media in the travel and lifestyle space, it can take anything from one week to one year, or more, to see the results of the team’s "always on" activity aligning with our seasonal messaging, organisation priorities and editorial calendars. 

In the period July to September, the team delivered:

  • 11 proactive comms bundles and press releases received in multiple languages by 2,500 media contacts
  • releases and communications covering themes including cycling, outdoor adventure, cities, agritourism, responsible travel, festivals, Barbiecore and more
  • more than 150 tailored pitches to a range of media titles
  • 1000 individual engagements with contacts from across the world
  • their attendance at in person events including Destination Britain China, St Andrew’s Day receptions in Paris and Berlin and World Travel Market in London
  • hosting 76 media contacts in various locations across Scotland.

iCentre update

Across the summer it was great to see more overseas visitors returning, welcoming a mix of North Americans, Europeans, (and South Americans particularly over the winter months). We also saw a steady calendar of cruise ships stopping at Invergordon, bringing to the area lots of Dutch and German visitors.

The Ullapool iCentre participated in the open day for the new Ullapool Shore Street and Shore Quay redevelopment. A £10 million project that widened the road, created a new sea wall with locally sourced rock and constructed a new marina. Ullapool iCentre also worked with Ullapool Museum and Clachan Church in the run up to the 250-year anniversary of the Hector, the ship that left Lochbroom to go to Nova Scotia.

Keeping up-to-date with local attractions and events, some of the iCentre team visited the refurbished Loch Ness Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit. The centre has been transformed into an indoor attraction for all the family. And, in November the team attended Brodie illuminations at Brodie.

Travel trade activity

A Highland business took part in our travel trade workshop on 5 December, held in Edinburgh.

This was a new event format created to facilitate engagement between Scottish suppliers and buyers from Destination Management Companies (DMCs).

This allowed Scottish businesses in the early stages of their development to begin familiarising with the requirements of the travel trade, and aid with their business development.

Businesses were selected because of their sustainable product offering and business practices, as well as representing a wide regional spread. This allows us to influence responsible programme development among the DMCs who are selling Scotland tours to tour operators and travel agents around the world. 

Thank you to The Alvie and Dalraddy Estate for joining us!

In-person workshop

In partnership with Venture North, we delivered an in-person workshop at the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch on 29 November. 15 businesses from across the North Highlands attended to learn more about travel distribution, alongside insights and trends from international visitor markets. It also offered an opportunity to inspire businesses to create bookable product for travel trade and encourage collaboration across the region to promote longer stays and higher spend at quieter times of the year.

Spirit of the Highlands and Islands webinar

On Thursday 2 November, we delivered a webinar focused on helping businesses who are new to working with the travel trade. This helped them to identify available routes to market in order to diversify and grow their business more robustly and sustainably, through working with domestic and international tour operators, travel advisors and Destination Management Companies.

Tourism Conferences

As part of the Cairngorms Business Partnership Conference in Aviemore on 6 November, we delivered two one-hour introductory presentations for businesses interested in working with the travel trade. Approximately 30 businesses attended each session.

The team also delivered a similar presentation at the Highland Tourism Conference in Inverness on 28 November, which approximately 50 businesses attended. The focus was working with tour operators, travel advisors and Destination Management Companies, and included insights on how to improve a business’ digital discoverability and start working with Online Travel Agents.

Accessibility guides for Highland businesses

Applications are open for accommodation providers, attractions and restaurants in the Highlands to be included a project with AccessAble to create accessibility guides for businesses.

Inclusive tourism is an incredibly valuable market for Scotland and accessibility guides are an important way of engaging with that market.

The deadline for noting your interest is 1 February 2024.

Find out more

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