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Article published 19/01/2024

Visitors looking for hands-on experiences

Tourism businesses looking to attract more international visitors could consider offering "meet the maker" style visitor experiences.

Our teams working with Scotland’s international markets have revealed increased demand from visitors from the US, France and Germany who want to immerse themselves in Scottish produce and culture, by indulging their creative side.

Businesses can adapt their experience to offer hands-on craft and food and drink experiences. Through the knowledge and expertise of their staff they invite visitors to try their hand at making food and drink products, handbags, ceramics and crafts.

We have a calendar of activity with the travel trade, engaging with global tour operators and travel agents, who sell travel experiences to international visitors, as part of a comprehensive intermediary marketing strategy, which works year-round to bring visitors to Scotland.   

Bellevue Farm

Visitors enjoying the wildlife at Bellevue Farm Credit: Bellevue Farm

International stats

The US was Scotland's top international market in 2022 with 693,000 visitors and spending £1.,197,000, 000 (21% of all overseas trips to Scotland and 38% of all overseas spend in Scotland.)

France was the second largest international market for Scotland in 2022 with 267,000 visits spending £190 million (8% of all overseas visitors to Scotland and 6% of all overseas spend in Scotland) followed by Germany on 236,000 visits spending £171 million (7% of all overseas visits to Scotland and 5% of all overseas spend in Scotland in 2022).

With more international visitors looking for unique tailored holiday packages they are turning to travel advisors and tour operators to help plan their holiday.

“Scotland has lots of fantastic visitor experiences that allow those on holiday to really immerse themselves in local culture. By offering immersive experiences businesses can attract higher value visitors who will stay longer and spend more. We can provide advice to any businesses looking to sell their experience through the travel trade to reach new audiences and markets.”

Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing, VisitScotland

The National Piping Centre & The Pipers' Tryst Hotel

The National Piping Centre & The Pipers’ Tryst Hotel is Scotland's home of bagpiping, offering an introduction to playing the pipes.

Helen Urquhart from the National Piping Centre said: “Starting with a practice chanter (the instrument you learn on) you will cover the basic finger movements and scale, before moving onto trying a set of Great Highland Bagpipes! Then the piper will play a few tunes to show you how it should really sound. This amazing, hands-on experience is unique to The National Piping Centre and a great way to learn more about the national instrument of Scotland.”

Visitors at the Piping CentreVisitors at The National Piping Centre Credit: Glasgow Lif

Bellevue Farm

Bellevue Farm, on the Isle of Arran provides a guided “Meet the Farmer Tour” and a self-guided “Bellevue Farm Experience”, both allow animal feeding and include Highland cows and alpacas. Additional tours include lambing experiences and wool craft workshops.

Ailsa Currie, from Bellevue Farm said: “The special thing about our experience is that we can change and tailor visits to cover exactly what our visitors are most interested in. Some visitors are interested in Highland cows so we can take them to the field and our friendly cows will eat from their outstretched hand, other visitors might be interested in machinery and take delight in sitting in one of our large working tractors.”

Stirling Distillery

Located near Stirling Castle, Stirling Distillery is the home of Stirling Gin which hosts tours and experiences, including a weekly gin school where you can learn how to make an entirely unique gin of your own.

Kathryn Holm, from Stirling Distillery said:Our Stirling Gin range is distilled on-site and made with locally sourced Stirlingshire nettles. We explain the history of each spirit, the evolution of the distillery and how we make our products, as well as sampling our range of spirits. We have a lot of guests coming from the US as well as coach tours, all who love the way we celebrate the history of the city through our products.”

The View

The View in Oban is a Scottish restaurant and bar that offers visitors the chance to learn ceilidh dancing with guidance from expert performers.

The venue’s Daniel MacIntyre said: “It’s generally easy to learn the most popular dances. It’s all about the group and keeping a smile on your face.

The Haggis Experience

The Haggis Experience, Glenside Farm, Balfron, Stirlingshire is a working sheep farm where visitors explore the history, folklore and culture which surrounds Scotland’s national dish, including links to Robert Burns. They then discover how it is made, cooked and traditionally presented, as well as sample the great taste of haggis or even get to make their own. 

Lee Rooney, The Haggis Experience said: “The secret to making good haggis is getting the perfect balance of spice and texture. Not only do we provide delicious tasting and meal experiences, we present the full story of the national dish and give it’s historical and cultural context. We have had wonderful positive feedback from visitors from around the world who really enjoy our engaging, authentic and informative experiences. They also really enjoy our generous portions of delicious handmade traditional haggis.”

Credit: The Haggis Experience

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