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Visit Scotland | Alba

From awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes to stunning city architecture, Scotland is home to several UNESCO designations, recognised for their internationally significant cultural or natural heritage value.

Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, due to launch in October 2021, is the first national UNESCO trail anywhere in the world that brings together our country’s full range of UNESCO place-based designations (World Heritage, Global Geoparks, Biospheres and Creative Cities) whilst promoting responsible tourism.

In this digital toolkit you will find information about:

What is Scotland’s UNESCO Trail?

Scotland’s UNESCO Trail is a new digital trail connecting 13 place-based UNESCO designations across Scotland.  

The trail has been created through a unique and global-first partnership between the Scottish Government, UK National Commission for UNESCO, designation representatives of the 13 UNESCO Sites, VisitScotland, Historic Environment Scotland, NatureScot and the National Trust for Scotland. 

The newly created digital assets will include dedicated web pages hosted on VisitScotland.com, new itineraries, and videos. 

Scotland is the first nation in the world to create a UNESCO trail. This will bring together the full range of UNESCO place-based designation categories (World Heritage, Global Geoparks, Biospheres and Creative Cities) whilst promoting responsible tourism.  

UNESCO designations: our sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization uses science, education and culture as a tool to promote intercultural dialogue and foster peace.  

One way it does this is by recognising, preserving and educating people about the world’s most extraordinary places. These are places which are truly unique; places which have the power to change the way we see, experience and understand the planet and ourselves. And Scotland is filled with them. 

The creation of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail allows us to tell the story of Scotland in a new way that is innovative, exciting and most importantly responsible.  

Aligning with UNESCO’s values of peace, education, and sustainability we are presenting Scotland in an unique way to new audiences by celebrating the past, present and future through these designations. Take a tour of the UNESCO UK Commission website to learn more about the four categories and Scotland’s designated sites of BiospheresCreative CitiesGlobal Geoparks and World Heritage Sites.

The following provides a designation overview, as defined by UNESCO, and a breakdown of the individual designation sites:

Biospheres

Biospheres are all about improving the relationship between people and their local environment, globally. They are sites created by UNESCO that find creative ways for people and nature to thrive together. They act as extraordinary testing grounds to put into practice an innovative approach to managing our ecosystems sustainably for future generations. 

  • Wester Ross Biosphere

    Wester Ross is not only one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, it is also home to a collection of rare and unspoiled habitats where wildlife, fauna and Highland communities co-exist to create an environment of unique natural beauty, history and culture. Read more about the Wester Ross Biosphere.

  • Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

    Learn about Galloway & Southern Ayrshire, renowned for its stunning landscape; a natural playground ripe with outdoor adventure and geological interest. It is also a place teeming with rare wildlife and a place where you can experience a rich cultural life and creative scene that is unique to this corner of south Scotland.  

Global Geoparks

Highland mountains, ocean cliffs, billion year old rocks and cavernous caves. Scotland’s Geoparks are part of a global network of 169 areas of exceptional geological significance. UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Geoparks are areas of exceptional geological significance. Both of Scotland’s Geoparks have internationally significant geology, but what makes them special is that they are community-led partnerships that promote an appreciation of natural and cultural heritage while supporting the sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and eco-tourism. 

World Heritage

From the ancient landscape and monuments of Orkney, the Forth Bridge, one of the world’s most magnificent cantilever bridges, to the lonely island of St Kilda evacuated after 4,000 years of human occupation, UNESCO World Heritage Sites tell the unique story of Scotland’s contribution to the world. These sites belong to everyone, and it is everyone’s duty to protect them for future generations. 

World Heritage Sites represent the diversity of our planet and the people who have lived on it. They show the development of human history over thousands of years and celebrate the best of who we are – through art, architecture, religion, industry and much more. They are ours to share, to cherish and to respect. Their disappearance would be an irreparable loss to humanity. There are more than 1,000 sites on the World Heritage list globally, in three categories – cultural (such as a temple), natural (like a rainforest), and mixed (where both cultural and natural elements exist at the same location). 

Creative Cities

Scotland has three of these, each with a unique perspective, economy and culture. 

The UNESCO Global Creative Cities Network is a network of cities working towards the joint mission of placing creativity and cultural industries at the core of their urban development to make their cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable. Made up of 180 members globally, UNESCO Creative Cities specialise in seven fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts. 

  • Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

    Books and reading have been at the beating heart of Edinburgh’s rich cultural life for centuries. Find out more about Edinburgh, the first city in the world to be named a UNESCO City of Literature.

  • Glasgow UNESCO City of Music

    Glasgow is home to one of the largest, most vibrant and accessible music scenes in the world. Discover more about its status as the first-ever UNESCO City of Music in 2008, and its diverse culture, history and musical identity that sets it apart from other cities. 

  • Dundee UNESCO City of Design

    Dundee was once best-known for its flourishing textile trade and shipbuilding industry. Learn more about the city and how it continues to place innovation at its heart, emerging as a cutting-edge multidisciplinary design hub quite unlike any other. 

What are the opportunities linked to the trail?

  

Access to brand new digital assets to promote your business

The newly created digital assets will include dedicated web pages hosted on VisitScotland.com, new itineraries, and Scotland’s UNESCO Trail videos. All the digital assets are supported by an awe-inspiring suite of imagery and are available for industry to use across their own websites and channel marketing activity.  

All the newly created assets aim to inspire our communities, citizens and visitors and encourage the pursuit of slowing down, staying longer and spending in the local supply chain at a community level.  

The digital assets will be launched and available for use in November 2021. 

Promotion of responsible tourism businesses and their communities 

By focusing on Scotland’s 13 UNESCO place-based designations we are highlighting them as globally significant sites and demonstrating Scotland’s unique contribution in the world. We hope that by telling the stories of our land, our people, and our heritage that more of our citizens and visitors will experience the incredible places on offer only in Scotland.  

As well as this, we will highlight surrounding businesses that are working in a sustainable and responsible way. This project will raise the profile of businesses and ensure that, through their operational practices and internal culture, that they are addressing climate change, by supporting the responsible tourism ambition to have thriving communities whilst encouraging the protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the designation.  

We are committed to working with the industry and communities to create long-lasting sustainable tourism destinations which protect the environment and benefit visitors and residents alike. 

How can businesses get involved?

The businesses included in the campaign content are Green Tourism accredited. By taking part in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) these businesses are showing the world that they take environmental considerations seriously and are taking practical steps to tackle issues such as energy efficiency, water saving and mindful waste reduction. All of which are in line with the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals and UNESCO values. For further information on the National Value of UNESCO read the report on their webpage.

Get involved

  1. 1

    Get listed on VisitScotland.com

    Creating a web listing on VisitScotland.com allows you to connect with visitors across the world. This is a free service for all types of tourism businesses including: accommodation providers; visitor attractions, activities, or experiences; places to eat and drink; transport providers; local retail establishments and tour operators.

    VisitScotland.com has 23 million visits per year and is translated into six languages. By showcasing your business through a web listing you can let visitors know that you are open and ready to welcome them. 

    If you don't have a VisitScotland.com web listing, you can apply for one for free in our global website section

    If you do have a web listing, it’s important to keep it up to date. You can read this handy article on how to keep your listing relevant, or read our top tips for the perfect online listing page.

    Businesses that are Green Tourism accredited will see the Green Tourism logo appear on their respective listing automatically. 

  2. 2

    Be Green Tourism accredited

    In order to be promoted as part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail campaign activity, you will need to have a listing on VisitScotland.com and be Green Tourism accredited. After you have signed up to your free web listing and have become a member of Green Tourism, we will take care of the rest. Your Green Tourism logo will appear on your web listing and visitors will be able to search and filter for your business.

  3. 3

    Use keywords

    The easiest way to ensure your business listing has a presence in search engines, is through on-page SEO and keyword targeting. You can read specific guidance on the practice in our beginner's guide to on-page SEO page.

    Keywords are defined as the queries users will input into a search engine to find specific information. When adjusting your listing to highlight the ties your business has to a UNESCO designation, we’d recommend identifying two to five keywords that are relevant to the product you offer, and threading them naturally within your business description.

    For example, if you have a heritage attraction based in Edinburgh you may want to define that you are based in the ‘UNESCO City of Literature’ and are one of the many ‘Scottish heritage sites’. Search engines are also good at contextualising keywords, so you can amend keywords slightly to make them read naturally.

  4. 4

    Be discoverable and bookable

    For maximum impact online, your business needs to be discoverable and bookable. It’s about how easy it is for a visitor to find your business online, and if a customer can then book your service – whether that’s a room to sleep in, a tour, an entry ticket for your attraction, or reserving a table. Watch our videos that cover how to increase your chances of being discovered by these customers and booked through web booking engines, channel managers and online travel agents with our be discoverable and bookable online advice page.

  5. 5

    Visuals speak volumes

    From dramatic cityscapes to breathtaking coastlines, choose from a selection of free images for use across your own channels to inspire visitors. We’ve created a bank of images (and a video) which you can download from our Digital Media Library under the search term 'UNESCO Trail'

UNESCO 

Established in 1945, UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and seeks to build peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture. Each of Scotland’s UNESCO designations actively contributes to the achievement of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

Recognised internationally as shorthand for high-quality, the UNESCO ‘badge’ demonstrates to a national and international audience that a place, item, or location is unique and of global significance and interest. 

Responsible tourism 

Responsible tourism is the beating heart of this project. Our aim is to ensure that Scotland’s UNESCO Trail celebrates and prioritises businesses and communities that are committed to responsible tourism business practices, increase understanding of the UNESCO values and encourage visitors to stay longer, visit all year round and explore more of what our country has to offer. This will be crucial as we strive to make Scotland a world-leading  responsible tourism destination. Find out more about responsible tourism in our dedicated section

By working in partnership with Green Tourism, and involving local communities and tourism businesses, Scotland’s UNESCO Trail aims to maintain economic activity whilst minimising negative environmental and social impact. 

We are also working with private sector partners to ensure visitors have options to choose sustainable travel options when travelling internationally and domestically, for example with ScotRail, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Skyscanner, Green Tourism and Expedia. 

Who is Green Tourism?

Green Tourism is an accreditation organisation founded in Scotland, originally developed through a partnership between VisitScotland and Green Business UK, who continue to develop and operate the scheme. Green Tourism is a well-recognised award as well as being an important part of Scotland’s future as a sustainable tourism destination. 

Becoming a Green Tourism business is a great way of reducing not just your carbon footprint, but also utility, water, and waste bills too. You can promote your award through the Green Tourism website, your VisitScotland.com web listing and various booking agencies. 

Case studies

Useful resources

We’ve pulled together some handy links that provide more information on UNESCO, responsible tourism and Scotland’s green ambition.