Tourism toolkit to help Highland businesses prepare to welcome visitors again

Today we joined hundreds of businesses on a webinar organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to listen to Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism. The live Q&A followed the announcement from Fergus Ewing last week that tourism businesses may be able to resume operations from 15th July.

We all know that tourism is an important sector to our economy but David Richardson, Highlands and Islands Development Manager at the FSB, emphasised just how significant its economic contribution is at the start of the call stating that the tourism industry is a central part of local economies across Scotland, from the Highlands and Islands in the north to Dumfries and Galloway in the south. It contributes £11bn to the economy and provides over 200,000 jobs, the industry is a key source of growth and employment across the country, especially in remote and rural communities. The industry is dominated by small businesses (96%) which provide 51% of employment in the sector.

The Cabinet Secretary, VisitScotland and several Destination Marketing Organisations including Visit Inverness Loch Ness, have all stressed the importance of using the time wisely over the next few weeks to prepare properly so that tourism businesses are poised to capitalise on the return of visitors to the area.

Following months of lockdown where Highland hospitality businesses have lain empty, beauty spots have been closed off and news media and social media have been dominated with messages urging people to stay away, it’s now time to change that message.

But it won’t be as easy as flicking a switch. Consumers will need reassurance and will expect a greater level of customer service than ever before.

Here to help

As an agency named after the first reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, we want to see tourists back in the Highlands, lured by its beauty and yes, the chance that maybe, just maybe, they’ll catch a glimpse of our beloved Nessie.

So, we’ve pulled together a tourism toolkit to help all kinds of businesses who rely on tourism, to make sure they are in the best possible position to attract visitors.

The toolkit, which is tailored to an individual business, contains:

Fish toolkit (£300)

  • Press release (drafting and issuing to relevant media)
  • Q&A
  • Three social media posts
  • Blog post

Whale toolkit (£500)

• Press release (drafting and issuing to relevant media)
• Q&A
• Five social media posts
• Blog post
• Newsletter
• Reactive statement and communications protocol in the event of a case of Covid-19

As you focus on the many practical measures to get your business Covid secure, we can help you with your communications to get you in the best possible position to offer that famous Highland welcome once more.

Understanding tourists in a post Covid-19 world

According to VisitScotland, which has been working closely with VisitWales and VisitEngland to understand travel sentiment and intentions across the UK on a weekly basis, the top concerns of consumers intending to holiday in the UK are as follows*:

  1. Enhanced cleanliness – this is top of the list with 82% of those intending to take a summer holiday raising this. Visitors want to see lots of hand sanitisers, cashless payments and plenty of visible cleaning to make them feel comfortable.
  2. Booking incentives – 79% of people are looking for booking incentives and greater flexibility on cancellations and refund policies.
  3. Physical distancing and the ability for people to feel safe while on holiday, with 76% of those planning a summer holiday looking for this.
  4. Staff and guest measures being in place – 63% of those planning a holiday want to see visible signs of staff wearing face masks, daily staff health check-ins and a sign that their safety is being taken seriously.

These consumer insights give tourism businesses a head-start on the level of physical preparation that needs to be done. That is only half of the job, however. To finish the job, tourism businesses need to communicate the extra measures they have taken and think creatively about how to attract visitors and start to fill the booking diary again.

The lure of the Highlands is as strong as ever

Further insights from consumer research** indicate that business is definitely there, especially in the Highlands:

• The Highlands is still a tourism hotspot! Second only to Edinburgh between June and September but commanding the number one spot from October onwards.
• Outdoor areas (beaches, mountains, trails) are most likely to attract more visitors than normal – 52% of those intending to holiday in Scotland
• This is followed by outdoor leisure or sports activities (walking, cycling, swimming, playgrounds) – 31% of those intending to holiday in Scotland.
• Those intending to holiday in Scotland are most likely to book directly with the accommodation provider versus an online travel agent – 47%
• Those travelling to Scotland for a holiday will overwhelmingly do so using their own car – rising to 62% in the autumn.

Maximising the opportunities in tourism

Businesses need to communicate the beauty of the landscape and the diversity of outdoor leisure activities that can be enjoyed here. Remember that many potential visitors to the Highlands will have spent lockdown in urban areas. The opportunity to capitalise on the natural beauty of the Highlands has never been greater.

Tell customers what they want to hear. If you have parking, tell them. If you have a website, incentivise customers to book direct. If you have made your business Covid secure, explain how.

Click here to get in touch. We’ll speak to you to find out what you need and send you your toolkit within three working days.

*VisitBritain Covid-19 Consumer Weekly Tracker 25th-29th May
**Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Weekly Tracker, Weeks 1-2, Scotland specific analysis

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