Putting Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire on the global tourism map

AT ONE time Aberdeen wasn't even on a map of Scotland's airports.

Today, we're not only on that map but gradually positioning ourselves as one of the top tourism destinations in the UK.

There's an opportunity here to be something other than the "oil and gas capital of Europe".

We've got the product - a rounded tourism product that few destinations can rival. We have over 300 castles; championship links and parkland golf courses; Europe's largest whisky trail; a food and drink product growing in scope and confidence almost by the day; festivals and events filling social calendars all year long and outdoor adventures challenging even the biggest thrill seekers.

Our region is ready to take on a new façade, one without a prominent reliance on oil, but one that showcases Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a place for both business and leisure tourism.

We have been given a chance to diversify our offering; tourism is an opportunity to grab with both hands, but we must do so in unison if we are really to get ourselves on that global "map".

VisitAberdeenshire has already made some considerable strides forward.

In late 2016, we commissioned an independent research company to identify our key products, and an award-winning creative agency to create our distinct messaging.

Last month, we launched our first marketing campaign. "Beyond words but not beyond reach" formed the basis of our campaign supported by epic imagery of both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

The campaign, targeted in Scotland, England, Germany, Iceland and Norway, is our largest marketing campaign undertaken to date.

We're on the ground with tourism businesses too, engaging with them and supporting them in developing their own products.

We're also developing the economy by bringing in new business and encouraging conferences and events to come to the region.

Our international presenceis growing as we attend more exhibitions and trade fairs across the world, drumming up even more business for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Most importantly, our findings are that people are interested in this region.

The global tourism industry is buoyant and the Office of National Statistics reports that more people than ever before are travelling overseas.

We must be doing something right as 14.9million overnight trips were taken in Scotland in 2015. We're getting a share of the pie but there's definitely more we could fairly take.

In March this year we host our second VisitAberdeenshire Tourism Conference.

We are inviting all tourism businesses, or businesses with an interest in tourism, operating in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area, to come along.

This annual conference will focus on the themes of opportunity and diversification and we will hear from key influencers, not only in the region but in the UK too.

This is our chance to come together as a solid industry to drive forward our attractive tourism offering.

I look forward to welcoming you to our tourism conference on March 21, 2017.