The future of tourism; memories well-made

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Scottish Tourist Board and the origins of VisitScotland. Scottish tourism has been one of the economic and social success stories of the last five decades - we now attract 15m visitors, generating £11 billion for the Scottish economy.

Since the downturn in the energy sector, tourism has developed into one of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s growth industries. Significant investment in tourism in the region has resulted in the successful completion of several large projects, including the unveiling of the £3.5m refurbished Old Royal Station at Ballater and the opening of Braemar Gathering Heritage Centre and The Fife Arms – all proving popular attractions for visitors to Royal Deeside. In the city, the £30m redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery is expected to become the jewel in Aberdeen’s cultural crown, and the Sandman Signature Hotel is delighting visitors with its Canadian twist on Scottish hospitality.

The £16.5m investment in Aberdeen International Airport is improving the visitor experience on arrival in Aberdeen, while the £330m Aberdeen Harbour development is driving business interest in packaging up experiences to sell to the cruise and travel trade. With P&J Live opening later this year, the region is also gearing up for large-scale events and conferences, as well as the world’s top performing acts.

We know we have the assets and the foundations laid for the next 50 years, but what will be the key trends that shape visitor behaviour and expectations? A recent VisitScotland Insights paper, Tourism Futures 2069, predicts:

  • A more diverse visitor profile, aided by improved direct access and frictionless digital visas and border checks. Biggest growth will come from increasingly affluent middles classes in the Far East.
  • Personalisation of products to suit widening profile of individual needs.
  • Increased use of augmented reality and other digital aids to offer immersive experiences and enhanced interpretation at attractions.
  • Space tourism, flying taxis and midge haggis could be among the innovations responding to global behaviour shifts and commercial opportunity!

In Danish MP Ida Auken’s World Economic Forum essay, she envisions that in 2030, ‘I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better’. The future of tourism has to be about delivering unrivalled experiences in a world that is fast losing its appetite for things and is hungry for memories.

Scotland and the North-East is becoming adept at developing these experiences, but – crucially - we must all keep pace with the digital enablers that will allow us to share with the world the exceptional memories that can be created here.

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson