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Airlines reach new heights

Blog post   •   Oct 05, 2016 17:10 BST

VisitScotland Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, discusses the importance of being a high-flyer.

Throughout my working life I‘ve been travelling from one place to another, become pretty good at solitaire and read most of those novels you really ought to but never get round to. Why? Because I’ve lost count of the hours lost waiting in airports for connecting flights because I couldn’t reach my destination easily and quickly. Happily, that is pretty much no longer the case.

Scotland is more connected than ever before through international air routes – giving it a louder voice within key markets. And VisitScotland is playing a major role in bringing new airlines to Scotland through innovative marketing partnerships on key routes.

Last week, Glasgow Airport declared it had seen its busiest summer ever, helped by a 13.5% increase in visitors on EU inbound flights and a 6.3% uptick in long-haul visitors throughout August. This has been partly due to new Canadian carriers such as WestJet, Air Canada Rouge and Air Transat bringing in visitors from one of our key markets. Add this to the 27% visitor increase in quarter one from the International Passenger Survey and the stats so far are looking good for 2016.

Every year we work with airline partners from across the globe to help build the case for and support the marketing of dozens of new and expanding routes into Scotland. We work with more than 20 airlines to sustain current routes and attract new ones, investing almost £2 million in joint marketing.

As well as the obvious impact on bringing in more visitors, route development enables us to get out there and sell Scotland in key markets more easily.

Here at VisitScotland, we capitalise on these routes to new destinations by working with diaspora organisations and Scottish university alumni networks across the globe to help get the word out about Scotland.Engaging with both these groups allows us to convey the more traditional ancestral message but also contemporary messaging.

Ahead of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 - where we will be encouraging those around the world with Scottish roots to come and discover their heritage - this worldwide network will be a vital tool for us.

In 2015, three new routes alone -Qatar (Doha to Edinburgh), WestJet (Halifax to Glasgow) and United Airlines (Chicago to Edinburgh) were associated with an estimated £41.5 million of economic activity in Scotland. This year, a huge investment from Ryanair has seen new year-round routes from Edinburgh, Glasgow International and Prestwick airports to nine European cities including Milan, Lisbon and Valencia.

And it doesn’t stop there. Ethihad Airways marked its first anniversary of its services to Edinburgh Airport in June, a partnership that has helped increase the number of high net worth leisure visitors from the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. We’ve capitalised on this by partnering with Ethihad on not just marketing and PR but on trade missions, sales training and helping to exploit major event opportunities such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Of course, our major events strategy helps drive these visitor numbers with events such as last weekend’s Davis Cup at the Emirates Arena, the 145th Open at Royal Troon in July and November’s UCI Track Cycling World Cup, bringing in fans from all over the world. But vitally, they wouldn’t be able to happen without the increasing number of international routes connecting Scotland with the rest of the world.

It would be good to know your thoughts on this - have you seen increases in international visitors this summer? Are you starting to see more visitors from countries that you haven’t before as a result of our increased inbound traffic from new markets? Or are you seeing steady visits from your traditional international markets?

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland 

October 2016