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Haggis, neeps and chatty - Have transport, will travel

Blog post   •  May 30, 2016 10:01 BST

STILL by Rob Mulholland, part of LETi’s BLiSS Trail. Photo by Martin Breslin.

Recently, our CEO, Malcolm Roughead , wrote a piece on train travel to Scotland noting the increase in train journeys from London to Edinburgh and around the country. But train travel isn’t the only transport area that is innovating in Scotland.

If you’ve read my blog before then you’re probably very aware that I cycle a lot. This is partly because it’s my favourite way to travel around Scotland but mostly it gives me an excuse to eat more cakes (chocolate brownies please). But we are pretty lucky in Scotland that we have a number of interesting and innovative ways to get around the country. On watching a programme about the way Scotland travels I recently discovered Aberdeen has a fleet of hydrogen powered buses and Dundee a fleet of electric taxis! Add these to Glasgow having the third oldest underground railway in the world and Scotland having well over 30 scheduled ferry routes across the islands there are many exciting ways to get around.

The Flying Scotsman crossing the Forth Bridge earlier this month, both massive innovations of their time. Video by Peter Keith.

A company that is currently shaking up the car industry is Tesla. They’re disrupting the industry so much that they have recently introduced a £24,000 fully electric car to battle it out in the highly competitive mid-range saloon market.

This innovative company has recently come to Scotland with the opening of a Tesla showroom in Edinburgh and I have enviously spied a few driving around the country. This is partly because you can now drive the length and breadth of Scotland in electric vehicles or hybrids as charging points are based all over the land. Ordinarily I would write something like ‘they’re even located in remote places such as…’ and list a couple of small villages in the far reaches of the land but there are hundreds of them all over the country and across the islands! And best of all, most are free. FREE! Sign me up for an electric car.

And it’s not just cars, CalMac have been introducing hybrid ferries to their fleet, which are a low-carbon hybrid system of traditional diesel power and electric lithium-ionbattery power. The third of which launched at the end of last year. Furthermore, ScotRail is upgrading its fleet with faster, longer and greener electric trains between 2017 and 2019 as well as introducing innovative smart ticketing and the recent launch of the Spirit of Scotland Travelpass, which gives visitors unlimited travel around Scotland on trains and ferries.

VisitScotland supports this drive for a greener transport network and we aim to make Scotland a sustainable destination through promoting environmental accreditation and practices to all tourism businesses.

Haggis, neeps and chatty - Have transport, will travel.

CalMac’s hybrid-engined MV Loch Seaforth. Photo courtesy of Caledonian MacBrayne.

With all this investment in transport its helpful for businesses to know what transport types are available locally and offer visitors maps and tours using these methods.

Producing new trails and attractions is a great place to start for local businesses and industry groups. We recently helped provide in kind support to Loch Earn Tourism Information groups’ new BLiSS (Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – ‘i’ for innovation and information) trail. The group were keen to use the themes of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 and created a partnership between businesses and artists that has essentially brought not just a trail but a whole new attraction to the area. The interactive trail embodies the three elements of the year and features a number of art instillations based at key sights and businesses in the area.

Haggis, neeps and chatty - Have transport, will travel.

STILL by Rob Mulholland, part of LETi’s BLiSS Trail. Photo by Martin Breslin.

Nearby, the Rings of Breadalbane group has created innovative digital circular routes that people can take by foot, road bike, mountain bike or on an award-winning tour bus as well as guides for golf and angling in the area. VisitScotland supported this group with Growth Fund in 2014 and it’s encouraging to see it prospering with the tour bus set to start again from July until September.

Like the transport industry, the tourism industry needs to embrace new technology, innovation and new ways of working if it wants to compete in a competitive global market. We have over 9,000 businesses on visitscotland.com – but only a third are on-line bookable – this has to change if we want to stay ahead of our competitors. You can find out more about how to become on-line bookable on visitscotland.org.

What other innovative ways to travel around Scotland are there? Or is your tourism business innovating or doing something differently? I’m sure I’ve missed some so let me know @Leoandthelion on Twitter or leave a comment on LinkedIn.