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Taking it a year at a time

Blog post   •   Nov 03, 2016 16:26 GMT

Melrose Abbey - Copyright VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Themed years have been pivotal in bringing together Scotland’s tourism and events industries as well as helping us to further raise Scotland’s reputation. Find out more about the themed years in our Chief Executive's latest blog.

As we head into winter and towards the end of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 I’m reminded of the innovative business owners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this year. From design companies like Trakke in Glasgow and Prickly Thistle in the Highlands, to the myriad craft beer and gin producers opening up across the country, it has been a privilege to meet so many talented and ambitious people who all contribute to the wider visitor economy through their ambition, drive and passion.

The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 has been a compelling year for Scottish tourism. A year in which we challenged the industry to get creative and link their business or product to themes that they often wouldn’t have thought were relevant. But the industry has embraced it with open arms and capitalised on our country’s long history of innovation.

From the magnificent Hinterland, which was performed to international acclaim in a derelict seminary on the outskirts of Helensburgh to Clo Mor Festival of Harris Tweed in the Outer Hebrides, celebrating one of Scotland’s most iconic fabrics, the year has really pushed the boundaries of what we as an industry are capable of.

Hinterland at St. Peter's Seminary, Cardross - Copyright NVA/James Johnson.

Our recent tourism success in the first half of this year with increased international visitor numbers and spend is testament in part to our themed years and the work the industry puts in to making sure the strategy is implemented across Scotland.

Themed years have been pivotal in bringing together Scotland’s public and private sectors across tourism and events. We’ve forged ahead since the Year of Homecoming 2014 and the major events that helped make that year so special and the themed years since have really given the industry the opportunity to further raise Scotland’s reputation.

And there we were two weeks ago launching the next phase in the themed years programme at the Glasgow Concert Hall, to present to the industry our plans for the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to important battlefields, cultural traditions to captivating myths, stories and legends, the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 will be a year to enjoy the best of Scotland's historic places, icons and hidden gems.

While it can be said that history and heritage is Scotland’s bread and butter, with many uncertainties on the horizon it would be complacent of us to rest on our laurels and expect the year to sell itself.

Never has the time for cross-sectoral collaboration and partnership been more vital.

What an opportunity it is for us to capitalise on the year within our priority international marketswhere heritage and ancestry is a key driver especially when ancestral tourists spend more than double per visit and stay longer on averagewhen holidaying in Scotland. To get ahead, we are encouraging businesses to be ready for the start of the year by downloading the YHHA17 eBrochure and by signing up to be part of our relaunched Ancestral Welcome scheme.

But for now, we’re not quite at the end of 2016. Light Nights in Dundee has the privilege of rounding off what has been a captivating year for Scottish tourism. On 18 and 19 November, Light Nights will mark the end of the Festival of Architecture, a headline event of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016. And I’ll continue to enjoy the opportunity to watch, almost on a daily basis, the construction of the new Queensferry Crossing, before it opens next year adding another milestone to our rich industrial heritage.

Let me know your thoughts on the 2016 and 2017 themed years. Have you taken advantage of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 to its full potential? Or do you think your product or business is more suited to capitalise on next year’s theme?