Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Search for Scottish roots could become easier thanks to new ancestral tourism guide

Left to right: Linda McPherson, Scottish Enterprise;
Cabinet Secretary John Swinney; Zoe Tautz-Davis,
 Mercat Tours Ltd; Natalie Summers, VisitScotland;
 George MacKenzie, Ancestral Tourism Steering Group.
Overseas visitors searching for their Scottish roots could find the task much easier in the near future thanks to a new guide aimed at Scotland's tourism businesses.

For the tourism businesses are being encouraged to adapt their products and services to tap into ancestral tourism opportunities in the run up to 2014, when Scotland welcomes the world for Homecoming, the Ryder Cup and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Companies are being urged to take advantage with the help of the guide, Ancestral Tourism in Scotland, published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland (TIS). The guide is the latest in TIS's Opportunities for Growth series, which helps businesses take advantage of new and emerging opportunities in the sector.

Ancestral tourism in Scotland has the potential to grow significantly in the next five years, from the current 800,000 visitors per year to 4.3 million visitors, says Scottish Enterprise, the country's main economic development agency.

TIS is a joint venture developed by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, in partnership with the tourism industry, to stimulate growth and innovation in tourism.

The guide, which is based on ancestral tourism research commissioned by VisitScotland, shows that some 10 million people worldwide with Scottish roots are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, with around two-fifths of these planning to visit Scotland in the next two years. Based on these figures, the opportunity for businesses to capitalise on these visitors is estimated at £2.4 billion in additional revenue.

Launched at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney (see photograph), the guide is available to businesses by registering at

The TIS website has recently been refreshed and now offers enhanced features for tourism businesses to help them access intelligence quickly and easily. It is also been optimised for access from a variety of devices. Businesses can also benefit from tailored information based on their preferences and enhanced social media functions so information can be shared with one click.

The new guide provides tourism operators with the latest intelligence on Scotland’s ancestral tourism markets. There are also a raft of practical hints, tips and ideas to help businesses make the most of the year-round opportunities. These include:

  • Gathering local information and knowledge of ancestral landmarks (churches, castles, battlefields, stately homes, museums) to direct tourists to places of interest
  • Having a good working knowledge to signpost tourists to local and national research facilities and resources – the Ancestral Guide includes a substantial list of links and resources to help businesses identify what they can offer
  • Providing traditional hospitality that showcases Scotland’s larder – tourists want to sample Scotland’s culture through its food and drink
  • Promoting specialist tour guides, operators and ancestral researchers – businesses can collaborate and partner to offer a richer, seamless experience for tourists.
  • Learning from other companies which are already successfully tapping into the ancestral tourism market – the Ancestral Guide includes a number of case studies on companies and projects such as Hidden Deeside Tours, Museum Without Walls, Duntrune House B&B, Elgin Cathedral, Titan Crane, Hawick Heritage Hub, Scotia Roots and Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership.
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John Swinney, the MSP for Perthshire North and currently Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government, said, "Scotland is preparing to Welcome the World in 2014 when we take to the global stage with our second Year of Homecoming. Ancestral tourism will be a key component of next year’s festivities with many visitors looking to trace their ancestry or just soak up the atmosphere of their forefathers' land.

"Tourism Intelligence Scotland's new Ancestral Tourism guide will help Scottish businesses utilise opportunities available to them within the emerging ancestral tourism sector, encouraging more genealogy tourists and boosting the economy."

Linda McPherson, director of tourism at Scottish Enterprise, said, "Now is the perfect time for tourism businesses to introduce ancestral tourism elements into their current products and services, ahead of 2014. The Ancestral Tourism Guide provides lots of practical ideas that businesses can implement to maximise their revenue from ancestral tourists.

"We also know that these tourists often visit outside of peak periods, so this can offer a route for businesses to extend their season. There are also excellent opportunities to collaborate with other tourism businesses to develop a fuller package that can help extend visitor stay and spend within the local area and beyond."

George MacKenzie, chairman of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group, commented, "I warmly welcome this new guide, which will certainly help Scottish businesses to grasp the big opportunities of the ancestral market and bring more visitors to Scotland in search of their family roots."

Marc Crothall, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said, "Tourism Scotland 2020 the National Strategy for Scottish tourism, being led by the STA, identifies our distant cousins in the USA, Australia and Canada as a key growth market for Scotland, and research tells us that one of the prime reasons for this market to travel to Scotland is to discover and learn more about their ancestors.

"We are therefore delighted with the development of this relevant resource which will help the industry to better understand this key market and inspire them to develop memorable experiences tailored to their needs. As a partner of TIS we will continue to collaborate and support this initiative, and will promote this new resource to our members and the wider industry."

The guide shows that some 10 million people worldwide with Scottish roots are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, with around two-fifths of these planning to visit Scotland in the next two years. Based on these figures, the opportunity for businesses to capitalise on these visitors is estimated at £2.4 billion in additional revenue.

Homecoming Scotland 2014 will bring a number of major historic celebrations to the country including the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and over 50 ancestral and clan events and activities. For more information, visit

Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies globally, dramatically increasing in popularity as access to the Internet and online resources become more plentiful. Research shows that the overseas ancestral market represents a smaller number of visitors. However it is the most lucrative sector and one that businesses should examine more fully.

Research also shows that ancestral tourists spend significantly more per day than the average tourist to Scotland. They stay longer than other visitors (average of 10 nights compared to 4.5 nights for all visits to Scotland), visit throughout the year and often visit places that traditionally have little tourist trade outside of the usual tourist centres. Ancestral tourists from all countries are highly likely to make return visits to Scotland (92%) and to recommend Scotland as a destination to family and friends (97%).

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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

SMEs give backing to Scottish independence

Survey blow for Business Secretary Vince Cable
More than half of Scotland's small businesses back Scottish independence, a survey reveals.

The findings follow research by AXA Business Insurance, part of the AXA Group, a worldwide leader in financial services.

The research, carried out last month, found 52 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Scotland favoured independence while only 33 per cent supported remaining part of the United Kingdom.

The survey comes as the UK government launched yet another paper warning Scots of the dire consequences should they vote for independence in September 2014.

Launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable in Glasgow, the paper claims independence would create barriers which would affect trade with the rest of the UK and thus put jobs at risk.

However, the AXA study, which questioned around 500 SMEs across the UK, revealed that one in four (25 per cent) of all those questioned believe that independence would be a good thing for small businesses in Scotland, while 45 per cent believe it would not. The remaining 30 per cent are not sure either way.

But, says AXA, when it comes to businesses based in Scotland, the number in favour of independence doubles to 52 per cent, while only one in three feel independence would not be a good thing for Scottish SMEs.

South of the border, in England, 43 per cent of SMEs think independence would be bad for their contemporaries in Scotland, while in Wales this number is 59 per cent.

The study also revealed that Scottish SMEs are more negative about current government spending cuts than SMEs based in England, although those in Wales are the most unhappy about the effect these may have on their business.

However, a larger percentage of SMEs in Scotland than in England feel that the current low interest rates provide a positive outlook for their business.

The results come on the back of the AXA Optimism Index which last week revealed that, while levels of optimism were riding high right across the UK, SMEs in Scotland were the most upbeat about their futures.

Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, says,"It is clear from our research that this is an issue that is very much front of mind for small businesses.

"SMEs have a lot of business critical issues to manage at the moment and the uncertainty around a possible independent Scotland will only add to those concerns.

"Regardless of the outcome of the vote, it is important that small businesses are looking at every eventuality and ensuring that their business is prepared for the vote to go either way."

Business for Scotland, which is made up of hundreds of Scottish business owners who support independence, welcomed the survey findings.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, the owner of the social media and sales & marketing consultancy Intelligise, and founding member of Business for Scotland, said, "We believe that the AXA survey, if anything, underestimates the support for independence within Scottish SMEs.  Business for Scotland's own polling has consistently found SME business to be more supportive of independence than the population as a whole.

"This is because people who run their own businesses are used to examining the facts, evaluating their options and making their minds up more quickly. This survey therefore gives the best indication so far of the likely direction of travel of public opinion within Scotland as a whole, when we get closer to the real decision time in September 2014."

The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with more than 163,000 employees serving 102 million clients in 57 countries.

In the UK, AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth, AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary, AXA Personal Direct and Partnerships, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 12,000 staff in the UK.

Check out the AXA Group here, and Business for Scotland here.