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Tourism chiefs look to the future ahead of huge year

AS Scotland edges with nervous anticipation towards its big year under the international spotlight, the events and celebrations planned for the next 12 months are not the only focus for the ­country's tourism leaders.

HOMECOMING: Expected to provide tourist boost.
HOMECOMING: Expected to provide tourist boost.

VisitScotland's chairman Mike Cantlay says "2014 is all about 2015" and beyond, and that the multibillion-pound business of bringing people to Scotland has to capitalise on the tourism bounce expected from the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland if it is to tackle a tough market ahead.

The "once in a generation" coup of staging three major international events that will appeal to very different groups of people is to be used to help filter visitors to hundreds of smaller showcases being held in communities all over the country next year.

Mr Cantlay says they are also key to ensuring the country stays on the world stage.

He said: "It (2014) is a platform. There are three events that in one way or the other hit every part of the world. If you are Canadian, for ­example, you could be interested in the Commonwealth Games, but there are some Americans have not heard of the Commonwealth Games who will come for the Ryder Cup golf."

Others from all over the world will be interested in ancestral tourism and Homecoming Scotland, which will include a commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

He said: "We have a range of things to very much get Scotland in the mind's eye of the world.

"We are taking every ­opportunity to sell the whole of Scotland on the back of this and get as many people to come and see the country as well as during special events. So 2015 is what 2014 is all about."

Five main themes of tourism identified are ancestral, food and drink, creative, active and natural.

New links between ­VisitScotland and major banks are also helping the world of finance understand better the future funding of tourism.

Changing economies will create competition from countries which have suffered in recent downturns and there are also markets still emerging in places such as China.

Countries like Italy and Greece are expected to rebound, Mr ­Cantlay said, and they will be looking for a share in the predicted £12 billion or more to be earned through tourism in Scotland over the next dozen years. Any economic boost to the sector could add 60,000 more jobs to the 290,000 already supported by the industry.

Mr Cantlay said tourism firms and government should be ­considering how they can make the most of the events on offer, with, for example, the media reach of the MTV Awards estimated to be the same as the Commonwealth Games.

He said that "to achieve full potential after the Commonwealth Games, we need to continue to raise our game, marry policy and marketing and promote Scotland even more aggressively overseas".

VisitScotland's first 2015 ­showcase is being held in three months' time, well before the big events across the summer.

Mr Cantlay warned that the business is critical to the nation's economy.

However, although it will be Scotland's big year for politicians, with the independence referendum taking place in September, Mr Cantlay said the nation's future politics do not cause too much concern, or specific ­opportunity, for the tourism sector.

He said: "People don't holiday according to the constitutional settlement in place at any one time."

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