The head of Scotland’s tourism industry has issued a rallying call for it to capitalise on the “once-in-a-lifetime” series of events being held in 2013 and 2014.
Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland’s chairman, said the country had the chance to emulate the success of the London Olympics if it threw its weight behind the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the next Home- coming and the Battle of Bannockburn 700th anniversary celebrations.
Mr Cantlay, who hosted a reception at the Scottish Parliament to kickstart VisitScotland’s campaign, declared that tourism was now Scotland’s biggest industry and could provide the “tonic” to the economic downturn over the two years.
He said the Year of Natural Scotland, a Scottish Government-instigated campaign for 2013, would pave the way for the events the following year by encouraging more Scots to discover their own country and become national “ambassadors”, in a similar way to how Londoners embraced the Olympics.
“This is our time and opportunity to put Scotland firmly on the tourism map as the eyes of the world focus on our nation,” he said.
The government agency EventScotland is hosting a major conference in Glasgow next month to help ensure Scotland capitalises on the string of events.
Bill Morris, director of the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics, as well as the torch relays, will be among the guest speakers, along with David Zolkwer, who will be in charge of the equivalent events in Glasgow in two years’ time, Donald Getz, a leading tourism academic from the University of Queensland, and Mr Cantlay himself.
The tourism chief said: “We simply have never had a year like this before, when two of the biggest sporting events in the world will be held in Scotland. But we are really seeing them as only the start.
“We want to use the Year of Natural Scotland as a campaign to get Scots to properly discover their own country for the first time, and ensure that every Scot plays as big a part and enjoys the events in 2014 as much – if not more – than Londoners did this summer.
“We want both the Year of Natural Scotland next year, and the Year of Homecoming, to reach every corner of Scotland, and we want businesses and the public to get ready for them.
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “There are some wonderful opportunities for Scottish tourism in the coming years, and we are working with VisitScotland to make sure that we maximise the impact of these.”
He said next year, the Year of Natural Scotland, will celebrate Scotland’s marvellous assets.
“2014 sees Scotland ‘Welcome the World’ with our big invitation to visit in a year when we celebrate not only our second Year of Homecoming but also host two of the world’s largest events – the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.
“The talent and dedication shown by people who work in the industry is central to the success of these events, which can make a substantial contribution to delivering sustainable economic growth for Scotland.”