North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark taking in swathe of Ross-shire to be included in VisitScotland marketing drive drawing global attention to precious Scotland-wide trail

Plockton in Wester Ross.  Image: VisitScotland/ Airborne Lens
Plockton in Wester Ross. Image: VisitScotland/ Airborne Lens

SOME of Scotland’s most iconic, diverse and culturally significant sites are being promoted to local and international visitors with the launch of a dedicated VisitScotland marketing campaign, developed in collaboration with UNESCO and design partners.

The campaign will promote Scotland’s UNESCO Trail to potential visitors from the UK, Germany and France, encouraging them to learn more about the country’s 13 place names included on the trail.

Among them is the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, which stretches across Rossshire and part of Sutherland.

The world’s first UNESCO trail was launched last year to connect the unique sites, including world heritage sites, biospheres, global geoparks and creative cities, into a dedicated digital trail.

The trail has been specifically designed to support the national strategy’s ambitions of making Scotland a world-leading destination for responsible tourism by encouraging visitors to stay longer, visit all year round, make sustainable travel choices, be more inclusive and to be explored at the right time each year and in turn contribute to the sustainable quality of life of the communities around the designated sites.

The marketing campaign will run across social media channels and display advertising in the UK, with EU marketing from October and a publishing partnership with Wanderlust in November.

It is designed to ensure that Scotland is front and center and to take visitors on a cultural journey across the country, offering everything from history to science, music, design and literature to nature and cityscapes.

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It will build on the success of ongoing organic activities to further the path. Since its launch last year, posts featuring places along the Walk have reached potential visitors 16.69 million times on VisitScotland’s global social media channels.

Research suggests that overseas visitors are staying longer and spending more, with their continued return seen as crucial to the recovery of Scotland’s valuable tourism and events industry.

In 2019, Scotland welcomed 3.5 million international overnight guests, accounting for 43 per cent of total tourism spending that year.

Tourism Secretary Ivan McKee said: “Last year at the V&A in Dundee I opened the world’s first UNESCO trail, bringing together some of Scotland’s most famous, diverse and culturally significant sites.

“I welcome the next phase of the journey and the opportunity to promote our unique UNESCO awards in the UK and Europe, inviting visitors on a cultural journey across the country to see everything from history to science, music, design and literature to nature to experience and cityscapes.

“The trail helps visitors make responsible and sustainable choices through eco-friendly travel and partnerships with green-accredited companies. This will help support a sustainable recovery and fulfill our mission to add value and increase the benefits of tourism across Scotland, as set out in our Scotland 2030 Tourism Strategy.”

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Cat Leaver, Head of Brand and Content at VisitScotland, said: “Whether it’s the iconic Forth Bridge, the vibrancy of Glasgow’s music scene or the vast and varied landscape of Shetland Geopark, Scotland’s UNESCO Trail has something for everyone. Since the launch of this world’s first digital trail last year, it has already attracted the attention of viewers from around the world on our global channels.

“This next phase will help create deeper connections with potential visitors across the UK and Europe, to inspire them to have a unique experience across the country, immersing themselves in its history and heritage and witnessing the wonders of its natural treasures and the magic who inspired art, music and literature.

“We want to encourage visitors to stay longer, explore more and spend in the local supply chain, thereby contributing to the sustainable quality of these communities.

“VisitScotland is committed to change to shape the responsible growth of Scotland’s valuable tourism and events industry in a way that respects people and places. Tourism is a force for good. It creates jobs, supports communities and contributes significantly to the economy.”

Francesca Osowska, CEO of NatureScot and Chair of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail Steering Group, said: “From the rich diversity of plant and wildlife in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire, to the dramatic sea stacks and marine life of St Kilda, our UNESCO Trail offers visitors from near and far the opportunity to responsibly explore Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage.

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“Sustainable tourism and greener travel are at the heart of our ambitions for the UNESCO Path. This is vital as we ramp up our efforts to address climate change and wildlife degradation.”

The full list of designations included in Scotland’s UNESCO Path is:

  • Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere
  • UNESCO Biosphere Wester Ross
  • Dundee UNESCO City of Design
  • Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature
  • Glasgow UNESCO City of Music
  • Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark
  • North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark
  • Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Frontiers of the Roman Empire: UNESCO World Heritage Site Antonine Wall
  • New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Old Town and New Town of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • St Kilda World Heritage Site.

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