Associate feature: Taking a break for your wellbeing
As restrictions across the country begin to ease and the tourism and hospitality sectors start to open again, a holiday is at the top of the must do post-lockdown list for many.
But tourism is more than a holiday – it is the chance for everyone to rebuild their wellbeing and improve their mental health. Given that international travel will be limited for some time to come, there is no better place than Scotland to rejuvenate minds and bodies.
Recent research by VisitScotland revealed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of people from the UK and Ireland took a holiday in Scotland last year to specifically protect their mental health from the impact of COVID-19.
VisitScotland’s new 'Emotional Benefits of Tourism' research paper explores how holidaying in Scotland can enhance visitors’ wellbeing. It also draws upon visitors’ key reasons for travelling to Scotland as restrictions eased last year.
Looking after mental health was a particularly strong motivation amongst visitors aged under 45, with 42 per cent taking a holiday or short break in Scotland because of this.
Over half of people (53 per cent) wanted to holiday in Scotland in 2020 because they needed a change of environment, followed closely behind by wanting to connect with nature/the outdoors (51 per cent).
The emotional benefits of a holiday in Scotland highlighted in the research paper include how it fosters resilience, alleviates stress, increases creativity, boosts confidence and encourages empathy.
The latter benefit is backed up by the fact that 36 per cent of people holidayed in Scotland to support tourism businesses who had been suffering during the pandemic.
And previous qualitative research carried out by VisitScotland found that visitors to Scotland imagine a holiday here will be an intense experience with the potential to profoundly move them emotionally.
They expect to feel an emotional connection with Scotland, to feel at home and re-centred in their own lives and de-stressing and escapism are viewed as some of the key benefits of a Scottish holiday.
Tourism businesses are now in a prime position to take advantage of a re-engaged domestic market. And they are being encouraged to consider using wellbeing as a part of their activity going forward.
Personalisation, developing emotional intelligence, and providing opportunities to give back in the business’s local community are just some of the ways to engage with emotional tourism.
An overall emotional experience is critical for today’s visitors and is a powerful factor when choosing where to travel.
Although for some the appeal lies in escaping to the countryside, our cities and urban areas also offer a welcome reprieve from being stuck at home. A good night out or spa day can be as much a part of improving our mental health as connecting with nature.
However, with many wide-open green spaces and country parks found in and around our towns and cities, visitors don’t have to head exclusively to rural areas to find that connection.
We have more change on the horizon as we welcome new ministers with tourism and events in their remit, Ivan McKee (Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise) and Jenny Gilruth (Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development).
I look forward to working closely with the ministers as we develop collaborative plans to put our tourism and events industry at the heart of Scotland’s recovery.
We want to highlight that tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it. We all deserve a holiday, and Scotland, with all it offers, is the perfect antidote after lockdown.
Malcolm Roughead is the Chief Executive of VisitScotland. This feature was sponsored by VisitScotland.