Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Lord Thurso, VisitScotland Chair
26 March 2024
Associate Feature: VisitScotland’s outgoing Chair, Lord Thurso, looks back to  the future

Partner content

Associate Feature: VisitScotland’s outgoing Chair, Lord Thurso, looks back to the future

 As the time comes for me to step down as Chair of VisitScotland, I can honestly say it is one of the organisations I’ve been most proud to be part of. I’ve had the honour of being in this position for eight years, one of our longest serving Chairs.

I started during a period of buoyant optimism. We’d had the winning years and a host of major events – Scotland was firmly competing on the global stage.

Of course, as is well documented, the events of 2020 would lead to one of the most challenging periods of tourism in living memory.  

But in this time of great adversity, I have often been reminded of the grit, determination, and resilience of Scottish tourism. During that time, I was incredibly proud of the way VisitScotland pivoted from a marketing organisation to a grant-giving one, then back again to help build demand when travel resumed.  

The road to recovery has not been easy but the end destination remains the same; Scotland is a leader in 21st century tourism with a thriving, responsible visitor economy.   

I think we have achieved a great deal in the past eight years. I am especially proud of the way we have embedded responsible tourism into all the work we do. It is a concept I have long championed because I believe we all have a duty of care to protect and preserve the natural and cultural assets which make Scotland so special. 

As I come to the end of my tenure at VisitScotland, consumer behaviour and the needs of businesses in both the tourism and events sectors have changed with most visitors now planning and booking their trip before leaving home. This change has been particularly acute since COVID-19 and as we move into an increasingly digital world. 

Add to this a difficult economic landscape and a climate crisis, and it becomes more important than ever that we make the biggest impact we can with our resources to drive the visitor economy and grow its value. 

I know the industry will evolve and grow as it has done before, and we must move with it. For VisitScotland, as well as adapting to ensure we meet the needs of both visitors and businesses, we also need to respond to changes in technology, such as artificial intelligence.  

As the national tourism organisation, our purpose is to drive the visitor economy and grow its value to Scotland. If we are to achieve this, we must focus on the channels we know visitors use for inspiration and booking.

To allow the organisation to adapt we have been carrying out a strategic review in several areas of our business.  We’ve already announced our digital-first approach to business advice, an approach that allows us to invest in the activities that will drive sustainable growth in the visitor economy.

Moving forward we need to consider the impact of changing consumer behaviour and where we can most directly influence visitor spend.

Fortunately, VisitScotland has an excellent track record when it comes to change, embracing opportunities and addressing challenges as they emerge. That will continue in the years to come as we realise our vision for Scotland to be one of the most economically, environmentally and socially sustainable destinations in the world 

With the ongoing economic uncertainty, there will undoubtedly be difficult decisions to be made across the industry but I’m confident that the people, the fabric of this incredible sector, will steer it on a course for success.  

This article is sponsored by VisitScotland

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top