Highlighting the importance of the rural tourism economy was the focus of a recent seminar.
Organised by VisitScotland, it was attended by around 70 representatives from businesses in the east of Aberdeenshire.
The imposing 800-year-old fortress of Fyvie Castle was the backdrop to the agri-tourism event, at which delegates had the opportunity to hear from speakers about current industry trends and network with tourism businesses locally.
In Aberdeenshire, 65% of the population is based rurally – which highlights the wealth of opportunity that exists to continue to build, expand and be entrepreneurial with rural links, to continue to attract visitors to our part of Scotland. Nationally, the value of domestic visitor spend in rural areas amounts to £633 million and equates to 2.6 million domestic trips.
Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland’s senior tourism insights manager, spoke to delegates about agricultural and rural tourism insights and the impacts and benefits for Aberdeenshire; and Chris Foy, chief executive at VisitAberdeenshire presented the new destination strategy for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, detailing how they hope to grow visitor spend to £1 billion per year by 2023.
A new plan to develop food and drink tourism in Scotland – aiming to deliver an additional £1 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2030 – was recently launched by Nicola Sturgeon.
At the event, Peter Cook, director of food, drink and agriculture at Opportunity North East, updated those attending about Opportunity North East’s work within that sector.
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland regional director, said: ‘I am delighted that representatives from so many businesses in East Aberdeenshire attended this event, which hopefully gave them real food for thought on the subject of rural tourism.
‘This region has tremendous assets and strengths that offer visitors a range of great experiences – from food and drink to farm shops, coasts to castles and woods to wigwams. VisitScotland helps to promote these strengths to a global audience.
‘With 21% of domestic visitor trips being to rural areas and 22% of domestic visitor spend being in rural areas, capitalising on these visitors is so important. Hopefully events like this can help rural businesses to make the most of these opportunities.’
Gillian Martin, Aberdeenshire East MSP, said: ‘We have one of the most diverse regions in Scotland with an abundance of historical and cultural significance and interest.
‘There is so much to do and see in rural parts and right across Aberdeenshire and we must do all we can to maximise the opportunities for tourism and economic growth by attracting new visitors to the north-east.’
Chris Foy, VisitAberdeenshire chief executive, concluded: ‘The event reflected the importance of rural tourism for the North-east which is a significant priority set within the destination strategy for the next five years.
‘It is encouraging to see the strong desire from local industry to work alongside VisitScotland and VisitAberdeenshire to strengthen the appeal of the destination to visitors, and the quality of the experience.’