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Ancestral tourism has potential to create £2.4bn for Scotland’s tourism businesses

Press Release   •   Jul 30, 2013 00:00 BST

Scottish tourism businesses are being encouraged to adapt their products and services to tap into ancestral tourism opportunities in the run up to 2014, when Scotland welcomes the world for Homecoming, the Ryder Cup and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Companies are being urged to take advantage of this market through a new Ancestral Tourism in Scotland guide published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland (TIS), as part of its Opportunities for Growth series, aimed at helping businesses to take advantage of new and emerging opportunities in the sector.  Ancestral tourism in Scotland has the potential to grow significantly in the next five years, from the current 800,000 visitors per year to 4.3 million visitors.

The guide, launched today at the National Archives of Scotland by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney, is available to businesses by registering at

The TIS website has recently been refreshed and now offers enhanced features for tourism businesses to help them access intelligence quickly and easily, plus it is optimised for access from a variety of devices.  Businesses can also benefit from tailored information based on their preferences and enhanced social media functions so information can be shared with one click.

The new guide provides tourism operators with the latest intelligence on Scotland’s ancestral tourism markets.  There are also a raft of practical hints, tips and ideas to help businesses make the most of the year-round opportunities. These include:

* Gathering local information and knowledge of ancestral landmarks (churches, castles, battlefields, stately homes, museums) to direct tourists to places of interest

* Having a good working knowledge to signpost tourists to local and national research facilities and resources – the Ancestral Guide includes a substantial list of links and resources to help businesses identify what they can offer

* Providing traditional hospitality that showcases Scotland’s larder – tourists want to sample Scotland’s culture through its food and drink

* Promoting specialist tour guides, operators and ancestral researchers – businesses can collaborate and partner to offer a richer, seamless experience for tourists.

* Learning from other companies which are already successfully tapping into the ancestral tourism market – the Ancestral Guide includes a number of case studies on companies and projects such as Hidden Deeside Tours, Museum Without Walls, Duntrune House B&B, Elgin Cathedral, Titan Crane, Hawick Heritage Hub, Scotia Roots and Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney said, “Scotland is preparing to Welcome the World in 2014 when we take to the global stage with our second Year of Homecoming. Ancestral tourism will be a key component of next year’s festivities with many visitors looking to trace their ancestry or just soak up the atmosphere of their forefathers’ land.

“Tourism Intelligence Scotland’s new Ancestral Tourism guide will help Scottish businesses utilise opportunities available to them within the emerging ancestral tourism sector, encouraging more genealogy tourists and boosting the economy.”

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said: “Homecoming Scotland 2014 presents a unique opportunity for tourism businesses to develop ancestral information, activities and products for visitors to our beautiful, historic shores. There are already a significant number of clan and ancestral events programmed in for the year and we are investing £5 million in marketing the activities to inspire the ancestral explorer.  With the launch of this Ancestral Guide, we hope the industry will be inspired to make the most of the opportunities these fascinating events present.”   

Linda McPherson, director of Tourism at Scottish Enterprise said: “Now is the perfect time for tourism businesses to introduce ancestral tourism elements into their current products and services, ahead of 2014.  The Ancestral Tourism Guide provides lots of practical ideas that businesses can implement to maximise their revenue from ancestral tourists. 

“We also know that these tourists often visit outside of peak periods, so this can offer a route for businesses to extend their season.  There are also excellent opportunities to collaborate with other tourism businesses to develop a fuller package that can help extend visitor stay and spend within the local area and beyond.”

George MacKenzie, chairman of the Ancestral Tourism Steering Group commented, “I warmly welcome this new guide, which will certainly help Scottish businesses to grasp the big opportunities of the ancestral market and bring more visitors to Scotland in search of their family roots."

Marc Crothall, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said, “Tourism Scotland 2020 the National Strategy for Scottish tourism, being led by the STA, identifies our Distant Cousins (USA, Australia & Canada) as a key growth market for Scotland, and research tells us that one of the prime reasons for this market to travel to Scotland is to discover and learn more about their ancestors.

“We are therefore delighted with the development of this relevant resource which will help the industry to better understand this key market and inspire them to develop memorable experiences tailored to their needs. As a partner of TIS we will continue to collaborate and support this initiative, and will promote this new resource to our members and the wider industry.”

The guide, which is based on ancestral tourism research commissioned by VisitScotland, shows that some 10 million people worldwide with Scottish roots are interested in finding out more about their ancestry, with around two-fifths of these planning to visit Scotland in the next two years.  Based on these figures, the opportunity for businesses to capitalise on these visitors is estimated at £2.4 billion in additional revenue.

Homecoming Scotland 2014 will bring a number of major historic celebrations to the country including the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and over 50 ancestral and clan events and activities.  For more information, visit

Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies globally, dramatically increasing in popularity as access to the internet and online resources become more plentiful.  Research shows that the overseas ancestral market represents a smaller number of visitors, however it is the most lucrative sector and one that businesses should examine more fully. 

Research shows that ancestral tourists spend significantly more per day than the average tourist to Scotland, they stay longer than other visitors (average of 10 nights compared to 4.5 nights for all visits to Scotland), visit throughout the year and often visit places that traditionally have little tourist trade outside of the usual tourist centres.  Ancestral tourists from all countries are highly likely to make return visits to Scotland (92%) and to recommend Scotland as a destination to family and friends (97%).

Notes to Editors:

  • Tourism Intelligence Scotland is a joint venture developed by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, in partnership with the tourism industry, to stimulate growth and innovation in tourism.
  • Other guides in the Opportunities for Growth series include: Scottish Tourism in the Future; Walking Tourism; Listening to our Visitors; Golf Tourism; Adventure Travel; Food Experience in Scotland; Mountain Biking Tourism; Sailing Tourism; Knowing our Markets....Scotland’s Visitors 2012; Wildlife Tourism in Scotland; and Events, Festivals and Cultural Tourism guide.

Photographs of Cabinet Secretary John Swinney launching the guide at the National Archives of Scotland will be available from 12.00pm on Tuesday 30 July 2013 from Scottish Enterprise on 0141 228 2019 or email

Media contacts

For more information on Scottish Enterprise, please contact Ruth Andrew on 0141 228 2717/07768 615 154 and

Notes to Editors:

  • Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland. 
  • The organisation has three key roles:
  1. To market Scotland to all parts of the world to attract visitors
  2. To provide information – and inspiration – to visitors and potential visitors so they get the best out of a visit to Scotland
  3. To provide quality assurance to visitors and quality advice to the industry and partners to help the industry meet and strive to exceed customer expectations
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • 2014 is the year Scotland welcomes the world, when it hosts the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and more than 800 Homecoming events throughout the country.For more information on Homecoming Scotland 2014, go to 
  • The VisitScotland Information Centre network is a unique face-to-face channel engaging with around five million visitors and locals each year. Everyone who uses a VisitScotland Information Centre goes on to spend an additional £5.35, generating over £24 million for Scotland’s economy. 
  • According to a recent Deloitte study, tourism employs 270,000 people in Scotland in 20,000 diverse businesses. The same study calculates that the industry contributes £11 billion annually (direct and indirect impact, including day visits) and supports around 10 per cent of employment in Scotland. Almost 16 million tourists take overnight trips to Scotland.
  • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to 
  • Where possible, a Gaelic speaker will be made available for broadcast interviews on request (Far an tèid iarraidh, agus far am bheil sin nar comas, bruidhinnidh neach le Gàidhlig aig agallamh)
  • For holiday information on Scotland go to
  • For information about business tourism in Scotland go to
  • For more information on VisitScotland’s annual review please go to