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Press Release   •   Oct 06, 2016 00:02 BST

A welcome scheme aimed at tapping into the multi-million pound ancestral tourism market in Scotland has been officially relaunched by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop.

The Ancestral Welcome Scheme, which has been revamped and upgraded by VisitScotland in partnership with genealogy experts, was unveiled yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, 5 October) at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, in front of industry representatives gathered to learn about Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

The scheme, first launched in 2006, is open to frontline tourism businesses, such as accommodation providers, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions, who wish to help visitors seeking to unearth their Scottish roots. Genealogy professionals and businesses associated with ancestral and genealogy services can also sign up to the scheme.

Ancestral tourism is an important market in Scotland, with an estimated 50 million people worldwide claiming Scottish ancestry including the key long-haul markets of North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Around 150 tourism businesses and professionals have signed up to the scheme already, such as Mary’s Meanders, a Linlithgow-based independent tour guide company whose roster of bespoke escorted day tours around central Scotland include ancestral tourism.

It is thought that 213,000 trips are made per annum to Scotland by visitors who take part in ancestral research amounting to £101 million for the Scottish economy.

Research shows that 68% of North Americans cited ‘genealogy/researching ancestors’ as a motivation for travel to Scotland, with ancestral tourists staying longer and spending significantly more than the average visitor to Scotland.

The Ancestral Welcome Scheme has been developed by VisitScotland in partnership with the Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group and includes a toolkit providing knowledge to businesses of where visitors can seek further help and assistance to trace their family tree.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said:

“I welcome the re-launch of the Ancestral Welcome Scheme as we head towards the Year of History Heritage and Archaeology 2017. Genealogy is a growing market in Scotland – we receive more than 200,000 visitors a year for this reason alone. We must work together to ensure they are given a warm welcome and the help they need to trace their ancestral origins.

“I recently visited one of the newest members of the Ancestral Welcome Scheme – Mary’s Meanders, a small Linlithgow-based company that offers bespoke ancestral tours. Their accounts of helping to track down family members and birthplaces in Scotland for people from around the world should act as an inspiration to any other businesses considering accreditation for the scheme.

“Scotland’s wealth of history and heritage is an integral part of our national brand, as well as a major contributor to our economy. Throughout 2017 we will continue to promote Scotland as a modern and dynamic country, and one that is well-connected with its rich and fascinating past. With an estimated 50 million people worldwide claiming Scottish ancestry, the Scottish Government understands the value this can have for individuals and communities alike – as well as for our growing, multi-million pound industry.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:“The ancestral market has huge potential for the Scottish economy, with millions of Scottish descendants across the globe, and will play an important part in 2017 as we celebrate the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“Our Ancestral Welcome Scheme, which complements our world-leading Quality Assurance scheme, has been developed in partnership with genealogy experts to provide tourism businesses with the tools to enhance the visitor experience for those looking to delve into the archives and uncover their family roots.

“Scotland’s history, heritage and archaeology are among the top reasons for visiting our beautiful country and 2017 offers huge opportunities for the tourism industry and collaboration across sectors to encourage more visitors to delve into our past, and their own.”

Emma Chalmers, owner of Mary’s Meanders, said:We are absolutely delighted to see the launch of the Ancestral Welcome Scheme. Genealogy has never been more popular, and with increasing numbers having Ancestry DNA carried out, this is opening new avenues to explore. We are seeing an increase in enquiries from those who want to come and visit Scotland, having carried out their own research.

“We even find that many of those joining us for an Outlander tour have also done some ancestry research and are keen to explore their family roots. Everyone coming from the USA and Canada knows their clan and once they get here and realise much of the heritage is still intact, they want to come back again and explore further.”

The Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group includes representatives from: Scottish Government; local authorities; Scotland’s People, Association of Highland Clans and Societies, individual genealogists and specialist tour operators, Historic Environment Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scottish Enterprise.

To join the scheme, go to:

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’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • 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.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit or follow @scotgovESIF
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      2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
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