Chinese tourists represent a massive market for Scotland. In 2017, 62,000 Chinese citizens visited the country and spent a whopping £44m while they were there. Even more impressive is how Scotland ranks in comparison to the rest of the United Kingdom. According to Lily Kuo from The Guardian, “Edinburgh is now the second most-visited city in the UK by Chinese tourists, after London.” While it’s not surprising that a country with such a large population is responsible for a spike in tourism, it is surprising how well Scotland has been able to capitalize on it.
VisitScotland, the country’s tourism board, has rolled out a number of different programs to better welcome Chinese tourists. Among the latest was the release of the VisitScotland app for WeChat. WeChat is one of the biggest phone applications in China, and it boasts a wide variety of uses. It’s one of the few apps that doesn’t fit neatly into one category, as it offers messaging services, payment, food delivery, and much more.
Businesses can connect with users via apps within the overall WeChat app. The new VisitScotland WeChat app features a number of Scottish businesses with relevant information, including whether or not staff members speak Mandarin. It serves a dual purpose of advertising Scottish businesses as well as helping Chinese travelers choose places that can cater to their needs.
However, there is still more that can be done. VisitScotland is still in the process of creating a marketing toolkit for China in order to help business owners adapt to this new wave of tourism. Monica Lee-Macpherson, chairwoman of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Moray Chinese Association, has suggested that “B&B owners should provide noodles and disposable chopsticks in the rooms and include pictures in their menus”, and Graeme Ambrose, head of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, notes that Chinese tourists prefer twin beds and lukewarm water.
In any case, the growth of the Chinese market in Scotland is an interesting development in the world of tourism. For Scottish tour operators, it may be time to start looking at how to make your business more welcoming to this new influx of visitors.
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