Did you know that the tourism sector is worth a whopping £11bn (split into £6.8bn from day visits and £4.2bn from over night stays) per year to our economy? Try as I might, I cannot find out the amount that goes straight to the UK Exchequer, but imagine, if you will, if all that stayed in Scotland, to be re-invested here.
Did you know that the tourism industry is Scotland's 4 th largest export earner, and that the sector has the fastest growth compared to other industries, such as manufacturing, finance and retail? Business tourism (combining business and pleasure visits, eg conference and golf of instance) is particularly strong.
Did you know that 200,000 people are employed in this section? Mainly in services.
Did you also know that tourism is "a sustainable permanent industry; it conserves protects and presents our natural assets for the benefits of people living in Scotland and our visitors, sustaining our fragile communities."?
* The info for 4 points above all came from the Visit Scotland website www.visitscotland.org
Ok, so tourism is great, but what is there exactly, to do?
Where do I start? We have an abundance of places to visit and activities to par take in such as :
History and Heritage - Castles, houses, ruins, gardens, monuments, pre-historic sites - see Historic Scotland website for specifics www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/ where throughout the year, there are events in different venues for everyone to enjoy. This weekend alone, as part of Homecoming Scotland 2014, Stirling is hosting Bannockburn Live with battle re-enactments, the parade of pipers, drummers, dancers from all over the country for Pipefest, and there is The Armed Forces Day National Event. Next month, Linlithgow Palace is hosting a jousting spectacular over next weekend.
Cosmopolitan cities - notably Glasgow and Edinburgh, each rich in their own history, architecture, culture, accents, outlook, places of interest, shopping, restaurants, theatres, museums, parks, etc. Please, though, do not over look Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling or Perth on your city break venue list.
For the more 'outdoorsy' among us, what's your fancy?
Golf? Scotland is the home of Golf (or as I prefer to call it, "hittin a baw aboot a park, wi' a stick". Golf is not my idea of a good time, but plenty of people seem to enjoy it...) St. Andrews golf course voted 4th best in the world (Muirfield, came in at number 10, Royal Dornoch at 14, Turnberry at 18, and a further 10 inside the top 100.) This year, Glen Eagles is hosting the Ryder Cup, which is where the event began, 93 years ago.
If golf doesn't float your boat, what about fishing? Inland in the many rivers or lochs, or out at sea, round our coastline of the mainland or off many of the islands.
Shooting - grouse and deer being popular. That's the extent of that...
What about skiing or snowboarding? Indoor, outdoor, on dry slops, or snow slopes, take your pick.
Hill walking/mountaineering? Plenty of hills to pick from - again, on the mainland or on the islands. Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain on the British Isles, but its not the only place to tackle, bag a Munro, too, or how about tackling The West HiglandWay?
Who fancies surfing? Yes I did just suggest surfing. In Scotland. We have some of the best surfing beaches in Europe. Belhaven in Dunbar is ideal for learning the skill, Lewis and Tiree are beautiful beaches with great surfing conditions. The waves at Caithness are comparable to those in Hawaii, and are only for the very experienced. Thurso hosts prestigious surfing competitions for the UK and Europe. Nope, I didn't know that either!
What about just spectating? We're hosting the CommonWealth (name is a little dubious......)Games starting next month in Glasgow. What a lift to show Glasgow to the watching world.
What about just visiting a place, 'with stuff to do'? Off the top of my head, go to Falkirk for the Falkirk Wheel - the site of the worlds only rotating boat lift, which also has a fantastic water play area, sand area and play park for the kids, alongside woodland walks and canal walks, cycle paths down to the Helix park and the world famous Kelpies. Go Nessie hunting at Loch Ness, visit museums, take a whiskey tour, go dolphin spotting, take a ferry trip to one of the islands, go to the beach, go to park.
Its the summer, time of the festival season. Next month is T in the Park, August is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 2 fantastic opportunities to showcase our country, our home grown talent, our ability to draw world famous acts to perform here, and a chance to show off our hospitality.
Out of the typical 'Summer Season' we also have, of course, Hogmanay! Or if you are looking for something a little more out of this world, have you been to Bonnybridge? UFO Capital of Europe??
Lastly, did you know that CNN news in America named Scotland as THE tourist place to visit in 2013?
Lets get out and explore and enjoy our interesting, diverse, and rich cultural country, and contribute to its continued success.