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

30 July 2013

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.”

Audrey Maclennan, Senior Development Manager for Tourism at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “With an increasing number of people interested in tracing their roots, ancestral tourism can offer new and exciting year-round commercial opportunities to business across the Highlands and Islands. Some, such as Timespan in Helmsdale, have already identified ways in which they can capitalise on this market and this new guide will offer advice and guidance to others who wish to follow their lead. In addition, HIE’s recent Ancestral Tourism webinar is still available to view on the HIE website at”

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%).

  • Tourism Intelligence Scotland is a joint venture developed by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and 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.
  • Download the Ancestral Tourism in Scotland - Growth Opportunities report/common/handlers/download-document.ashx?id=3535ba94-c0b6-4728-bbf2-6d5733ba3df1

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