VisitScotland target tourists to nature in campaign

Seaplane on the Isle of Mull
Image caption The advert shows off Scotland's 'majestic beauty'

A £3.4m VisitScotland campaign, encouraging Scots to get out into the great outdoors, has been unveiled.

The launch is part of the Year of Natural Scotland, which aims to encourage people to visit areas of natural beauty during 2013.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said the campaign "shows off our country at its very best".

Tourism is thought to be worth around £4bn a year to the Scottish economy, supporting over 200,000 jobs.

As well as a television advertising campaign 15,000 people will be able to take advantage of free travel during April to coincide with the first John Muir Day on 21 April.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne and Scotrail are giving away free travel tickets, and bus operator Stagecoach will supply 5,000 money off vouchers.

Some of the scenes highlighted in the advert include gannets on the Ailsa Craig, mountain biking at Torridon in the Highlands, the Pittenweem Arts Festival in Fife, and the Aurora Borealis in Shetland.

'Majestic beauty'

Mr Ewing said: "I'm sure that majestic scenes that are depicted will entice as many people as possible to come and visit Scotland during the year of Natural Scotland".

Stephen Leckie, chair of Scottish Tourism Alliance which represents the industry, said: "The Year of Natural Scotland so easily rolls off the tongue. It highlights what Scotland is good at.

"We've all become so complacent with the surroundings we have. We don't make enough play of it."

VisitScotland Chairman Mike Cantlay said: "The Year of Natural Scotland is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Scotland's spectacular natural environment and our new advert shows the country in all its majestic beauty ranging from wildlife to exciting outdoor activities."

John Muir Day will celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Scots born naturalist who has been called the "father of National Parks".

Image caption The Aurora Borealis in Shetland is highlighted in the TV advert

Stuart Brooks, the chief executive of the John Muir Trust, said: "In today's urbanised, fast-paced, hi-tech world, his recognition of the intrinsic value of wild places is more resonant than ever before.

"We hope the legacy of this anniversary and Year of Natural Scotland will be to inspire many more people to discover our wild places and to protect them for future generations."

Weather impact

Scotland's summer tourism season in 2012, between July and September, saw visitor numbers drop 12% on the previous year. That was blamed on the poor weather and the draw of the Olympics in London.

The uncertain summer weather was just one of the concerns highlighted by the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Mr Leckie said: "We need to look at what happens in the high street, because that's a real concern.

"What are tourists going to come and see? They come and stay in cities, and there are plenty of empty shops."

According to Scottish Natural Heritage tourist spending on nature based activities is worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending in Scotland.

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