New app to bring more Chinese tourists to Scotland

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness in the Highlands Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption VisitScotland has recognised China as a "priority market"

A new app which targets millions of Chinese social media users has been launched to bring more visitors to Scotland.

The VisitScotland app will appear on the popular Chinese instant messaging service WeChat from Tuesday.

Users can browse restaurants, shops and attractions which engage with Chinese visitors, for example by employing staff who speak mandarin.

Since 2011, visitors from China to Scotland have increased by 316%.

The app divides Scotland into four regions and will show 200 businesses initially, though the software will allow for more to be added.

It will be housed under VisitScotland's account 旅行Scotland (Travel Scotland) on WeChat, which has one billion active users per month.

The launch coincides with Chinese New Year as VisitScotland recognise China as a "priority market" with an estimated international tourism spend of $257.7bn (£198bn)

'Building relationships'

Between 2009 and 2011, Chinese visitors to Scotland averaged at about 12,300 while between 2015 and 2017 the figure was 50,300 - an increase of roughly 316%.

VisitBritain - the tourism body for the UK - predicts Chinese visitor numbers across the whole of the UK will rise by almost half over the next five years.

Meanwhile, Scotland increased its engagement with the Chinese market last year, including the first direct flight from China to Scotland, the largest contingent of Chinese buyers attending Scotland's premier B2B travel trade event VisitScotland Expo, and the launch of social media channels in China by VisitScotland.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "We have recognised for some time the tourism potential of China and it is now considered a priority market by VisitScotland.

"Scotland currently accounts for almost a fifth of all Chinese visitors to the UK and with enhanced air connectivity there is a real opportunity to grow that market further.

"The mini-app will give visitors practical information at their fingertips on the many tourism businesses in Scotland who are catering for the Chinese market, making it even easier for them to plan their first, or even next, visit to our shores.

"It further complements the ongoing work we are doing in building relationships between our Scottish partners and Chinese tour operators to support the creation of more products to suit this important market."

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