NEW YORK -
VisitScotland is launching a major drive this fall to turn the
estimated 11 million Americans of Scottish descent on to the joys
of heritage travel.
This new courtship
of Scottish-Americans began with the recent debut of a Web site -
www.ancestralscotland.com - and will continue with an
"aggressive" public relations and advertising campaign as well as
the creation of hotel and tour packages with operators, according
to tourism officials.
"Through ancestralscotland.com we have a tool for Americans to
research their Scottish roots and hopefully to attract them to come
visit Scotland," said Michael Seantlay, deputy director of
"This is the first
time we've been able to use genealogy in this smart
The tourism board
will spend $500,000 on the heritage travel campaign over the next
U.S. tour operators
and travel agents selling Scottish product hailed the move, noting
Scotland has lagged behind neighboring destinations - such as
Ireland and Scandinavia - in tapping into a burgeoning ethnic and
heritage travel market.
Claire Schoeder of
Virtuoso member agency Century Travel in Atlanta said she's noticed
VisitScotland hasn't promoted roots travel as much as other tourism
But she added that
interest in heritage travel also traditionally has been weak among
Scots on this side of the Atlantic.
"It's my strong
belief that Scottish heritage is so caught up in being a part of
the larger British legacy that it's been lost a little bit," said
Schoeder, a certified VisitScotland ScotsMaster specialist for four
are just now coming to recognize their own separate ethnic
In that they mirror
their distant relations in Scotland, where the separatist Scottish
National Party wields increasing power; use of the Scots Gaelic
language is up; and the first local legislature since 1707 opened
in a new Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh last
president of operator the ETM Travel Group in Westport, Conn. -
which has long offered heritage product to Ireland - said the move
to market roots travel to Scottish-Americans is "definitely
something we'll be interested in."
For its part,
VisitScotland estimates that one of every five U.S. visitors to
Scotland already visits to research family roots.
But the tourist
board would like to grow those numbers because heritage travelers
have proved to be among the most lucrative groups, said
"Our research shows
people coming to research heritage spend more as they go about
looking into their ancestry, but they also spend a fair amount of
time doing other things," he said. "And American visitors, in
particular, tend to spend more money than other
visitors constitute 2% of all arrivals, they account for 19% of
At present, a total
of 260,000 visitors per year - of which 30,000 are from overseas -
tour Scotland in search of family roots; Seantley said he hopes to
more than double those figures.
It's not an
unreasonable goal: Scotland has only 5 million people, but some 50
million worldwide claim Scottish descent.
eventually we can grow this to represent 8% of our overall tourism
expenditures, or something like 600,000 visits," Seantley said,
adding VisitScotland wants to grow its $8 billion per year tourism
industry to $10 billion to $12 billion.
Plans designed for
clans VisitScotland's www.ancestralscotland.com site features
itineraries themed around the history of nine of the most famous
Scottish clans - Gordon, MacDonald, MacGregor, Mackenzie, Morrison,
Scott, Sempill, Sinclair and Wallace - as well as a host of
genealogy links, resources and tips.
Two search engines
on the site can comb the Web by clan, surname or placenames;
searches by "sept" - or clan subdivision - are not yet
The site also
offers a host of other features, including news, events, travel
information and an online bookstore.
Links to actual
escorted-tour content on the site are limited, of course, because
heritage travel is, by its very nature, a customized, individual
Murray said he will
likely sell individual heritage research as an add-on to more
are going to end up being fairly specialized, and what travelers do
in Scotland will depend on what they've found in their specific
searches," he said. "It will be a very individual
Calling (www.scotlandcalling.com) offers a package that
includes 10 hours' genealogy research before departure on a
customized family history vacation, with bed-and-breakfast
accommodations and chauffeured transportation. Priced from $2,995
per person, land-only, the deal's commissionable at 10% and
Kennedy, owner and manager of Perfect Journeys Travel in Rehoboth,
Mass., welcomed the new site as a valuable addition to her
customer-service tool kit.
"In the past, if
I've had a client interested in family research, I had to get in
touch with town officials and historical associations to find out
information," said Kennedy, a ScotsMaster who said Scotland
accounts for half of all her U.K. bookings. "This VisitScotland
site will be good for me in terms of having a central place to find
all those contacts."
Schoeder of Century
Travel agreed, noting the site aided her in tracking down the
obscure Scottish name of Arbuckle.
"I didn't know a
lot [of people] associated with the name, and when we were planning
a client's day trip, I was able to find places associated with that
name, and it worked out quite well," she said.
reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to[email protected].