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VisitAberdeenshire boss on £1 billion north-east tourism mission

The aim is for more people visit the north-east, stay longer and spend more money.

Chris Foy, of VisitAberdeenshire, at the new south harbour in Aberdeen.
Chris Foy, VisitAberdeenshire chief executive is confident the north-east can tourism industry can generate £1billion a year. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson

VisitAberdeenshire boss Chris Foy is confident the north-east is on track to achieve £1 billion of tourism economic impact by the end of this year.

But to achieve that the message is simple.

More people need to visit, stay longer and spend more money.

This is just one part of VisitAberdeenshire’s focus this year as it looks to try and woo visitors to the north-east.

Latest data showed around £912 million of economic impact.

Mr Foy believes the signs are all good for the target of £1bn to be met.

How VisitAberdeenshire aims to meet target

To make this happen VisitAberdeenshire aims to bid for and win more Aberdeen conferences, support businesses through its development programme, welcome 50% more cruise ship passengers, attract new revenue streams and create a new website.

Mr Foy, who has been chief executive for seven years, said: “We went through the pandemic which was quite an exponential crisis for the tourism sector as a whole.

“If we were having this conversation three or fours years ago I’d have probably been quite concerned about where on earth tourism was going to go. Not just in the north-east of Scotland.

Cruise ship passenger numbers to Aberdeen will increase by 50% this year. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

“But we are seeing data comparing 2019 to 2022 and it’s phenomenal how both the city and the shire have bounced back performing much stronger than they were before the pandemic.

“So it’s really good to have that momentum.

“Our agenda for the year ahead is to drive the economic impact of tourism for the north-east beyond a £1bn a year.

“The latest data shows we are tantalisingly close to that. There’s some positive signs coming out of tourist attractions.”

Funding plans

VisitAberdeenshire is funded by Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council and private sector economic development Opportunity North East.

Last year it received £1.3m in funding but Mr Foy is still waiting to hear what this year’s council budgets will deliver.

Mr Foy said: “We are very aware about the pressure on public spending budgets at the moment. The same as last year would be great and we have understandably seen cuts in recent years.

VisitAberdeenshire has built up a successful relationship with Mackie’s as part of its marketing campaigns.

“Regardless of what the funding settlement is we are always very adamant that we deliver excellent value for money and return of investment for our funders.

“We spend whatever budget we have wisely.

“It’s important we can demonstrate that investment in our organisation from the public or private sector is supporting jobs in the north-east.

“We are starting to look at how we can start to attract other private sector organisations to work with us.”

Conference potential

A strong part of VisitAberdeenshire’s work is marketing campaigns and increasing awareness of the north-east to make it an appealing place to visit.

It launched its Make a Day of It campaign in October last year aimed at those who already live in the north-east.

VisitAberdeenshire has also ramped up efforts to bring more conferences to the city.

One of its recent successes includes P&J Live confirmed as host of the European Society of Breast Imaging (EUSOBI) annual scientific meeting in September next year, set to attract approximately 1,500 delegates from across Europe to Aberdeen.

P&J Live
P&J Live. Image: Kenny Elrick/ DC Thomson.

Mr Foy said: “The most valuable form of tourism that we see in the north-east comes from conferencing. The spend per head from a conference delegate is round about £1,200 a head.

“A cruise visitor is around £135 so you can see the difference.

“We have a team, the Aberdeen Convention Bureau, who are selling Aberdeen as a serious global conference destination.

“We’ve got one of the most serious global conference venues in Europe now in the P&J Live.

“But we still have a lot of work to do to convince the conference organiser world that realistically Aberdeen is not much different to Glasgow when it comes to travel time.

“There are still some long held views that Aberdeen is somewhere off the coast of Finland and oil day prices from a long time ago. We are making progress with that.”