According to the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, you simply have to build it and they will come – even to a baseball field located in a remote Iowa farm.
What the mysterious voice heard by Kevin Costner should have said was; ‘build it, and if you work really hard to promote it to key targeted audiences, and offer a high quality, value for money visitor experience that is easy to book – then there’s a much better chance they will come.’
The modern traveller has more choice of destinations than before, and in this ultra-competitive global marketplace the infrastructure of the place remains one of the most important factors.
The ease of getting there, the quality of attractions and accommodation and value for money are just a few of the top line considerations. This is something we have an abundance of here in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and the ongoing investment in the region is further strengthening this proposition.
The complete and ongoing construction projects based in the north-east will undoubtedly help to add considerable value to our local economy, and it’s our job to make these developments relevant to our potential visitors.
A great example of this is the completion of the new AWPR which has reduced visitor journey times, particularly for visitors travelling to the north of Aberdeenshire. This not only makes attractions in Banff, Peterhead and Fraserburgh more accessible, but also improves the quality of the visitor experience.
Meanwhile, other major construction projects will allow the region to compete in new markets, previously outwith our reach. The construction of the Aberdeen Harbour Board’s new £350 million cruise-ready harbour will provide access to a new untapped market for the region, where up to 3,500 cruise passengers could disembark quayside, booking tours, visiting attractions and playing golf.
The cruise industry is a growth sector and is estimated to be worth almost £100m annually to the Scottish economy, and industry experts are predicting further growth.
The world class harbour development will ensure as a destination we have international appeal, and can attract top cruise liners. To realise this potential, we are supporting the Harbour Board to attract cruise ships, helping local businesses to prepare for cruise passengers and finally marketing the destination so that it’s somewhere people want to visit. Only then, will people come.
While back on land, the construction of The Event Complex Aberdeen at £333m is the largest ever single investment in an exhibition conference centre and arena in the UK. It has undoubtedly increased the level of interest from event organisers who wouldn’t have previously considered Aberdeen.
The venue is an important economic investment from Aberdeen City Council, the value of which is illustrated in research conducted by VisitBritain, which shows that the average delegate attending an event in Scotland will spend over £1,100. That is almost twice as much as anywhere else in the UK and is attributed to staying in the area for longer than other destinations.
Much like the scale of the TECA building, the opportunity we have here is enormous, and I believe we have the venue and wider visitor experiences to take a larger slice of the UK’s £33bn events industry.
Later this year the Aberdeen Art Gallery will reopen its doors and be back in the picture as a top visitor attraction. The £30m redevelopment will make it one of the largest regional galleries in the country, and will act as a focal point for the north-east’s cultural output. This year we are working with partners across the city region to put our culture in the spotlight as part of a UK wide promotional campaign.
What is built here is something really rather special, and we all have a role to play in letting visitors know that. If we tell them about benefits of experiencing our facilities – and how to book a visit – our new infrastructure will help to secure the future of tourism in the north-east.