North-east tourism bosses are targeting Germany and Scandinavia for new business in 2022.
Chris Foy, chief executive of tourism body VisitAberdeenshire, said marketing activity to sell the region as a destination has ramped up in recent weeks.
But rather than try to lure visitors to the area in 2021, with the prospects for international travel this year still uncertain, the focus is on persuading them to come next year.
Mr Foy said: “We’ve recently taken part in a number of (virtual) trade events in Germany, the US and further afield.
“It’s not about this summer – it’s all about getting business on the books for next year.”
VisitAberdeenshire also took part in ExploreGB Virtual, VisitBritain’s flagship annual travel trade event, earlier this month as part of its strategy to woo people to the region in 2022.
Big trade shows such as ExploreGB are a “really good platform to reach buyers,” either online or in-person, said Mr Foy, adding: “It has worked well for us in the past, but these virtual events are a very cost-effective way of getting relatively unkown destinations on to the books of tour companies overseas.”
VisitAberdeenshire also participated in the recent ITB Berlin Now event – the world’s biggest tourism trade show, with 3,513 exhibitors from 120 countries making use of a variety of online opportunities to sell their goods, services and destinations to global buyers.
Mr Foy said Germany itself is a key market for north-east tourism post-Covid, adding: “We’ve had a lot of success there in the past, with people looking to get off the beaten track.
“We’ve also developed a mumber of programmes to help businesses in our region better understand the German market.
“I’m pretty sure that once restrictions ease in both the UK and Germany we will see a good recovery in the German market.
“It’s good we keep our foot in the door now, in order to make sure we get a good year in 2022.”
The Scandinavian market, particularly Norway, is normally also “always good” for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, said Mr Foy.
He added: “Again, it’s important we keep our foot in the door… and make sure the flight connections serve us well.
“I hope to see a resurgence of visitors from Norway, although it might not be this year.”
Luring Norwegians to Aberdeen for some Christmas shopping towards the end of 2021 may still be possible, he said.
He added: “A lot of this international business cannot come right now, but we have to put the hard yards in and not just wait until markets reopen to promote Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”
Mr Foy also highlighted the need for a consistent approach to tourism across the UK, to avoid some parts of the country missing out when visitors from overseas eventually return.
In addition, he said it would be “fantastic” to see the return of direct flights between Aberdeen and Germany – either scheduled or chartered – following the withdrawal of Lufthansa’s Granite City-Frankfurt service in 2018.
Golf and adventure tourism are other markets which are likely to pick up fast as life gets back to normal.
Mr Foy said Aberdeen and the surrounding area are well-placed to benefit from pent-up demand for a “great escape”.