As Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to VisitScotland's Annual Review, 2011-12.
In the introduction to the 2010-2011 Annual Review, I spoke of the difficulties faced by the global tourism industry in a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. Unfortunately, these difficulties have not disappeared - and as Scotland's National Tourism Organisation, VisitScotland has had to work harder than ever to ensure we continue to punch above our weight on the world stage.
This website provides an overview of the organisation's ongoing actions to maximise the sustainable economic benefit of Scottish tourism - attracting visitors from both at home and abroad, and encouraging them to experience all that Scotland has to offer.
This past year has seen the beginning in earnest of the 'Winning Years', with the Year of Creative Scotland, celebrating Scotland's vibrant culture and creativity; the excitement of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics; and the release of Disney•Pixar's latest blockbuster Brave.
In the UK and Ireland, VisitScotland's award-winning Surprise Yourself campaign continues to attract more and more domestic visitors, and continues to exceed expectations - with the spring / summer campaign in 2011 bringing in £90 million for the Scottish economy. This year also saw the launch of the organisation's largest ever regional marketing push - a campaign entitled 'Explore Scotland - we'll point you in the right direction'. Focused on 13 regions of Scotland, and funded entirely by local partnerships, the campaign promotes the key strengths of each region, and supports the ambitions of local tourism strategies.
Internationally, VisitScotland refreshed its campaign in the North American markets to give nearly 120 million potential visitors inspiring examples of what 'Life is Like' in Scotland. The campaign aims not only to attract visitors to Scotland, but also to spark discussion on what they love about Scotland, and why they want to visit.
Information provision is a key pillar of VisitScotland's activity, and over the past year the organisation has worked closely with the tourism industry to open seven new Information Points in Partnership. An information service for visitors delivered by local businesses, these are increasingly becoming an integral part of VisitScotland's information network - and are a great example of the passion and dedication of our industry.
This year also saw Scotland host a number of high-profile business tourism events - including TED Global 2012 and the first annual meeting of the Professional Convention Management Association - and the launch of the new Conference Bid Fund. The fund is aimed at helping destinations across the country put together the best possible bids to attract high-yield conferences linked to Scotland's areas of expertise in industry, commerce, science and medicine. Already seeing impressive results, this will undoubtedly prove integral in allowing Scotland to exploit a market currently worth more than £800 million.
Our events industry continues to go from strength to strength, and support from EventScotland not only allows us to secure internationally-significant events like the World Gymnastics Championships, but also to support the fantastic local and national showpieces that help make Scotland The Perfect Stage for events.
It is my belief that tourism can and will bring sustainable economic growth to the Scottish economy. By working together, we can make these Winning Years - and the years beyond - a success for us all.
I hope you will find this review interesting, and join me in celebrating VisitScotland's hard work over the past year, and looking forward to the next.