Yesterday I attended a conference in Kingussie, down in the Cairngorms National Park, about Scottish community tourism. It was hosted by SCOTO, a collaborative group of community tourism enterprises from all over Scotland.
One of my favourite speakers was Calum Maclean – a presenter, writer and Gaelic language activist who’s probably best known for his wild swimming. He’s just been voted the most influential Scot on TikTok, surpassing the likes of Lewis Capaldi.
What resonated with me about Calum was his enthusiasm. He spoke about ‘the power of localness’ and exploring past the obvious to get a deeper understanding of the places we visit. He also said to go ‘beyond the guidebooks’ that tend to gloss over the juicy, undiscovered places you’d only know about if you were a local, in favour of overpopulated tourist hotspots.
After his talk, I chatted with Calum about my Slow guide and how it was important to me to write a guidebook that included some of those undiscovered locations. I had the privilege of meeting lots of local people during my research and travels, and their contributions have made my book far richer. To reinforce the importance of this kind of immersive travel even more, Slow Travel is the theme for May in VisitScotland’s 2023 marketing calendar – impeccable timing for the release of my book that same month!
Recently, there’s been a surge in awareness of ‘sustainable tourism’. Initially that might make you think of the environment, and how visitors should respect wildlife and wild places while travelling. This is essential of course, but the sustainable mindset also relates to people. Supporting independent businesses instead of big chains, and making an effort to learn the heritage of new places as well as appreciate their beauty, are just as important as being mindful of campfires and taking your litter home.
Again, these are things that a good Slow guide should cover, and I consciously shopped small while I was travelling for my book, discovering fantastic small businesses that gave the places I visited even more colour.
Another excellent speaker at the conference was Scotland blogger, itinerary consultant and podcast host Kathi Kamleitner. Like Calum, Kathi’s passion was infectious and she spoke about connection as an emotional benefit of tourism. This connection can be with those you travel with, those you meet while travelling, and also with yourself.
Currently, one of the biggest travel trends is an interest in ‘localism and authentic experiences’. This links to the ‘staycation’ idea, which became even more prevalent during the pandemic. It was reassuring to see that my book links to this trend – I’ve highlighted many local people and hopefully conveyed enough immersive detail in my descriptions of lochs, forests, castles and distilleries to inspire these memorable and authentic experiences that visitors are looking for.
I’m a huge advocate of Scotland as a travel destination and clearly so is Kathi, who launched her business Watch Me See to help other people discover and fall in love with Scotland just like we both did. I’m always looking to connect with other solo female travellers and it was so lovely to hear Kathi’s perspective.
March is Scottish Tourism Month, so the conference was well-timed. It was a whirlwind of conversations and ideas, not to mention a shock to my system after several years of professional interaction exclusively via Zoom! I left feeling inspired and even more excited about the release of my book, having reaffirmed my belief that Slow is the way to go.