Blog: Week Three with Sophie

Blog: Week Three with Sophie

22 June 2020

Sophie Dickson, SCA Summer Intern 2020

My third week has seemed to pass incredibly quickly. While I work, I usually see the constant zip of birds fly past, every time catching my eye and pushing me to become a very inexperienced and untalented bird watcher. This week, we had a new visitor to our garden, a cat and her very playful kitten in tow. The cuteness of the kitten tested my willpower to stay productive. He was completely worth the struggle.

This week I have been familiarising myself with genealogists and tour guides, which has led me to developing a new appreciation for their profession. For many international visitors, tour businesses are one of the first people that they meet and get to know well. They act as a gate into Scotland and often leave the most memorable impression on visitors, all contributing to the friendly international image of Scotland. When potential visitors seek their tour services, it is the intimate knowledge of the tour guides that they desire in hopes of creating a memorable and emotive trip of a lifetime.

It is incredibly important for the growth of ancestral tourism (and indeed the expansion of any part of the tourism sector) to be complimentary to the image of its country, both for an international audience, but also the domestic audience as well. The sincerity offered by locally run tourist businesses is integral to maintaining a truthful reflection, rather than creating a false caricature of the country, which then threatens its authentic culture. Supporting smaller local businesses and heritage initiatives maintain authenticity, rather than letting larger, mass consumed souvenir shops without any grounding in the real local culture overrun the industry, and the perceptions of the larger Scottish diaspora and international visitors.

Supporting local heritage businesses and sites also assure that economic expansion assisted by the growth of the ancestral tourism industry benefits all sections of the Scottish population and geography proportionately. Making sure that local businesses are involved in ancestral tourism benefits from the industry and feeds the economic growth into local and homegrown initiatives. It increases the entrepreneurial opportunities for the next generations of young, talented Scots, and also increases a sense of local pride, perpetuating a productive economic growth that would hopefully increase exponentially for years to come. Tourism, notably bespoke tours, spreads the industry’s success towards less accessible and rural areas, leading visitors to places which may not be common tourist destinations. The economies of rural and sparsely populated areas such as the Highlands and Islands benefit from these visitors as not only do they spend time at their tour destinations, but they will spend time and money in other local services and shops.

This week I have been continuing work on the ancestral tourism database for VisitScotland. I have also commenced working on preparation for an ancestral tourism support section for the Scottish Council on Archives website. We have also made a start on working towards an ancestral tourism webinar for archivists to discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in engagement, for which I am greatly excited.