VisitScotland, formerly the Scottish Tourist Board, is the national tourism agency for Scotland. It is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government, with offices in Edinburgh, Inverness, and London as well as other parts of Scotland. It operates alongside VisitBritain, an organisation with a similar remit for Great Britain as a whole.[2]

Founded1969 (as the Scottish Tourist Board)
Number of employees
559 (2018)[1]

Among the organisation's tasks is the attraction of visitors to Scotland through advertising and promotional campaigns. VisitScotland also manages a number of quality grading schemes for tourist accommodation and attractions.[3] The organisation also operates the website which provides bookings and information service for visitors to Scotland. From 2001 this website was operated as a public-private partnership venture,[4] though this venture (and the website) was brought back into public ownership in 2008.[4][5]

Aims and operation

VisitScotland's primary aim is to market Scotland as a tourism destination, which it does through advertising and promotion as well as encouraging press articles on Scotland and what it has to offer the business or consumer visitor.

The organisation also seeks to work with the tourism industry in Scotland to maintain standards in visitor attractions and accommodation provision. It does this through a number of specific quality grading schemes.[3] VisitScotland also runs the Thistle Awards, which are awarded to the best tourism businesses each year.[6]

One aspect of VisitScotland's work is managing a network of websites featuring a variety of travel interest and holiday activity themes. These include golf, walking, cycling, city breaks, adventure, ancestral, Ski Scotland and wildlife.

Website is the official website of VisitScotland. The website acts as a bookings and information service for visitors to Scotland. Accommodation availability information, as well as more general information about Scotland, is provided from the domain. was initially the trading name of eTourism Ltd, a private limited company set up by a public-private partnership.[7] In 2003 the IT services group SchlumbergerSema was taken over by Atos.[8] There was a major restructuring in July 2006 that saw VisitScotland increase its stake from 25% to 36%, Austrian booking specialist Tiscover took a 35% share and ATOS reduced its stake from 60% to 7%.[8] Partnerships UK Ltd had also been shareholders.[9]

The ownership of became a divisive issue with many in the Scottish tourism industry. A number of accommodation providers, particularly those outwith the main cities, lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament to return the group to public ownership, arguing that the use of public money to fund the parent company eTourism Ltd was disrupting competition, an assertion which eTourism unconditionally rejected.

In 2008, a Scottish Parliament inquiry led by Tavish Scott considered some of the problems associated with the website and made the recommendation that Scottish Government find additional resource to put towards solving these.[9] On 7 November 2008, it was announced that ownership of was to be transferred solely to VisitScotland, with £1.2 million of funds being used to purchase shares from all other shareholders.[10]

See also


  1. Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2018 (PDF). (Report). VisitScotland. 2018. p. 61. Total FTE @ 31/03/18 [..] 559
  2. "Industry and Destination Development - Partnerships". Visit Scotland. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. We collaborate with VisitBritain (which has the remit to internationally market Britain as whole) in both our mature and developing markets
  3. "Quality Assurance gradings - QA Conditions and Criteria". VisitScotland. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  4. "Tourism body criticised over handling of e-tourism venture". Scottish Parliament. 14 May 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  5. "VisitScotland's online booking site loses £12m over five years". Herald Scotland. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  6. "North of Scotland attractions win big at Visit Scotland's tourism awards". Aberdeen Journals Ltd. 16 March 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  7. Donald, Colin (31 August 2005). "Anger at VisitScotland's 'hijack' system". The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  8. Friedli, Douglas (23 July 2006). " books Austrian specialist". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  9. Donald, Colin (12 July 2008). "Inquiry calls for overhaul of VisitScotland's 'obsolete' website". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  10. Ferguson, Brian (7 November 2008). "National tourism website is handed £1.2m bail-out". The Scotsman. Retrieved 15 July 2016.

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