Page last updated at 20:58 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 21:58 UK

Indians enticed to tour Scotland

By Gillian Marles
BBC Scotland

Tourist body VisitScotland is on a drive to increase the number of travellers coming from India.

Gillian Marles
Gillian Marles has been looking into tourism in Mumbai

A new team at the agency has identified the country as one of the key emerging markets, after figures showed a rapid increase in visitors over a three-year period.

With other economies suffering badly due to the credit crunch, the Indian economy is growing strongly, creating new wealth.

Whisky tours and golfing holidays will be used to persuade Indians to travel further than they usually do for a holiday.

Between 2003 and 2006, the number of visitors to Scotland from India doubled to 22,000.

The amount they spent trebled to 25m. VisitScotland believes it is in a good position to build on this success.

Ambitious targets

Melanie Angus, international marketing manager for emerging markets, said: "We are fortunate because our icons are well known, so people have an idea of what Scotland has brought to the world."

In downtown Mumbai, some people are not convinced.

When asked to identify a series of pictures from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond to images of the Scottish flag, scenery and tartan, many Indians were at a loss.

Indians in Mumbai
Vasant and Pallani Vartak were asked about their knowledge of Scotland

Pallani Vartak, 37, guessed Switzerland when shown a picture of Scottish mountains and a castle.

Her husband Vasant, 42, thought tartan belonged to Sweden.

When he was told that the country was in fact Scotland, Vasant revealed that the family planned to visit this August.

"We heard it was a good place to go around," he said.

Gopika Panchmatia, 33, said she always wanted to go to Scotland.

She said: "I've heard it's so beautiful and green and these amazing castles."

She also said she wanted to find out whether the Loch Ness monster was real.

"I've been wanting to go and see if it's really true."

Scotland and India have similar strategies when it comes to tourism. Both have ambitious targets.

India is starting from a low base and hopes to attract 10 million tourists by 2010, when it hosts the Commonwealth Games.

Scotland, which has a much more mature market, saw 16 million visitors in 2006. It wants to see revenues grow by 50% by 2015, a year after Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games.

And both countries have a substantial diaspora and are looking at ways of reaching those people and convincing them to take a break in their home nation.

Scotland and India may be worlds apart geographically and culturally, but they're both chasing the same thing - the pound or the rupee.

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