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Aberdeenshire tour guide operator puts itself on the virtual map


By David Porter

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Jacqueline van den Akker, founder, Grampian Escapes and Tours
Jacqueline van den Akker, founder, Grampian Escapes and Tours

A local tour guide operator has successfully launched its own app and grown its commercial offering by 15 per cent after receiving support from DigitalBoost, Scotland’s national digital upskilling programme, delivered by Business Gateway.

Based in Aberdeenshire, Grampian Escapes and Tours offers single day food tours in the city of Aberdeen and other tours around the north-east of Scotland, combining popular attractions and impressive sights along with off the beaten track experiences.

As the pandemic put all tourist activities on hold during 2020, founder Jacqueline van den Akker approached Business Gateway for help to strengthen her existing skillset and ensure the survival of her business by providing audio tours as a new way to reach customers.

She said, “I had to do a bit of research to find out what was already on the market.

"I then approached Business Gateway for support and advice about how to best go about launching my own series of audio tours in a way that was more flexible and gave me the scope I needed to develop it into a strong offering for my business.”

While working with Business Gateway’s specialist team, Jacqueline was able to develop and launch an app for her business to guide explorers through a series of curated walking and driving tours.

The app features untold stories to enhance the user’s experience and appreciation for the areas being explored through the tours.

Through DigitalBoost, Jacqueline was able to access a grant which funded 75 per cent of the costs for developing and configuring a high-quality white label app and to get it up and running.

Now, as the tourism industry starts to reopen, Grampian Escapes and Tours can present its visitors with a diverse offering, as the app compliments the in-person day tours across Aberdeenshire.

This has helped the business grow by offering a different visitor experience alongside the guided day tours.

The audio tours app complements the existing business by appealing to a different type of visitor who is more likely to travel independently and access information through alternative sources.

Jacqueline accessed a package of support through Business Gateway which also included social media development and search engine optimisation, as well as attendance at various workshops including a podcast workshop which led to her starting up her own series.

Jacqueline said: “When the pandemic hit, I knew it was vital to find ways to raise the profile of Grampian Escapes and Tours for increasing our brand awareness.

"Working with the Business Gateway team and attending online webinars allowed me to do this, and I found the inspiration and confidence to launch my first app.

“Thanks to the clear advice and direction given by the DigitalBoost team, I was able to develop a new offering for my customers, and my goal is to expand this further by adding further tours and translating them into different languages.”

John MacGillivray, adviser, Business Gateway, said: “Jacqueline’s passion for storytelling coupled with her industry expertise is what sets Grampian Escapes and Tours apart.

"It is rewarding to see how she has adapted to the pandemic and managed to reach new customers by working with our team.

“Despite restrictions easing, an alternative digital offering for customers will help the business thrive and we would encourage all businesses to make use of the free DigitalBoost service if there are areas where support is needed.”

To find out how Business Gateway’s DigitalBoost programme can help your business, visit: www.bgateway.com/resources/digitalboost/.


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