What Clan Are You? An Exploration of Heritage and Ancestral Tourism with Canadian Scottish Descendents
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A persistent trend in the tourism field is the emergence of different types of niche markets. One niche form of heritage tourism that has gained popularity in Scotland since the Millennium, is ancestral tourism. Ancestral tourism is defined as choosing to travel to a host country based on one’s ancestral origins and genealogical interest. This paper traces the nature and importance of ancestral tourism for Canadian Scottish descendents in Ontario, Canada. Based on a social constructivist and multiple methods approach, the ancestral tourism initiative was reviewed within the perspectives of both the demand and supply side. The demand side findings revealed that Canadian Scottish descendents identified with and participated more in their social heritage at the local level, than in their personal heritage in the homeland. The degree to which the descendents were involved in Scottish heritage and ancestry was dependent on a variety of factors such as the emigration date of the respective ancestor, life-changing circumstances, and external stimulants. The majority of Canadian Scottish descendents were characterized as supplementary ancestral tourists and revealed that traveling to Scotland, for an ancestral tourism experience, would be one of many motivations for traveling to the homeland. Supply side findings characterized ancestral tourism as being “embryonic and full of potential”. A few challenges for those involved in the facilitation and marketing of the ancestral tourism experience were also highlighted. Characteristics associated with the ancestral tourism product were diverse and the changing nature of the genealogical resources utilized by descendents was reviewed. A shortfall of marketing the ancestral tourism initiative to only international visitors was examined, despite healthy promotional efforts such as the “Ancestral Tourism Welcome Scheme”. Key recommendations for parties interested in the ancestral tourism initiative included increased coordination among stakeholders at a regional level, increased funding and functioning capacities for the volunteer sector, re-examining current marketing strategies to include the domestic level, expanding marketing activity in the Canadian context, and maintaining ancestral tourism as a modest and “intimate” trend.