A Digital Tourism Strategy for Bute

Crafting a digital strategy to elevate the tourist experience of the Isle of Bute.


Argyll & Bute Council




Digital Strategy

The Challenge

The Isle of Bute is one of the most accessible island destinations in Scotland (it’s only 90 minutes away from Glasgow), yet it doesn't enjoy the same levels of tourism as many other comparable destinations. Previous research had proposed a focus on end-to-end digital as a way to drive development through supporting the indigenous business community, attracting new residents, developing the outward profile of the island, and thus attracting more tourism. In this project, our challenge was to develop a digital tourism strategy for Bute that was responsive to the core issues with its digital presence, the challenges faced by its business base, and the changing behaviours of tourists.

Client Details

Argyll and Bute council covers the second-largest administrative area of any Scottish council. In this project, we were working with the residents of the Isle of Bute as part of Rothesay Townscape Heritage — a jointly funded grant programme focussing on the regeneration of historic buildings as well as traditional skills training and community engagement. The Isle of Bute has a population of around 7,000 people, most of whom live in the town of Rothesay.

Project Links

Our Approach

After immersing ourselves in the previous research conducted on Bute we began a series of research activities to build a picture of the existing context, define the current challenges, and scope new opportunities. The project was initiated during the early stages of the March 2020 lockdown. We worked with the council to quickly adapt the planned activities and project scope to address the constraints of remote working, physical distancing, and the new pressures Bute’s community were facing.

Across the research phase, we conducted a series of activities. These included: 

  • Case studies A collection of case studies from rural and/or tourism businesses demonstrating a breadth of approaches towards adapting to lockdown for local businesses to take inspiration from.
  • Unintended consequences of Covid-19 Anticipating the short, medium, and long-term consequences of Covid-19 for Bute.
  • Trends research Identifying long term tourism, work, and home-life trends which may impact Bute.
  • Business interviews Interviewing a cross section of businesses and organisations across Bute to understand their needs and challenges.
  • Digital visitor experience analysis Examining the online trip planning and booking for Bute, reading through travel review sites, and speaking to recent visitors. 

We synthesised our research activities and turned our findings into digestible insights and initial recommendations. To test some of our recommendations further, we developed a website — ‘Postcards from Bute’ — a mini-site that engaged citizens in sharing stories of Bute, yet also tested an approach to crowdsourcing tourist-facing data. 

The result of this body of work is a digital strategy that documents the research process, insights, and recommendations. It concludes with three core recommended work packages that detail actions to take and initial costing estimates around:

1. Creating a centrally organised Bute Brand.
2. Centralising tourist information.
3. Organising Business Collaboration and Development.



Clarity on core issues

While it was understood that there were problem areas in the overall tourist experience of Bute, it was unclear exactly where these problems existed. We have pinpointed areas in the tourist experience of Bute that need improvement through the identification of key pain points. These will be used to ensure resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.


A mandate for action

Through the detailed outline of three work packages we’ve delivered a clear mandate for action around priority areas — better organisation of tourist information, development of a compelling brand for the Isle of Bute, and alignment and collaboration of local organisations. The strategy will be used to catalyze action amongst key stakeholders, secure funding, and steer efforts to ensure maximum impact.


User tested recommendations

Once we identified issues in the digital tourism experience of Bute we created a first draft of recommendations for improvements. Specific recommendations which needed further exploration were mocked up into a live test for the residents of Bute to provide input on. The results of the test were fed back into the final set of recommendations.

“[The research] is eye opening and it showed that there is work that is needed in order for the Island to maximise publicity and promote itself effectively.”

Colin Fulcher
Project Officer for Transformation, Projects and Regeneration, Argyll and Bute Council