A tour guide company hit hard by the pandemic has thrived since launching an app which takes holidaymakers on a series of adventures in Aberdeenshire.

Grampian Escapes and Tours has grown its commercial offering by 15 per cent and attracted a much wider audience thanks to its new virtual platform.

The business offers single day food tours in Aberdeen and other tours around the north east of Scotland, combining popular attractions and impressive sights along with off-the-beaten-track experiences.

When Covid-19 put all tourist activities on hold in 2020, the company made the decision to switch its services to online.

Founder Jacqueline Van Den Akker approached Business Gateway for help to ensure the survival of her business by providing audio tours as a new way to reach customers.

While working with DigitalBoost – a digital skills training programme delivered by Business Gateway – she was able to develop and launch an app for her company to guide adventurers through a range of curated walking and driving tours.

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

DigitalBoost funded 75 per cent of the costs for developing and configuring the high-quality white label app and to get it up and running.

Grampian Escapes and Tours’s new app compliments their in-person tours. Supplied/Business Gateway

As the tourism industry reopens, Grampian Escapes and Tours can present its visitors with a “diverse” offering, as the app compliments their in-person tours.

According to the company, the audio tours app appeals to a different type of visitor who is more likely to travel independently and access information through alternative sources, which has helped it grow.

Van Der Akker 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.

She 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.”