Thursday 10 December 2009

The Sales Season is Upon Us...

What appear to becoming an annual Winter Sale period has once again began in Scottish Hospitality. The process which seemed to start all those years ago with the insane financing of the purchase of what became Swallow Hotels has continued to send waves through Scottish Tourism long after the initial tsunami.
There seems to be a continula changing hands of properties at this time of the year and yet again the administrators and agents re-enter and take back more properties.

Last week it was announced that called in the administrators because of a sharp decline in trading, the group, set up in 2004, by the former managing director of Corus Hotels and Martyn Levitt, the former finance director of Firmdale Hotels, ran 36 hotels including The Oban Caledonian, The Ballachulish and The Isles of Glencoe.
Folio, which leases its hotels, had been in discussions with its landlords over a rent holiday to allow it to continue trading. However, a decision by the owner of nine hotels – believed to be the Landesberg and Rosenberg families, who also own Admiral Taverns – to pull out of negotiations is said to have prompted the move to appoint MCR.
News then followed that Akkeron Group has created a regional hotel group with the acquisition of the Folio hotel business.
Akkeron Hotels is owned by Brent and Colin Johnston, who heads a group of companies under the name Clear and owns the freehold of four of the hotels let to Folio.
Folio had built a chain of 36 hotels before the recession struck before collapsing a year ago and was bought out of administration in January, having retained 19 leasehold hotels.

The eight leasehold hotels include the three Scottish properties. The remaining 11 hotels in the Folio group not acquired by Akkeron, due to considerably higher rental costs, have been handed back to their respective owners.
Akkeron intends to build a portfolio of up to 150 regional hotels across the UK. These will comprise a mix of ownership, leases and management contracts.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Scottish Princess on Screen 2011

Pixar has announced that one of its next features is to be set in the Highlands, which could it is said coiuld provide a boost to Scotland’s tourist industry. The Bear and the Bow is a story of a Scottish princess, Merida, who decideds to give up her family name and follow her dream of becoming an archer. It is believed by tourism chiefs (the oft quoted tourism chiefs we guess?) that it will help raise Scotland’s profile and lead to an influx of visitors in the same way that Braveheart and Highlander did.

According to Disney's press release,

A rugged and mythic Scotland is the setting for Pixar's action-adventure "The Bear and the Bow." The impetuous, tangle-haired Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a great archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her father's kingdom and her mother's life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right. Director Brenda Chapman ("The Prince of Egypt," "The Lion King") and the storytelling wizards of Pixar conjure humor, fantasy and excitement in this rich Highland tale. 

A rugged and mythic Scotland? It sounds a bit like The First Minister's Christmas Card - anyway the release date is late 2011 so just in time for a 2012 marketing campaign. Is the bear going to be in favour of independance or against? It could swing an election you know!

Golf Development Done the Right Way?

The publicity given to Donald Trump's proposals in the north east have taken almost all of the headlines over the past few years but for those in the industry the reality of Castle Stuart a hundred miles west along the Moray Coastline is much more relevant.

The team has been in place for a number of years now and they have gently courted the industry, the locals, involved the hoteliers in Inverness and Nairn, sought partnerships with golf courses and tour companies and altogether built strong, potentially long-lasting relationships that as the course and its busines model matures will see business collaborations doing exactly the same.

Compare and contrast with Menie perhaps? Make your own judgements.

The man behind the development is Mark Parsinen and whilst I think I may have been introduced to him, I don't know him. I do know some of the team who he's put in place and their very appointments speak volumes about content over style.

An article in today's Press and Journal sheds an even more positive light on this development and the personality behind it and it really does confirm that when it comes to developing a world class golf product in Scotland that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
The interview is well worth a read as it gives an insight into a man with a clear vision but one who recognises the environment, both geographical and social, that he is working within.
His methods are clearly working as earlier thsi week Casdtle Stuart gained the accolade of Best New International Golf Course of the Year by

Parsinen says in the interview, “My wife and I walked the coast all the way from Aberdeen along to Cruden Bay and through the Menie Estate without knowing it.We liked everything but, for me, the perfect site may be very different from Donald Trump’s perfect site. I was looking for elevation differential, access to views of the sea and landmarks in your perspective. The Menie Estate has these amazing dunes, not unlike Cruden Bay, but to me there is a sameness about the site which makes it difficult to do the kind of things I like to do. Menie wasn't for me and was quickly discarded.”

I've only seen the course, about this time last year, from the safety of a Landrover (relative safety I may add, as Fraser Cromarty was driving) but there is no doubt in my mind that Mark Parsinen has made exactly the right choice and created something that will continue to grow in status with every round that is played.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Barrhead Travel and VisitScotland?

An excellent afternoon today in Edinburgh at a thought provoking seminar on developing e-commerce in Scotland. I'll blog fully about some of the really fascinating stuff from the sessions but one wee snippet that came from one of the directors of Barrhead Travel is a proposed collaboration with Visitscotland that they'll be launching in the next three months.
We shall try to find out more...

Dragon's Tooth Capped!

It's always nice when someone says something nice; even better when it's someone respected throughout the industry. We've recently completed a website for Laurence Young who was known for building the Freedom of the Glens Hotel business. Amongst other things he's now developing the Dragon's Tooth Golf Course near Fort Wiliam and we developed the course's online presence during November.

He wrote to us recently, "Ian, now that the Dragon's Tooth Golf Course site has gone live, could I just say a warm "thank you" from the team and I? We really appreciate how you have driven this project forward to ensure we went on-line in a reasonable timeframe. Plus we appreciated all the practical advice and help given along the way. Getting a new web site together from scratch is a daunting task and we've been wanting to do it - and stepping back from the brink - for months.

But having taken the leap of faith with The Edge, we're delighted with the way things have gone. The Claymore Project is proving to be a brilliant way of managing content and has provided a framework for us to quickly take control and build a website that we feel represents our business. And we like the idea that we can "get in there" and develop it so easily (and without paying developer fees at every turn!).

So thanks for all the help, creativity and hand-holding!

Laurence Young, Director, Ossian Development Limited and Dragon's Tooth Golf Course"

It has been our pleasure Laurence - thank you for your support

Golf Tourism Industry Confident about 2010

Scotland’s golf tourism industry has sent the clearest signal yet that confidence is returning to Scotland ’s beleaguered economy.

In a straw poll taken at Golf Tourism Scotland ’s Gold Standard Awards, industry representatives from the travel, hospitality and golf service sectors were united in their positive outlook for 2010. The vast majority indicated they had an optimistic view of 2010 with 90% responding positively. Only eight per cent felt less confident and two per cent were undecided.

“We’ve been through a tough year,” said Nick Hunter, chairman of GTS. “But it’s encouraging to see the positivity being taken forward into the New Year. There’s a lot to look forward to especially with the Open Championship being held at St Andrews and celebrating its 150th anniversary. It should be a year to savour.”

One of the reasons for this shift in business opinion is the upbeat predictions for next year’s visitor numbers, especially those from the US which GTS board member Fraser Cromarty said already look positive.

“Going on our 2010 bookings compared to 2009, we see American travellers are coming back,” said Cromarty, whose day job is looking after sales and marketing at Castle Stuart Golf Links. “We’re also seeing a lot more Europeans especially since the Euro is so strong. Indeed, come the New Year, I think we’ll see even more bookings because people are still holding off making their plans for 2010.”
Although Castle Stuart only enjoyed half a season due to its summer launch, next year’s tour operator bookings have already outstripped 2009’s total at the Inverness course. “The tour operator business is a lot more positive than in 2009,” commented Cromarty. It’s going to be an upbeat year and more buoyant than last season.

Sunday 6 December 2009

The Case For Junior Golfers

A LOTHIANS golf club has halved its membership fee for young golfers and is hoping the decision will eventually lead to the creation of a new junior academy.
Bosses at Deer Park Golf & Country Club at Livingston launched the youth drive after discovering it didn't have the depth of juniors you'd expect from a club which prides itself on its family orientation. In addition to the membership fee for eight to 13-year-olds having been reduced to £89, the club has also started offering clubgolf coaching and is developing a short course for juniors.

"Kids have always been keen to play here but it was too expensive and we were becoming a feeder for other clubs," said head pro Sandy Strachan.

"That's fine for getting kids into golf but we weren't seeing the benefit. So reducing the membership has really given us the opportunity to get active and get kids in."

Strachan, who moved to Deer Park from nearby Bathgate two years ago, added: "My aim was to get the membership fee right then make a heavy push on the coaching and build a junior section."

As is the case all over Scotland, P5 pupils in West Lothian are being introduced to the game through the clubgolf initiative and Strachan is keen to offer a continuation of that programme.

"We have been working with clubgolf and Active Schools to get the message out to local schools and the potential for children to come here for coaching is massive," he said.

"I'm doing the teaching because I feel that by catching children straight away I can nurture them from there and make sure they are going to be good junior members.

"I have got my Stage 3 (clubgolf] qualification, as has John Murray who joined us from Turnhouse, so we can take the children right through the levels to the advanced stages.

"We are obviously at the start but what we are working towards is to create a Deer Park Junior Academy where you we take in children from a very young age and coach them right through to Scottish level and hopefully even professional."

Friday 27 November 2009

Interviews Support Online Marketing

Golf Tourism Scotland, the industry body representing tourism businesses from accommodation, travel providers, tour operators and golf course sectors celebrated its annual awards dinner recently at Turnberry.

In the aftermath the usual press and PR was generated by the organisation with Flash banners for each winner's website, Hi res images downloadable from a specially created media page and hi res logos of the awards for printed media.

New for 2009 however was a series of live interviews of each of the winners. The interviewer was Yvonne Alexander of Word Association and all the winners give their opinions on the market and their own sector. These interviews were then loaded onto YouTube and GTS' own website.

It's a nice touch and Ian McCaig of The Edge Studios explained the benefits, "The GTs awards dinner has become an annual celebration of the best of the golf tourism sector and the work done since the awards ceremony has raised the profile further. The interviews have helped personalise the whole process and offer a different dimension to the normal. We took Yvonne's Interviews and easily uploaded them using our CMS, The Claymore Project, into "

The new site was launched in time for the awards ceremony and is unique in that 85% of the copy is Business generated Content.

Listen to the GTS Interviews online now and perhaps get an idea of how you could use some audio clips to promote your products or projects.

New Online Bite for Dragon's Tooth

We're delighted to have gone live today (Friday 27th of November) on the web and online marketing project for Dragon's Tooth Golf Course at Glenachulish near Ballachulish (which in themselves are both within touching distance of Glencoe and Fort William!)
We were approached by Laurence Young who owns the course to look at what we could do with the online presence and make some suggestions.

The result we believe is pretty impressive but that in large part is down to the product and the work put in by the team at the golf course itself. The website is driven by our own content management system The Claymore Project and this allowed Laurence the ability to go online with his staff and update the content, images and metatags while we concentrated on pulling together the design that reflected this unique golf course.

The nine hole course is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautifully located courses in the country - have a look at the image from above - and really should be played if you're in the area. The facilities are excellent and would put many larger clubs to shame. Golf's Hidden Gem category is overused (and we hate it!) so let's call Dragon's Tooth an Undiscovered Diamond!

The site itself was designed by Steven and incorporates a sympathetic layout powered as we said by The Claymore Project. It also incorporates a new Dragon's Tooth Facebook Page and a redesign of the ConstantContact email features. Twitter will follow as will integration of Traveline Scotland information and the possibility of accommodation reservations using a fully integrated Bookassist model.

The main thing about the website however is that old truism about images making the difference. The layout only emphasises the beauty of the location through the images. The words support, the metatags assist the searcher but the images sell the product almost on its own. When you have such tools to work with web design and online marketing gets a wee bit easier.

Thanks for your trust Laurence and we look forward to a long term relationship.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Golf Tourism Awards "On Air"

Golf Tourism Scotland, the industry body representing tourism businesses from accommodation, travel providers, tour operators and golf course sectors celebrated its annual awards dinner recently at Turnberry.
In the aftermath the usual press and PR was generated by the organisation with Flash banners for each winner's website, Hi res images downloadable from a specially created media page and hi res logos of the awards for printed media.
New for 2009 however was a series of live interviews of each of the winners. The interviewer was Yvonne Alexander of Word Association and all the winners give their opinions on the market and their own sector. These interviews were then loaded onto YouTube and GTS' own website.
It's a nice touch and Ian McCaig of The Edge Studios explained the benefits, "The GTs awards dinner has become an annual celebration of the best of the golf tourism sector and the work done since the awards ceremony has raised the profile further. The interviews have helped personalise the whole process and offer a different dimension to the normal. We took Yvonne's Interviews and easily uploaded them using our CMS, The Claymore Project, into "
The new site was launched in time for the awards ceremony and is unique in that 85% of the copy is Business generated Content.
Listen to the GTS Interviews online now.

Friday 20 November 2009

Ryanair Pass Up New Revenue Opportunity?

Is Michael O'Leary's PR department on holiday this week?
I mean the biggest story of the week is Ireland's defeat at the hand of Henry and look nothing from the Dublin offices of President Michael.
Opportunities surely abound?
Threaten to cancel routes landing in French speaking destinations? (He's done that already? Oops sorry). Refuse to sell french wine on board until the replay's announced?
The very least he could do would be to slap on an arbitrary "Henry Hand Luggage Tax" to all travelling French passengers carrying anything more than a French passport!
As things go it's probably not any more unfair than some of the other charges online.

Thursday 19 November 2009

"Wot a load of rubbish"

Subject: RE: Scottish Tourism Matters - 2009 Industry Survey

Wot a load of rubbish.

That was the first reply we got to the publication of our tourism survey yesterday. Not very detailed granted but clear and exlicit.

Curiosity however got the better of me and I had to find out more and my request for more received the following.
"I have used many Tourism sites. Adveritised on then. Listened to all the promises. Used Visit Scotland for 5 years. Spent as much as we earned trying to get good business. I have yet to find someone who is trying to help me. Good advertising is too expensive. I'm now trying Google. I still believe they are all a load of old rubbish. Maybe you can tell me different ? We were Visit Scotland Four Star and have a Marvellous Visitors book."
The repsondant was from the North Highlands but the sentiment could be replicated in any area of Scotland. Our response? Well it's the way we see it; not necessarily comfortable reading but we believe honest.
Hi , major can of worms you've opened up there!
With online marketing there can be no promises only the aim of better (not even best) practice. The rules change but the goals remain the same - hospitality providers need to generate increasing numbers of direct clients. We as a business provide web design, online marketing support and our own online reservations system (Bookassist) aimed at the independent tourism operator.
We don't always get it right first time but learning - even through quick questionnaires - is always a priority. VisitScotland, Google, - none of them are useless. All provide opportunities for the small business to utilise, test, amend and adapt. What is useless is a tourism industry in Scotland expecting the public sector to deliver on their behalf. That is a general not a specific statement but is all the same true. We are in recession, the public purse will be squeezed for years to come and we as an industry had better utilise our own resources and plan to take more responsibilities for our marketing actions. The public sector even if they should be doing it - and I would debate it - will not have the funding to do more; they will have to become smarter and focus on the bigger picture destination marketing of Scotland not the micro regional or local initiatives that the small business operator across Scotland is demanding.
Increasingly you have to take responsibility for being found and doing what you can to ensure you are; you cannot rely on third parties doing this for you. Seeking direct sales must be a mission; being found therefore and having a professional web presence is therefore essential not optional.
Try typing bed and breakfast Dingwall into Google and see how you come out. Complete that attached audit we do for our clients and decide for yourself whether you could do better.
I have attached some information on the basics that small businesses need to consider. Sure good advertising (although I'd suggest "marketing" rather than advertising) is expensive but not nearly as expensive as bad advertising.
Being spoon fed by local tourist boards has arguably not been an option for a decade. Yes there are joint advertising opportunities out there; there are even some excellent Destination Management Organisations (DMO's) about and while they are not the end solution they will provide operators such as yourself the opportunity to discuss and collaborate where economically viable.
You have to think increasingly from the perspective of the visitor. Kipling's Six Honest Men - "Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who" always spring to mind. Get to understand the motivation behind your customer and you'll be in a much better position to convert from the hidden cost of bad advertising (or none) to the clear benefits of good marketing.
I'm not lecturing here, the choice as always be that of the individual but I can assure you that the days of relying on others for your business has gone for good. You have to make your own choices and those choices have to be based on knowledge - I would humbly commend you read the thoughts of others like you, as distributed in the survey results, and learn from them and indeed with them.
A can of worms? Comments welcome

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Findings From Tourism Matters Survey

October/November 2009 Tourism Matters Survey Responses

The overall survey polled around 235 businesses from across Scotland and whilst we never claimed that the survey would provide definitive answers it certainy questions some of the ideas that this has been a bumper year fro Scottish Tourism. The comments received from almost one hundred of the respondents indicate that there is a passion for the industry and a desire to communicate. A lesson to be learned in this world of social media!

A PDF summary of the Tourism Matters Survey findings can be downloaded and printed. The comments below are supplementary to the attached PDF of the results from the objective study. If nothing else we hope that it will increase the knowledge and stop perhaps just one of the blasé remarks being made about the buoyancy of our tourism markets.

If you prefer to print these comments download the Summary Comments Document

It was out intention to summarise these responses more fully but on reading them almost as an easy there are many issues which recur and become common. It has been decided therefo0re to leave them pretty much untouched...

Individual Comments

Customer looking for bespoke short courses in outdoor activity. Water sports popular. Golf dropping off. Events and tournaments big attraction towards 2010 & 2014 Games. More work on this needed for sports tourism.

Overall little from 2008, change but the mix of client nationalities has changed. More European business has offset less N American business. Overall similar numbers to previous year. Lead in time is a lot less .

Advance inquires look up slightly from N America but too early for European numbers.

2010 viewed as lower due to General Election, which always has a negative impact for the few months after, from the UK Market, which will have an impact over peak Season. However, the weakness of Stg vs other currencies, could see some positive impact to counteract some of the losses.

We are usually let between 40 and 44 weeks in the year which just allows for spring cleaning, maintenance and improvements and so it is not easy to improve on occupancy levels! We are extremely worried about the impact of the new tax changes due to affect self catering in the spring. We estimate that should they go ahead as planned it will cost us 25%. (or mean that to achieve the same income we would need to raise our rents by 25%)This is not feasible, at least not instantly, and so will lead to less maintenance and other economies which will not be good.

We on Bute have had a torrid time this year - whilst much of the West coast has had a decent year. Much of this I believe is due to a downturn in local (ie UK resident) tourism which this island is more dependent on than most.

Whilst occupancy has held up quite well, we have seen a significant decrease in sales of food and beverages indicating that whilst people are still keen to take holidays, they are being very careful about how they spend their money once there.

This year it's all been down to what you offer and at what price. To that effect we've decided to keep basic B&B prices for next year at same price as this. We've worked to market ourselves at what we see as our "niche" markets - and it's worked!

Definitely more UK tourists this year - lots who "usually go to the alps to mountain bike" and found Scotland offered just as good if not better facilities and the accommodation that we offer was just what they wanted.

Although in Question 4 I stated the overall levels were slightly up on 2008, this has only related to July, August, September and October.

Jan and Feb the same, March and April down, May and June the same.

This will be a very interesting and worthwhile survey though, and I look forward to seeing the results!

A number of apparently contradictory trends: The number of guests is down but we've had a significant number of longer stays. The conversion rate of enquiries to bookings has been down - probably price related. We have resisted cutting prices and standards of service. We have also noticed a much lower spend on wines and other extras.

There have been many more campers and camper vans holidaying on the cheap and not interested in a £35 dinner.

We have noticed a significant increase in bookings from Switzerland and a slight increase from the Netherlands and Belgium. We have also had greater interest from Australia/New Zealand than in past years. The Italian and Spanish families have not visited us this year as before.

"Homecoming" has apparently been a complete flop. "Homecoming? I don't believe anyone outside Scotland has even heard of it"...(a US visitor). This sentiment has been repeated by a number of our overseas guests when asked about it.

Increased VAT in 2010 won't help.

This year has been patchy - one good month and then one bad month, Although august was excellent July and September were well down. We are usually fairly full in august so it did not do a lot for our business that the area was very busy. We have a hotel and self catering chalets. The chalets did well in June and September which boosted the poor performance in the hotel. Repeat guests have saved us this year !!
Not quite the bumper summer as reported.

The majority of surveys stating that tourism has had an extremely good year do not relate to small businesses providing accommodation. There have certainly been a lot of tourists about, but they have been staying in Self Catering, camping and mobile homes. The Scottish tourist who normally would stay 3-4 nights has been staying at home and doing day trips. The only increase in business has been from America, Canada and Australia and obviously Europe because of the Euro. We feel it is the tourist attractions that have benefited this year particularly from those taking days out instead of staying away from home.

Most bookings which we received were last minute and looking for large discounts

2009 saw a reduced visitor budget compared to 2008 however actual exceeded budget by 2%.

We will continue to spend a large amount on marketing to market ourselves through the recession.

We do not appear to have a problem with demand - our problems revolve entirely around the difficulty in sourcing finance in order to expand our business. Banks, especially, and other lending institutions are making it unreasonably difficult to borrow money.

Your survey lumped together Canada and USA I think there were very few Americans travelling this year but many more Canadians. also your Europeans were lumped into Italy and Spain. Lots from Italy and very few from Spain.

I saw many more from Belgium and Netherlands this year. Also Norway and Sweden.

Excellent season so perhaps I could give your hotelier a tip or too

Hotels have struggled because of their inflexibility to the traveller and their inability to lower costs at peak season. The cash strapped traveller this year is looking for value for money. Customer service is falling in hotels due to poor staff training. The B and B and guesthouse will jump in both those gaps.

This is a personal opinion and based on a few occasions I have stayed in hotels this season and from customers comments. It is hugely brush stroke but on the whole I believe you will find that the smaller establishments have prospered in 2009.

In 2008 we had exceptional occupancy ( 99%)

Much harder work this year to achieve excellent booking levels. Because people are booking later they look for discounts, which I have had to give several times - if I still have availability 2 weeks before arrival. So our income is reduced this year, though published rates similar. Too many new self-catering properties mushrooming and supply is outstripping demand. Because we are well established, a Thistle Award winner 3 times, have a very good reputation and repeat business, a range of three 3 - 5 Star properties on the farm , all very different, we are in a good position to buck trends.

Visitor attraction numbers are up but is this due to real staycations where the people stay put AT HOME and make day trips?

So I tend to agree with your hotelier re. hype about Scottish Tourism doing well. Homecoming probably helped. But the bubble on that burst a bit this last week with the news of all the losses and unpaid creditors!

Trading for 13 years so no novice. Last 2 years worst on record (this year worse than last). I intend to hold off on planned, green-related investment for at least a year.

We find that because we are in a small village setting that the local town based tourist information srvice tend to forget about us, and we generally only get the over spill once the town is full.

The fact that the exchange rate is not good has not really had any impact on bookings in fact we think that money every where is tight and would argue the fact that bookings are up.

Looks like another flat year. Hopefully the North American market will rally a little.

Angus area is very poorly marketed in general. Tourist footfall is low. Booking received by visit Scotland very poor - one all season. Rates are down as hotels are offering deals that B&B can't compete with. People in general are visiting but staying less nights making overhead costs higher due to one night stays.

Good until August. Dip in September. Fewer enquiries and confirmed bookings Nov and Dec

Visit Scotland is NOT serving its Self Catering Customers. Potential visitors have been angry with Visit Scotland web site as they were unable to find us and had to do a web search and telephone. This went on for almost 9 months regardless of advising Visit Scotland.

Additionally the grading scheme does not appear to be the same area to area with lots of discrepancies in what is permitted for four star. I have established this while staying in assorted premises with the same grading as myself.

Furthermore self catering providers are losing out if they offer homes as points appear to be lost due to the officers looking for external facilities with credit being given for leisure facilities, e.g. swimming pools, gyms, etc. This will certainly not help Scotland’s Self Catering providers achieve good quality awards as if this nonsense which is more for larger providers and hoteliers continues many will stop investing in their business and sell up...

I let self catering accommodation.

There was no demand for weeks in June and July.

From the last week in July to the first in september I have been fully booked.

Have had refurbishment in 2008/09 so this has affected result.

Strong Euro and dollar has seen an increase in north European and American guests.

Between May and end of September 70% of our B&B rooms were occupied by overseas guests compared with approx. 60% in 2007 and 2008.

I realize that this may not be very representative as we have just 3 rooms. However, local accommodation businesses in Glen Spean and the Great Glen report a very bouyant season - the best for a number of years.

Self catering has not seen the same increase, but remains at about last year's occupancy levels - although we have had more overseas enquiries.

No reference to visitors from Benelux (loads of Netherlanders and Belgians come to the Highlands) or Australia - definitely up this year.

We suffer a Tourist Authority that lost touch with the trade and market many years ago and is too 'head in the sand' to listen to those of us who have been in the industry for many years.

The fundamental fault is the compulsion imposed by the Quality Grading Scheme which has seriously split the industry. Take the compulsion out of it, make it voluntary, add a category for 'Ungraded' and then set about attracting EVERY tourism business to join their ATB. An industry where 100% are contributing to the forward direction will show infinitely greater success than has been the experience of the Tourism Industry in recent years.

The exchange rate benefit was not felt by us with foreign guests lower than the previous year. UK guest numbers held up reasonably well but mainly among empty nesters. Although we do not normally take children under 12, the number of bookings/enquiries from families was way down on last year. The strong performance of self catering I think demonstrates that they found it cheaper to travel from a hub than tour this year.

We are members of Wolsey Lodges for marketing purposes and bookings were so low from this source that we are not renewing our membership.

For the first time in 14 years I had a week available in august

To date bookings have held up well - though there does not seem to have been the predicted bonanza from more people holidaying at home.

I think this has been seen in the camping and caravanning sector.

I think we may well be going to feel the down turn in getting less off season short breaks. But as last minute is such a strong trend I will wait till the time is actually passed before commenting!!

Occupancy up to 31st August was much the same as 2008, but occupancy for the autumn months is way down. The should months which are usually filled by retired people are down as they have less investment income to spend.

Our biggest concern is that we live on one of the islands that hasn't benefited from the RET and this has contributed to the downturn in visitor numbers to the island and our own occupancy levels. Our increase in turnover has been because we were upgraded to 4* at the end of last summer and we have been able to counter the drop in occupancy level with a small rate increase. However this is a double edged sword as we believe that we haven't achieved the same occupancy levels in previous years because the last minute 'staycation' tourist has opted for the 3* accommodation instead of 4*.

We also feel that because our local council has massively and woefully failed to invest in the infrastructure on the island over the past 2-3 decades, this has become a significant contributing factor in deterring and discouraging visitors to the island due to the vehicle repair costs. The under spend is likely to continue indefinitely well into the future and we don't see how this will be resolved.

Would it be worthwhile looking at how the cost of accommodation has affected occupancy rates? In all the surveys I've completed I have never seen this aspect included in the statistics. I know several places where their business is down on previous years and they are often those with the higher charges.

We are a tourism training consultancy and we have traded for 23 years now. This last year has been our worst ever! This I believe reflects the old adage, 'in a recession the first two things that our industry cuts are marketing and training!'. Generally if the trade is doing well they are happy to invest, through training, in their people. Perhaps our business is a barometer for the trade!

I would have thought more people will fill this in if they have had a good year as no one wants to admit they are not doing so well - we find this verbally with fellow accommodation providers so I would have thought it would have been even more pronounced with a questionnaire......

Also although we have found the spring and summer very good ( the 'staycation' really took place) autumn ( October) and winter so far seem it could be that people are taking their one big holiday in the UK but them not doing as many out of season breaks.

We hope that the new Visit Scotland website will be an improvement and attract more visitors to the \highlands.. Would be very helpful if bookings could be faxed to accommodation owners.

Best season ever but we have recently completed a development and we market strongly and pro-actively.

26yrs old established family business with unique visitor experience and strong customer loyalty.

It's noted the negative comments come from an hotelier. We in self-catering have enjoyed good figures for a number of years and we already have 30 individual weeks booked across our three lodges for 2010. We have noticed our guests are not eating out as much these days, prefering to "self-cater" but because they are making economies in that area, they are able to afford other "bolt-on" items such as wildlife safaris and boat trips. Because B+Bs have raised their game over recent years, hotels now struggle to compete so this may be why the person concerned made their negative remarks.

In our area it was very busy during the main summer period (that doesn't affect us much). Our own back-end of season has been slightly busier than the average year but enquiries for next year have been slightly slower than last year.

With business and building projects on hold. We are anxious as to the business tourism bookings from now through to Easter.

Having increased tariffs due to upgrading facilities, this reflects in our sales against business costs, such as the utilities increase. Occupancy has generally been good this year, however, I have kept rates at the same level as 2008 and many people tried to barter down prices. People really self catering in our properties too. Previous years they tended to eat out more in local restaurants. I hope that good occupancy rates will continue, however, I am aware that I am keeping rates down, despite energy costs etc rising. Lower profit margins.

Although the downturn is mainly due to the world economy, swine flu and the release of the Lockerbie bomber. We are also hampered by the almost total failure of visitscotland We are a small hotel yet I have a couple of dozen adverse comments made to me about the dealings our guests have had with visitscotland.

This organisation is now totally disconnected from the actual tourist industry and in my mind exists only for its own benefit. Until the government wake up to this and do something serious and effective to the organisation charged with promoting tourism in Scotland it will continue to decline.

I have only had 4 weeks empty between 1sty April and 30th October, This is better than last year. Also Jan - Mar in one unit was very well filled.I am delighted with occupancy this year and see the new year developing well.

Much will depend on the impact of tax rises, the increase in VAT and the government's general desire to rake back their borrowing. The healthy UK market this year has been driven by lack of money to spend abroad and the rate of exchange. This market could drop further if people cut back more and don't holiday next year.

The European market will, I think still be ok for 2010 but I still fear for the US market which continues to be very weak. Whilst room occupancy and rates have been very strong , food and beverage spend has dropped particularly beverage ,as people maybe have 2 beers at £6 rather than say a bottle of wine at £12 - 14 .

We will continue to watch and cut costs wherever possible.

We will withdraw completely from Visit Scotland as they do nothing to assist small seasonal businesses in rural locations.

How can we compete when other EU countries only charge between 5% and 7% VAT on food and accommodation? If the UK VAT goes up to 20% which is expected this will close hundreds of hotels. The UK Gov fails to support small accommodation providers which are the backbone of the Tourism Industry.

Pound for pound for every pound invested by the trade the UK Governments return over £50. E.G. vat on spirits food and accommodation, rates, NIC, fuel taxes.

Although they say tourism is an economic priority putting £ms into sports facilities e.g Olympics is not going to help the tourism industry.

We are too newly established to be able to offer sensible comparison. However, after a busy summer we have had two dead month with bookings and enquiries just beginning to pick up now (late October).

This year is only our second year, it has been better than last year, considering we have no passing trade

Business is up slightly on last year but the big difference was in the number of advance bookings compared to those within 6 weeks of the start date of their holiday

We had a slow start to the season this year

- Then in May, June & July we had an increase in the number of guests

- Second half of season - Aug. Sept Oct. occupancy has fallen away.

Sadly, at the moment we do not see any encouraging features for recovery in 2010.

Let's hope that there won't be a double recession.

Visit Scotland and Visit very weak.

Had to spend more money on advertising to achieve the same results.

Visit Scotland need to reduce their prices so many B & B/ Guest Houses return to the Grading and Classification scheme. The inspectors all need to start singing from the same hymn sheet. There are too many inspectors with different ideas about certain things. VS also need to restart printing information to give to guests on arrival. Guests do not always sort out on the net what they want to do before they arrive. The prices for entrance to historic site and various attractions is far too expensive.
Visit Scotland are not prepared to repair the information boards that they erected for the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail, they now say these information boards are not theirs. This is a great loss to this area.

We mainly cater for a home based market - You are correct in that it is very difficult to make sweeping judgements of the Scottish tourist industry as each town or city is different. Thankfully in Ayr we have many different revenue streams mainly Robert burns, Ayr racecourse, golf and a tradition of holidaymakers coming from Glasgow.

Overall I would say there has been no change in my business in relation to occupancy levels. I did not though recieve the deluge of enquiries from British residents in light of the supposed "staycation" which was touted.

Spotting the trend for increased UK visitors we concentrated on cherry picking bookings from longer staying guests & steered away from 1 night stays (3 or more nights), much better for the bottom line.

We also cherry picked UK visitors with a long term view to creating a repeat visitor base through a buoyant period - there were plenty of Europeans & North Americans out there - we chose not too accommodate them.

2 rather pricey hotels close by have not had the same good year as we have had therefore there is definitely a move towards value for money.

We increased prices for this season by 9% & are confident enough to do the same for next year. We have seen turnover this year increase by 40%.

We have also noted an increase in the number of guests staying in high quality B & B's that would normally stay in Hotels.

There has been a marked decrease in lead times for bookings - apart from the summer months which are always busy and booked well in advance, for other months bookings are mostly must shorter notice in 2009.

The weak pound has helped us this year with more foreign visitors however the high cost of fuel has kept visitors down from Southern England. Our energy costs are high due to our remote location and the extra delivery charges this causes - which will rise further over the next few years. Green taxes will also cost the Scottish tourism industry dearly as the UK moves out of recession. Business rates and high energy costs already discourage us from opening all year which does not help the local or wider economy.

I see our industry having a good year in 2010 and maybe 2011 with a gradual decline from there onwards back to levels seen in recent years.

2008 was our first year of trading so this may slightly skew our result. 2009 has been boosted by Staycations which may show business decline further in 2010 if people choose to travel abroad again.

Only time will tell the positive impact that Homecoming Year had on tourism in 2009. Can expect negative impact in 2010, particularly July to September.

Challenges for 2010 –

Higher prices with increase in VAT could reduce demand.

Some European countries have reduced or have low VAT on 'restaurant' food to stimulate consumer demand. We should lobby for same.

Margins will be squeezed by –

Higher energy costs

Increase in Nat Ins

Increase in Min wage

There appeared to be a huge increase in 'do it yourself' tourism this year - self catering, caravan / campervaning, roadside camping, one day visits, etc. This is what the staycationers were doing in the main. Anyone in a position to tap into that would have done well. Other more conventional sectors lost business but were unable to pick up custom from this new market.

I think if the questions were analysed further and folks who said business in 2009 in general was down, were to be asked if there were other large businesses in the area who offered deals in Feb-Jun and Oct-Nov I think a truer picture would come to light. How can a small B&B/Guesthouse that needs to charge £35-40 per double room to break even, compete with a large hotel with spa/leisure club etc that prices themselves down to the £35-40 mark! There will be winners and losers, but the false low prices will rack up the percentages.

Also, the rural areas with the exception perhaps of Skye seemed to be quieter than the larger towns and cities but maybe the general percentage is still higher than 2008 as these cities had events on that drew folks in to them at the smaller towns detriment.

The outlook for 2010 appears to be very good at this stage with a high level of advance bookings and enquiries.

I operate in the Isle of Skye which has had a particularly buoyant year on every level. We have had excellent numbers of visitors from Scotland, from the rest of the UK and an increase in European visitors for the first time for several years. We should concentrate on the European visitors much more, as they love what we have to offer in the way of wilderness, quality and good food.

Homecoming made a difference, but not a hugely perceivable difference in my area. Virtually all of the major events took place many miles from here and this may have made a difference to the number of US and Canadian visitors on the island as they were attracted to well-publicised events elsewhere.

I would like to see the Tourism Industry given much greater credit, publicly, for the difference it has made to the Scottish economy over this worrying economic period and also, that the industry be given every assistance and encouragement to grow in the immediate future. Tourism is King!

Reservations received much later, people leaving to the last minute for deals. I believe that business volumes will remain about the same for 2010, but expect a more positive outlook in the market place, linked to good feel factor of coming out of recession. I am planning on a positive win 2011.

The rolling out of RET (road equivalent tariff) from the Western Isles routes to the rest of the Cal-Mac network would improve tourism to the other Scottish islands greatly

2009 has not been as successful as the media/government and Tourist Board would have everyone believe. The recession is as bad in Europe as it is here, a point often forgotten.

Self catering and camp sites will have done very well to the detriment of B&B/Guest Houses and small hotels.

Whilst business is marginally up, about 1 - 1.5% and that is patchy across Scotland and the UK it cannot be deemed as a 'Bumper' year as Mr Salmond will have it.

Next the 'Home Coming' great for Edinburgh and possibly Glasgow but was about as bright as a very damp squib in the Highlands. Tourism Scotland means just that 'Scotland' not the bits that make the headlines look good!

Early part of 2009 seemed slightly better than 2008, but tailed off through summer and autumn to a level worse than 2008.

Self-catering better than 2008, but B&B worse. Overall level slightly worse

Damage has been caused by Fire Regulations and licensing laws - increasing bureaucracy strangles small operators. Insufficient understanding of the above by present government.

Apr to Sep 2009 about 9% up on 2008, however, completely negated by the marked downturn in domestic UK business in Oct and forward.

We are a new business and it is difficult to compare with last year as we had all our start up costs. Very disappointed with the number of VS referrals and general support

VS Seasonal marketing campaigns which have cost a lot of money have yielded no results whatsoever so will not be repeated yet Farm related agencies have proved to be both more benficial in terms of sales and also business supportive

Been a difficult season business was good but everyone looking for deals and all our costs and overheads going through the roof, winter period looks to be difficult as well as the business community round this area is almost none existent

We need stronger leisure packages to attract visitors.

I have had more enquiries this year from people who have not booked. I feel uk people are looking for the lowest price.

Visitors obviously cutting corners on spending. We notice fewer kids meals, extra plate instead for some of parents meal, coffee instead of latte, and no cake, 2 course instead of 3, and water instead of wine. Customers haggling over prices, and rates being reduced, yet so many increases in costs, many government led, eg licensing fees. Certainly would not advise anyone to go into tourism industry.

Although our business has seen a pleasing increase this year, it has to be said that in spite of being a member of the tourist board for the past 7years it is hard to define exactly what part they played. As far as I can see the only advantage of subscribing to them ( expensively I may add )is the display of the star system and the link on the website, very little came from the local office. The majority of our business came from other sources.

We are fortunate to occupy a very good location for new business....we have also been here for 11 years with regular repeat business and a formula that will hopefully get us through Winter, others may not be so lucky!

Wonder where the "official" visitor figures come from, since they are never the same as my experience. Glasgow airport says it all!

There are certainly more people about this year. However, the overall spend per head is down with people spending less on food and drink. With costs up and set to rise further courtesy of the government, banks and the utilities industry, I foresee tough times ahead.

Probably the euro/pound parity but we have seen an increase in European visitors, especially Italy/Spain/Holland whilst maintaining good support from Australia & Canada

Apart form North east & mountain bike specifics general tourists from England have been quieter than expected with the stay home tourism expected in the current economic climate but overall we have seen an increase say 15-20% on overall bed spaces this year but this is largely due to our proximity to Glentress for the Mountain bikers which has seen good growth in numbers so is one aspect of tourism little affected by the current economic situation

2010 will be a challenging year. Impacts of recession and redundancies etc will kicking through winter of 2010

Business is 45% down when compared to same period last year. Homecoming had absolutely no effect on business whatsoever and as usual the Borders are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to advertising/publicity

No growth. Less high season but more off season. No business from Australia/NZ this year

My self catering bookings are historically very good from April through to October so hard to judge the effect this year other than some additional interest for winter months.

Since early September there has been a huge downward pressure on demand and hence achieved room rate.

Our area (Kintyre) has been particularly busy and I have personally benefitted from bookings that other places refused to their regular clients. In fact these folk have expressed a wish to come back to me next year and one family has already booked for 2 weeks. I am also now getting more Scottish visitors than I used to.

Perceived value for money is important, as is a quality product. It is also necessary to promote the product in the right place with team effort.

Did not see any benefit to my business from Year of Homecoming.

Glenmuir and Sunderland Merge

Interesting news on the golf clothing front that Glenmuir and Sunderland will be trading as one from the 1st of January 2010. According to the press release, "Glenmuir, one of Europe’s leading golf apparel brands,announced an historic agreement with Sunderland of Scotland to become the official European distributor for the world-class Sunderland product range of waterproofs and windproofs.

Effective from January 1st 2010, the convergence of these two Scottish-based golf clothing legends into Glenmuir’s Lanark headquarters will further establish both brands at the forefront of the European golf industry supply chain.

Glenmuir has achieved significant growth over recent years and adding the European-wide Sunderland distribution to its business provides the opportunity for immediate growth and improved utilisation of its Lanark administration, warehousing and distribution facilities."

We've worked with Glenmuir over the years with our golf events and with Golf Tourism Scotland and if this ensures the growth and continued Scottish ownership of two famous brand names it can only be a good thin - good luck to all.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Letham Grange Hotel, Golf & Country Estate in Scotland being refurbished.

Letham Grange Hotel, Golf & Country Estate, one of the best kept golfing secrets in Scotland, is undergoing a £300,000 refurbishment as part of a major upgrade of its facilities.Set in 300 acres of parkland, Letham Grange boasts two 18-hole courses and the extensive redevelopment program is being undertaken on and off the course to modernise the resort near Arbroath.
Refurbishment work includes upgrading bedrooms, opening a contemporary new brasserie and bar, the launch of a new website and improving the drainage on the resort's two courses - the Old and Glens.
Jamie Le Friec, general manager at Letham Grange, said: "I am absolutely delighted to be involved in this project. My background is in developing resorts to their full potential and, with the quality of accommodation and golf that we have here, we are set for a bright future.
"We are in the middle of phase one of our refurbishment work, and exciting building development plans are under consideration at the moment which will concentrate on hotel and alternative leisure pursuits to broaden the country house, golf and leisure experience on the estate."
Letham Grange was originally an early Victorian mansion house but was converted into a golf resort at the start of the 1990s.
All 19 bedrooms in the main house are being refurbished over the winter while the new Grange Brasserie and Bar offers a choice of a la carte, two or three-course menus with sweeping views of the estate.On the course, money is being spent on irrigation, tree surgery and improving the bunkering to make the two courses playable all-year round, while further expenditure is planned in the New Year to introduce a new fleet of grass-cutting equipment for the greenkeeping staff.
And a significant new feature of Letham Grange is the new interactive website which gives visitors the chance to check room availability and book online, as well as discover what else the resort can cater for including weddings, meetings and conferences and parties and entertainment. The 6,632-yard Old Course at Letham Grange, designed by Donald Steel in 1987, has been referred to as 'the Augusta of the North', features water on 13 of the 18 holes and includes its very own 'Amen Corner' around the turn.The Glens Course at Letham Grange opened four years later and while, at 5,276 yards, the par-65 lay-out is not as tough or punishing as its older brother, it offers its own series of challenges including the testing final four holes.Mr Le Friec added: "The owners are certainly committed to the long term development of Letham Grange and, with the continued support of the membership, who have been very supportive of what is a period of significant change, I am convinced that we are laying the foundation stones to reflect what is deserved by this magnificent location."For more information about Letham Grange and its latest golf and hotel offers, go to or phone 01241 890373.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Irish Golf Looks Towards Grading

An article in The Irish Independent has raised the issue of grading and classification for Scottish Golf Clubs once again. The issued was raised a couple of years ago in Scotland when VisitScotland distributed a list of criteria fopr golf course grading and classification. At the time the issue appeared to receive short shrift from the golf courses themselves and as far as we are aware was then shelved.

The fact that the Irish are apparently going down this route is certainly interesting enough in tiself and they are now seeking someone to look after the job of grading and classification for the golf courses.

The problems behind grading and classifying something such as the golf course experience was viewed as being fraught with difficulties and in essence the fact that so little of the overall visitor experience could be measured objectively was seen as the key issue. In defence of the QA department, the draft documentation undoubtedly based on their experience in classifying visitor attractions was comprehensive. The problem in grading and classification however must be the consumer acceptance of the validity of the gradings. Two star clubhouse facilities in a remote west highland course but with 5 star views across the loch; how many points would Brora have for sheep droppings on the fairway for instance!

Our thought at the time that the document produced would have had a very positive impact on how golf courses could and should audit their own levels of service but not necessarily translate to relevant information and guidance for the visitor. It's often the case that the hammer of compulsory grading is use to crack the nut of quliaty improvement. Perhaps quality should be encouraged, not forced. It is an argument only.

Anyway, Failte Ireland has just launched a search for a "hotel-type" inspection service to rate the country's golf courses and to give those who qualify its seal of approval and under their plan it is expected that more than 200 golf courses will be assessed on things like hospitality and customer service by the end of next year and tenders to carry out the work have just been issued by the tourism authority. They also recently issued a tender document to investigate a "federated tee time search" facility.

The assessment service will look at the whole customer experience and what services clubs are providing such as the booking process, club facilities, hospitality and reception and those which meet the standard will become a Failte Ireland-approved course. Strangely similar to the proposals issued by VisitScotland.

In response to market research results, a working group developed a set of minimum standards which have just been piloted in 18 golf courses and the plan is now being rolled out across the country and the plan has the backing of the Irish Golf Course Owners Association. "We are just like restaurants and hotels, we provide a service to the people," secretary Bernard Gibbons said. "There are standards that will have to be met and it will make sure people keep to those standards."

We shall keep an eye open on how they plan to proceed.

Friday 23 October 2009

The Belfry Moves to Bookassist

Whilst not Scottish by any stretch of the imagination, it was worth highlighting that The Belfry that world famous golf resort in The Midlands has just recently converted its booking engine to use Bookassist.
The Scottish office, based in Ayr are delighted at the news and hope that some of the top names in Scottish hospitality will look once again at what the system can offer for the luxury end of the market.

Paul Melanophy, Online Manager for Quinn Hotels Group explains, "We have been using Bookassist in our two Irish hotels - the Slieve Russell, Co.Cavan and Buswells, Dublin for over 18 months. During this time there has been a dramatic increase in business through the direct online channel especially since starting the Bookassist Trafficbuilder programme. The relationship with Bookassist has been a very fruitful one and we have now integrated a third property - The Belfry, Birmingham, UK. Bookassist are very reliable and adopt a very "hands on" approach to their service. They provide an excellent product through their booking engine and their online marketing service is second to none. The Bookassist staff are always at the end of the phone and pushing the boundaries to ensure customer satisfaction."

James Kennedy from Bookassist in Scotland, "It's fantastic news that the Belfry have converted to Bookassist and they are confident that it will not only increase their conversion rates but give them much greater control of their rates and inventory, add ons and guest functionality than they had with their previous system."
From our point of view in Scotland we hope that it will let other similar properties aiming at similar markets that Bookassist is the most cost effective option for increasing their on line sales. Tied in with Channel Management, multiple languages, corporate loyalty and Agent access the system is we believe more highly specified and able to manage the top end hotel than any muber of competitive systems. We hope that the news that The Belfry are now using it may encourage a fresh look at what we can do in Scotland for the five star large room operator."
You can find out more about Bookassist on their website or contact James Kennedy directly.

Proof! Proof! Proof!

Not in the judicial sense of the word.
In the case of don't send out an email, or a newsletter or dare we say a national tourism survey until you have been through every last word and link! And if you do go through that process then always send it to your internal colleagues for them to check the grammar and typos you may have missed.
Once you've done that you can then feel comfortable and assured that your mailing is ready to go.
But then you notice the use of a word twice and feel the need to change it. What to replace it with? Snapshot. Yes that'll do. Fits well with the context of the survey.

Snapshit it is then...

Thursday 22 October 2009

TourismMatters Industry Survey

Today, the 22nd of October saw yet another report from a national business body suggesting that tourism has had a strong summer and that the industry is set fair.

Yesterday we received an open email from a highly respected hotelier suggesting quite the contrary and his comments are certainly not isolated.

Anecdotally the position appears to have been good in some places, clearly not so good in others but the idea that it's been a good year for tourism needs further research. This survey is purposely simple and as unobtrusive as possible but has been designed to give a snapshot picture of how businesses have been performing and how they themselves view the future.

We do not believe there is enough current information out there and even a snapshot of the picture across sectors and geographical areas can help. This is a completely independent questionnaire put out to a couple of thousand businesses in the tourism industry in Scotland, it may not change thinking or revolutionise the industry but it may help inform. We will publish the results fully next week with analysis and it is therefore a genuine plea for you to take two or three minutes to complete the questionnaire for your business. This survey has been sent by Plan B, who publish the TourismMatters Blog and provide marketing and consultancy services to the tourism industry in Scotland. The responses will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purposes than collating a final report which will be made publicly available.

Click on this link to take Scottish Tourism Survey

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Ryanair Propose Route Development Support

A press release issued yesterday suggests that Ryanair are pressing the Scottish Government to consider some form of route development support to encourage new tourism routes into Scotland.
The former scheme ceased under EU legislation and its loss, it has been argued, has seen a reduction in investment in new routes from the low cost carriers and others.
There is no doubt that the increase of access to Scotland has been responsible for the major increases in visitor numbers from key market places such as Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and others such as Poland.
It is clear that if their is access markets will come. The potential loss of existing routes in the current economic climate remains real and therefore any genuine activity in developing effective new inbound routes must be helpful. There is very little detail and no response on the release issued but we shall pursue and see what we can find out.
Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline, has confirmed that it has submitted a proposal to Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney whereby Ryanair would massively increase the number of routes and passengers at Scottish Airports, and reverse the 6% collapse in traffic and tourism suffered in Scotland in the first eight months of 2009 as a result of Gordon Brown’s £10 APD tourist tax.
Ryanair, which is Scotland’s fastest growing airline, confirmed at meetings today in Edinburgh that it would help the Scottish government to achieve its goal to increase Scottish tourism by 50% by 2015 if it agrees to adopt a Ryanair proposal which would encourage all airlines to develop new routes and grow passenger numbers.

Under the proposal Ryanair would deliver an additional 1.5m passengers per annum which would sustain 1,500 new jobs, reverse the traffic collapse suffered at Scottish airports this year and deliver an additional tourism spend of over £100m next summer.

Speaking in Glasgow today, Ryanair’s Michael Cawley said:

“Ryanair is the only major airline growing capacity, traffic and routes in Scotland this year. We can replicate our successes at airports such as Edinburgh in Glasgow and Aberdeen, placing the local tourism industry back on a growth path, while at the same time creating and sustaining up to 1,500 new jobs.

“Ryanair’s proposal will see the government offer any airline which commits to growing Scottish passenger numbers with route development support mirroring a very successful scheme which operated from 2002 to 2007. With such support Ryanair can counteract the damage inflicted on Scottish tourism by Gordon Brown’s £10 APD and return Scottish tourism and jobs to growth”.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Guaranteed Best Rates Will Maximise Conversion

Make Sure More of YOUR Guests Book Direct on YOUR Website.

In current times some accommodation providers still wonder why they get so many bookings from third party sites as opposed to their own.

As we’ve said before in other areas of online marketing simply put yourself in the place of the online customer and make it as easy as possible for them to find you and book with you.

One of the most asked questions we get is why am I getting more bookings from third party sites and not from my own website?

There are a number issues around website visibility, Search Engine Optimisation, content, design and others. This briefing simply looks at Guaranteed Best Rate or Best Available Rate.

Hotels offering online reservations on their own site have to make strategic decisions about what rate they offer to website visitors. Quite clearly many hotels are found in third party websites or Online Travel Agents (OTS’s) such as, for example,, HotelRooms, LateRooms, VisitScotland and

Whilst hotels this year in particular have been glad of the third party marketing undertaken on their behalf the market will continue, as with other travel sectors, to move towards booking direct and a growing shift to actually source the hotel they have found via the third party website.

Increasingly, if your site can be found by name and it offers the same or better deal, the customer will be more likely to book direct with you. By making your best available rate prominent on the key landing pages you can maximise your website conversion as with The Inn at Lathones above

Potential customers however will by nature browse and whether we like it or not this will often involve price comparisons. If they can book your hotel somewhere else cheaper they invariably will. They close down the hotel’s own booking engine and books through the third party site at a higher commission level. Sound familiar?

Okay it’s a booking but here’s the impact
  • Higher commission paid; lower room rate achieved
  • Lower conversion on your website
  • Customer details now shared with third party
The reverse is also true.

A customer searched for a hotel in your area and finds your property on a Price Comparison site. They like the sound of your property and wish to make a booking. Do they just click Book Now? Actually, no. They will still search out the best price and many will then type in your hotel’s name into their search engine, click through to it and check price and availability DIRECT! If you have Guaranteed Best Rates on your site you will have increased the chance of securing a direct reservation at a higher rate and the knowledge they are your direct customer!

So for the independent or smaller hotel that is trying to drive increased traffic through their own website is it essential that they offer a Guaranteed Best Rate assurance through their own website. If some of your marketing contracts insist on you offering them guaranteed best rates then the worst your own website should offer is “rate parity”.

It’s simple really, if the booking comes through your website, you retain the customer details and avoid future third party marketing diverting them away from you; you make the direct contact, retain the booking information and the booking is clearly direct with the hotel – something that increasingly the online buyer is considering valuable.
We've put some practical hints on what you should be doing to increase your conversion through your own site. Find out how to promote Guaranteed Best Rates on your own site

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Golf Tourism Nominations Announced

The online voting for the Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Awards is now underway ahead of the annual awards dinner to be held this year at Turnberry Resort on the 5th of November. The nominations in all categories are as follows.

HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Small Hotel / Guest House Category)
  • Brownhills Guest House, St Andrews
  • Dunvegan Hotel, St Andrews
  • Eagle Hotel, Dornoch
  • North Berwick Golf Lodge
  • Ogstons on North Street, St Andrews
  • Old Loans Inn, Loans nr Troon
  • Sandhill House, Troon
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Country House Hotel Category):
  • Ballathie Country House Hotel, Kinclaven, Perthshire
  • Culloden House Hotel, Inverness
  • Greywalls, Gullane
  • Rufflets Country House Hotel, St Andrews
  • Winton House, Pencaitland, E Lothian
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Large Hotel Category
  • Gailes Hotel, Irvine
  • Inn at Lathones, nr St Andrews
  • Kilspindie House Hotel, Aberlady
  • Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa, North Berwick
  • Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, St Andrews
  • Parkstone Hotel, Prestwick
  • St Andrews Golf Hotel
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Resort Hotel Category)
  • Cameron House on Loch Lomond
  • Fairmont St Andrews
  • Gleneagles Hotel
  • Green Hotel, Kinross
  • Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, St Andrews
  • Turnberry Resort
  • 1st Class Travel
  • Executive Travel Company
  • McLaren Travel
  • St Andrews Executive Travel
  • Scottish Travel Services
  • Top Chauffeur Services
  • Tour Drive
  • Woods Coaches
  • Carnoustie Golf Links
  • Castle Stuart Golf Links
  • Crail Golfing Society
  • Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Nairn Golf Club
  • North Berwick Golf Club
  • Prestwick Golf Club
  • Western Gailes Golf Club
  • Sam Fox, North Berwick Golf Club
  • Davie Gilchrist, Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Martin Roy, Carnoustie Links
  • Drumgolf
  • Executive Golf & Leisure
  • Golf Scotland
  • Haversham and Baker
  • Links Golf St Andrews
  • Morton Golf
  • Pioneer Golf
  • Jerry Quinlan's Celtic Golf
  • Wilkinson Travel Services
  • Ailsa Course, Turnberry
  • Balcomie Links, Crail
  • Castle Stuart Golf Links
  • Duke's Course, St Andrews
  • Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Muirfield
  • North Berwick West Links
  • Prestwick
  • Torrance Course, St Andrews

Golf Nominations for Edge Clients

The nominees for the Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Awards have just been announced ahead of the Annual Awards dinner to be held at Turnberry on the 5th of November.

We're delighted that five of our online clients have been nominated for an award including Gailes Hotel and The Inn at Lathones in the Large Hotel Category, The Old Loans Inn in Small Hotel category and McLaren Travel in the Transport Operator of the Year Category. In addition we are delighted to also provide Ogstons on North Street in St Andrews with the Bookassist online reservations engine for their website - Ogstons have been nominated in the small hotel category as well.

We wish them all the very best of luck in their respective categories.

The 5th of November is also the target date for The Edge in realtion to ensuring that the new Golf Tourism Scotland website explodes with proverbial fireworks onto the internet with the planned unveiling of the new design and content at the AGM before the dinner.

Energy Agency Prepare Online Survey

One of our clients, the Energy Agency,  has recently signed up to use ConstantContact to drive their online newsletters. The Edge have provided the training and support in getting the system up and running but also introduced the Ayrshire based team to the joys of online surveys and questionnaires. As a direct result the Energy Agency are using the survey tool within Constant Contact to monitor the effectiveness of their recent Sustainability Fair.

They have created the questionnaire which will be linked to in an email sent to all attendees of the fair asking for their opinions on a variety of issues relating to the show.

The questionnaire was easy to set up mixing open and closed, subjective and objective, ranking and multiple choice questions and will give the EnergyAgency live results as the responses are made online.

The results can then be downloaded in both spreadsheet and graph format for the client to present and further analyse.

If you need some help with your online marketing simply drop The Edge an email or call us on 02192 521404

Extremists Label Not Helpful to Trump Cause

Not sure where the PR advice is coming from now but maybe George Sorial, Donald Trump's ambassador to Scotland, may find a thesaurus useful before making his statements.
The most recent is accusing Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton was of siding with "extremists" after opposing Donald Trump's plans for a multi-million pound golf resort in Scotland.
The film star has apparently added her name to a 15,000-strong petition backing four residents at the Menie estate, near Aberdeen, who face possible eviction to make way for the US property tycoon's planned luxury hotel, housing and golf complex and accused the Trump Organisation yesterday of bullying.
You can't help but notice the way blogs go and while they aren't necessarily the most representative of media they do often capture opinion effectively.
The irony of this cannot be lost on the political chatterers is that the possible compulsory removal of landowners (undoubtedly they would become known as The Trump Clearances!) from their land appears to be supported by an SNP government who I understand have not done a volte face on the Highland Clearances when tenants were, eh, yes forcebly evicted from their premises to make way for amore profitable land use.
It's just not going to help labelling those who protest at compulsory purchase orders as extremists.

Friday 9 October 2009

Russian Language Bookings for Scottish Hotels

Scottish hotels are about to benefit from the latest language upgrade for their Bookassist booking engine and will now be able to offer a Russian Languaqge option from their own website.

Bookassist's Central Europe market has a growing business from Russia and hotel clients of the Bookassist offices in the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland are seeing an increasing demand for online services from Russian visitors. As a result, Bookassist has announced the Russian language and Russian Ruble version of its leading Booking Engine software.

The options will be available on demand to Bookassist hotel clients, along with 12 other standard languages currently available, to help hotels target this fast growing sector. Accommodation providers wishing more information can find out more from Bookassist Scotland

Two Years On and We're still Singing Loch Lomond!

How time flies, eh? It's now been two years this weekend since The Edge hit front page headlines in the newspapers with our Loch Lomond Children in Need Campaign and we thought it was as good time a time as any to reflect on the experience.

Sometimes it's difficult to define your business. Design, marketing, web development, e-commerce, promotions, PR, product development?

Daily Record get The EdgeThey all have a place but sometimes it's projects and clients that explain things better than we ever can. And to some extent that's just what our "Sing Loch Lomond for Children in Need" campaign did a couple of years back.

The project, even for us, was a big bit of out of the box creative thinking, lots of project management, developing strong and mutually beneficial partnerships, having focussed objectives and targets, strong design, effective web presence, positive e-marketing, good strong copy writing. When they all come together - and they can come together - it describes our business and our thinking and ethos better than any number of words could.

So when you secure front page Daily Record, double page spread and editorial, BBC Scotland coverage, live broadcast from a Scotland international, 500% increase in web traffic, enquiries for website advertising opportunities and a major jump in e-commerce sales through the website and a UK Top Ten record for Runrig and The Tartan Army then perhaps we should be reminding our clients that this is indeed what we can do!

Pudsey and Loch LomondThe project from start to finish was great to be involved with. Simply pitching the idea to Runrig of recording a new version of Loch Lomond was the first hurdle and it was with some considerable fortune that Steve Cullen, Runrig's manager saw the potential just as much as we did. BBC Scotland were next and likewise the opportunities of a fantastic campaign tied in with the Tartan Army's final match against Italy hit the net in style!
So we now had the lead artists, the full support of BBC Scotland. All we needed to do was convince the SFA that we could mic up Hampden and record 52,000 Scottish football fans at half time! Easy? Well actually it was and Colin Banks pulled out all the stops to make that part no problem either. He even allowed us to record the squad singing the track at Cameron House on Loch Lomond.

The Edge even produced a karaoke version of the track for the big screens at Hampden to ensure the crowd sang in time!

After that it was a rush job to get the single remixed which Runrig looked after at their Danish studios while we designed the CD and promotioanal artwork for the campaign including a Loch Lomond downloads page.
The Daily Record loved the concept and for the whole period of the campaign supported the whole thing from start to finish. Front page features were followed by double page spreads and artist interviews and readers competitions making sure the entire nation knew what was going on.

The highlight for all involved however was an unforgettable Children in Need night at the BBC Studios in Glasgow. The Edge had been asked to get three hundred Tartan Army to the studios on the night for a live rendition with Runrig; not a problem given that it was the evening before Scotland's biggest Hampden occasion in years and if you were one of that group it will live long in the memory from the march along the Clyde from the Renfrew Ferry into the studios and the most amazing piece of live television which even now raises hairs on the back of the neck watching  it.

The ending however was as usual the same. Scotland failed to qualify against Italy and the Euro Dream was over; even an early morning phone call from the record company on the Sunday morning with the amazing news that the song had charted at number nine in the UK charts couldn't lift that cloud! It must be said however that listening to Fearne and Reggie introduce Runrig and The Tartan Army was pretty cool!
Anyway, it's always worth having a look at that video all over again - it's had more than half a million views on YouTube - and if you wish buy the track on iTunes!

It was an achievement and a half and showed what collaboration can achieve. Thanks for the memories again to Steve and Runrig, Colin and the SFA, Donald and Grigor at BBC Scotland, Alex McLeish and the Scotland Squad, The Daily Record, Nigel at Active Media and of course the wonderful Tartan Army! 

New Website For Ayrshire Golf Club

Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club are now owners of a shiny new website designed by The Edge in Ayrshire.
who have been looking after Barassie's online presence for a number of years and the new design and structure simply builds on the progress made over the years.
The site is powered by The Edge's own tourism content management system, The Claymore Project, and allows club secretary/manager  Donald Wilson to update everything and anything he wishes to. He can upload minutes and files into the secure members' Section or publish visitor information and updates, change images in his gallery or even publish YouTube footage directly to the site.
New content includes a History and Heritage section which over the coming months will increasingly feature archive materials from the golf club's history - the first phase includes a PDF version of the 1937 Jubilee Book celebrating the golf club's first fifty years.
New image galleries, pro shop pages and a Short Breaks section are all aimed at increasing the visibility of the golf club to visitors as well as keeping members' informed.

The club has even taken a grip on the Social media media bandwagon and now has its own Facebook page where visitors can be come Fans of Barassie!