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

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