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."