Thursday 23 December 2010

Loch Lomond Members Buyout Near Completion

Not quite your standard membership takeover I'd suggest but then again not exactly your normal golf club. Minimum Equity stakes of £20,000 the BAA Chairman to front the club with a who's who of corporate names on the club committee, sorry on the board of the Off Shore Limited Liability Company.

According to financial reports, "Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland, whose members include Prince Andrew and Sir Sean Connery, is close to being bought out of administration by its 800 members. The members will buy the golf club, including the freehold to Dundonald Links, for £35.1m, including a £10m loan from Bank of Scotland Corporate, now part of Lloyds Banking Group.

To fund the purchase, members have been asked to contribute varying amounts of cash, with a minimum of £20,000, for an equity stake in a new company, Loch Lomond Members Golf Club Limited, a limited liability company incorporated in the Cayman Islands, that will own the club. The sale is due to complete by 31 December."

I know nothing about off shore limited liability companies running golf clubs in Scotland but I guess that they will not be collecting this year's members sub by monthly direct debit!

Do please let us know if your local golf club has considered off shore limited liability status as the solution to dwindling membership revenues... and we're not sure that Brodick Golf Club counts as off shore.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Crianlarich Hotel Chooses Bookassist

Bookassist are delighted to announce that The Crianlarich Hotel in Perthshire(but more accurately at the branch of the A85 to The Trossachs and the A82 north to the West Highlands) have started using Bookassist Online Reservations ahead of Christmas.

The 36 bedroomed three star hotel approached Bookassist less than a fortnight ago and in that time have been convinced not only of Bookassist's approach to online reservation but the support given to them by supportive account management.

It's no longer enough to just add a booking engine into a hotel website and watch the reservations come in; the booking engine must be part of a strategy that combines content with design and search and then conversion will come.

Sue McCulloch, Bookassist Account Manager for the Highlands, explained. Since the first approach from the hotel we have explained exactly what Bookassist can do for them from control of their rooms, rates and availability through to an understanding of how our code embedded into Google Analytics will help them understand how their conversion rate is improving. We've liaised in the past few days with Pole Position and Aviemore Business Solutions - the hotel's web designers and SEO teams - to ensure that the booking process is full embedded into their website with no linking out or diminishing of their branded and designs and just as importantly is found."

"At Bookassist we see booking engines being embedded in to sites which then link out of the site immediately thereby reducing conversion and even losing the booking to local competition. We explain to all our hotel partners that the Bookassist strategy is to drive increased levels of Direct Sales from their own website and reduce the dependence - and cost - of third party websites. We have no interest in driving traffic through high commission travel sites"

The Crianlarich Hotel joins a growing list of satisfied hoteliers across the length and breadth of Scotland who recognise that Bookassist provides a cost effective solution to growing their direct room sales on-line.

Ian McCaig who heads up the Scottish operation from Ayrshire welcomed The Crianlarich Hotel onboard, "One of the first properties we signed up for Bookassist in Scotland was The Drovers Inn which is just down the road and it has proved to be one of the most successful converters of business in the country. We look forward to working with the team at The Crianlarich Hotel to build their on-line sales in a similar way.

For more information on how your business may benefit from utilising Bookassist visit or contact 01292 521404

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Ski Ticketing Deals From Glencoe and Glenshee

What a great idea... not only have Glenshee and Glencoe put some great ticketing offers out there this season they have added in golf in the summer to a fantastic all year round deal.
Golf and skiing. Pure genius and probably something you'd find in a host of Alpine resorts. 

As for the skiing both Glencoe and Glenshee have an advantage card priced at £40 which then gives you 40% off your tickets throughout the season - it pays for itself after five visits.

The resorts are both selling season tickets at the low price of £170 for adults (children and seniors £99, students £110, families of two adults and two children £440). The first 500 applications received at either resort will receive a pass valid at both centres.

A year round Golf and Ski pass is also available for £485. You can choose to ski / board either Glenshee or Glencoe and enjoy a years golf at Glenisla Golf Centre, recently voted one of Scotland’s favourite courses.

The Glenshee Beginners Pass has been improved this season too. Valid on the Dink Dink, the Plastic and Claybokie its only £10 for adults, £6 for juniors under 18 and £8.50 for students.

For full pricing and current snow conditions check out the centres’ websites:

New Route from Knock to Edinburgh

flybeFlybe announced on the 16th of December a new expansion from Ireland West Airport Knock by introducing a 3-times-a-week service to Edinburgh in Scotland.

The new flights between Knock and Edinburgh will commence on the 19th April 2011 and tickets are already on sale from €36.00 one way including taxes and charges.

Flights from Knock to Edinburgh 
  • 12:40 - 13:55 Tuesday and Thursday
  • 15:45 - 17:00 Sunday
Flights from Edinburgh to Knock 
  • 11:00 - 12:15 Tuesday and Thursday
  • 14:05 - 15:20 Sunday
The new route is a significant boost to flight access from the West of Ireland as the Airport is now connected to a key city in Scotland and compliments the significant access already available to major regions in the UK including Birmingham, Bristol, East-Midlands, Leeds, Liverpool, London (Stansted, Gatwick and Luton) and Manchester.

Chief Commercial Officer for Flybe, Mike Rutter said: "With this brand new route we’re not only giving travellers from Edinburgh the opportunity of booking low cost direct travel to one of Ireland’s most popular holiday and pilgrimage destinations but also offering convenient and direct access to and from the rest of Scotland from the West of Ireland, a win-win for both economies. Despite the economic challenges of the past 12 months, Flybe has continued to expand its route network and we remain committed to expanding our route network and to providing the widest range of convenient and affordable regional services for our passengers."

Monday 20 December 2010

Golf Tourism Scotland Appoint New Chair

Trade body Golf Tourism Scotland (GTS) has named its new chairman, appointing board member Lee Derrick to the post following the retirement of Nick Hunter.
Derrick, who heads specialist marketing agency Blue Spinach, has an enviable track record, racking up more than 15 years' experience working with Virgin Atlantic, VisitBritain and Golf & Resort Management.

He says of his elevation to chairman: "Being a part of GTS has been a wonderful experience and to be given the opportunity to take the organisation forward is one that I will savour.

"I hope I can carry on the good work started by Nick and the other board members by championing our members' concerns and aspirations."

Hunter, who held the post for two and a half years, oversaw the establishment of GTS as a key player in Scotland's lucrative tourism sector. He recalls: "As far as high points, there are quite a few to choose from, but the fifth-anniversary celebrations in St Andrews sticks out."

Friday 17 December 2010

SGU volunteer award announced

According to Martin Dempster in The Scotsman, The Scottish Golf Union is urging clubs to nominate unsung heroes for a new award to be presented at a ceremony in February.
"We've seen so many fantastic examples of volunteering at clubs across the country that we felt it was important to recognise the commitment of these individuals," said Andy Salmon, Scottish Golf Development Manager. "Like many sports, golf relies on the contribution of so many people at a local level and so we are delighted to launch this new award."

The Scottish Golf Volunteer of the Year will be announced at the XOS Scottish Golf Awards in Glasgow.

"This will be a fantastic occasion and it's important that we honour golf club members involved in the grass roots of the game as well as those performing at the highest level," added Salmon.

"We look forward to receiving many nominations from clubs and while there can only be one winner, it will be great to recognise all our volunteers' outstanding efforts through this award."

The leading five nominees selected by a judging panel will be invited to attend the event, with the winner being announced on the night.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Award For Ayr Racecourse

Ayr Racecourse has been voted Racecourse of the Year 2010 for Scotland and the North East by The Racegoer’s Club - the seventh consecutive year the course has won this coveted award.

Ayr's great run began back in 2004, the first full year current owners Alan Macdonald and Richard Johnstone were in charge - and Scotland’s premier track has won the award every year since.

Huge improvements have taken place at the track over the past seven years, including the new £4.5 million Ayrshire Suite, the introduction of new fine dining restaurants including the Roman Warrior and the Chancellor Carvery. And there’s also been huge changes made to the Parade Ring and Winners Enclosure, plus the creation of the Champagne Lawn and Gardens - the perfect place to be on a hot summer day!

The honour from The Racegoers Club is highly valued by the team at Ayr, as it comes from a Club whose 6,500 members are all active racegoers. Ayr has now won the award 17 times since 1990.

Lindsey Smith, Sales and Marketing Manager at Ayr Racecourse said: “We are so pleased to have won this award, which underlines our status as one of the top racecourses in the UK. To have won the award seven times is a great feather in our cap, and we thank everyone at the Racegoers Club for voting for us.”

Western House Hotel is adjacent, indeed integral, to the racecourse and is also going from strength to strength. The hotel has recently switched its online booking system to Bookassist increasing the control of offers, rates and availability to visitors to Ayrshire racecourse meeting

Saturday 4 December 2010

The Homecoming Gathering Debacle

A more reasoned and perhaps fully detailed analysis is required but surely our office was not the only tourism and hospitality based business that watched on with incredulity at the excuses put forward by the First Minister and Mike Russell regarding the Gathering event last year. Lending money with no guarantees, with no credit checking and most obviously no real discussion with anyone outside of the "Yes, this is a Great Event Alex" crowd. There was no general belief beyond the inner wheel that The Gathering was ever going to be the major economic saviour that they had outlined ahead of the date. Not all criticism was retrospective and it certainly was not just cynics or political opportunists knocking it.

The even had displacement written all over it and the fact that it was a private venture with no liability should have precluded such disasters. The role of Scottish Enterprise, Event Scotland and the government in "underwriting" this private event is truly galling for so many operators who even then were struggling to secure finance from banks who were doubting the viability of their restaurants, hotels, attractions.

Once again the main issue that is clearly flagged up here is the Scottish public bodies inability to determine whether tourism and hospitality is to be private or public sector lead. Public bail outs of flagship events, ongoing losses for winter celebrations, absorbing of loss making public private partnerships. When is it going to change for real?

Perpetuation will simply continue to lead to a host of messed up, mixed up projects which will continue to cost the public purse money and fail to contribute positively to the private sector development of our product.

There is a Scottish Tourism Leadership Forum being held in Perth on the 9th of December. It is to be hoped that the group will have the courage to look towards radical review, overhaul and redistribution of decision making, strategy and policy. We cannot simply go on adjusting targets, distribution vehicles and minor organisational changes.

Hotel Revaluations

The owners of Westerwood Hotel and Resort near Cumbernauld has cut the property valuation by more than 25% to £16.5m. According to The Herald the company have written down its valuation by £6 million following a second successive year of losses.

Latest accounts for Westerwood Hotel Limited show the valuation of the land and buildings at the Cumbernauld venue was reduced to £16.5m at the end of the financial year to January 3 from £22m at the start of the period.

The company said the adjustment followed an independent valuation of its freehold properties by Christie & Co surveyors, completed in July. Westerwood Hotel has 148 bedrooms and an 18-hole championship golf course.

The company made a pre-tax loss of £3.2m in the year to January 3, compared with a loss of £6.2m in the preceding year and turnover increased by 2.3% annually, to £5.9m.
The business of revaluation, and knock on impacts, is one that we may seek some expert comment in the New Year, so if you know anyone who would be willing to give us an overview of the Scottish Hotel market place please let us know. We did find an interesting PDF (if you understand Discounted Cash Flows and how to balance "Distressed Values") which may shed some light if you're a bit worried about your own property value. Read "The Art and Science of Hotel Valuation in an Economic Downturn"

Read the Herald Article

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Integrating Your Online Marketing Tools

Increased integration of on-line marketing is becoming more and more important and quite rightly. And it's not just about saving time it's about practically using the tools you have a t your disposal to reach the audience you're targetting.

There is now an opportunity like never before to reach out to your current client base and utilse them through their own socail medai to promote yur products and services and it's not rocket science either. No marketing degrees, not £400 a day charges, just common sense good practice.

An example I hear you say?

England 2018 - Yes or No?
Well we all know thanks to Panorama that England are bidding to host the 2018 World Cup.... as one of our clients, we thought "Wonder what The Tartan Army think of the bid?" That was two hours ago...

Now we know that from the hundreds of responses received on-line that the opinion is actually split a lot closer than we thought it would be. The question and answer however are irrelevant, it's the methodology that's important.

The Poll Question...
Using ConstantContact we first of all created a Poll question - the email marketing package, which we've been using for must be a decade, is not only perfect for e-newsletters but also for guest questionnaires and in this instance a poll question - "Do You Want England to win the 2018 World Cup Bid"

The Blog Article...
Once the poll question was created it was uploaded to the Tartan Army blog.

Took about two minutes to do by dropping the piece of code given to us by Constant Contact into the blog editor.

We wrote a little bit of text and a headline and some tags for the search engines.

The Blog article was published and it was now live online.

The Facebook Page...
We then took the link to the Blog article and put it up on the Tartan Army Facebook page - which had just over 3500 users at the beginning of the process - and encouraged users to vote.

The link took them directly to the vote which was now live and hosted on the blog page.

The aim was not only to target the current Facebook users but build more "likes" from the articles around it.

The one thing for sure is that by tomorrow morning we'll know exactly how many more signed up and how many viewed the article.

The E-Newsletter...
Going back to ConstantContact we then created a quick and simple email which went out to more than 3000 on the mailing list - not only can we track how many were sent but we can also identify how many were opened, how many were duff addresses and most importantly the level of click throughs to every link.

Also worth noting, the option for those receiving the email to post it straight to their social media pages and the links in the email themselves encouraging visits to the Blog and the Facebook pages.

Developing Your Contacts...
Remember you need to take every opportunity to promote your on-line distribution channels and make sure you cross promote all ways of keeping in touch - for example note (on the left) that on the Tartan Army Facebook you can choose to Join their List using the ConstantContact app.

Building all your lists requires ongoing time and management but with the right direction you can achieve some stunning results with just some focussed professional support.

What About Your Business?
There is little doubt that we could all do with an additional marketing push in the coming twelve months. Your on-line marketing strategy is becoming increasingly affordable and easier to understand. Hospitality businesses across Scotland can communicate more effectively and efficiently than ever before and with some simple planning of your marketing strategies (on and off line) you can deliver some stunning results of your own.

Imagine the above was fully integrated with your online booking engine using Promo Codes to deliver targeted guests to specific dates and promotions....

Find out more information

Friday 26 November 2010

First in Fife Golf Tourism Online Marketing Workshop

Plan B, Ayrshire based leisure and tourism marketing consultants had a great morning with some of the First in Fife Golf group members at the Pitbauchlie House Hotel in Dunfermline.

The presentation coome workshop was aimed at encouraging the golf courses and accommodation providers to take more ownership of their online marketing activity and certainly rasised some solid questioning from around the room.

This is one of a series of workshops that Plan B boss has done for the golf and hospitality sectors over the past twelve months with the most recent forays being this one to Fife and in early November to members of The Kintyre Way in Tarbert.

Earlier in the year similar workshops extolling the virtues of on-line marketing took place for Golf Tourism Scotland, Scotland's West Coast Golf Links and Holiday Southern Scotland in venues as far apart as Castle Stuart in the north through Fife, East Lothian, The Borders, Loch Lomond and Ayrshire.

Ian McCaig was delighted with the Fife event, "It's great challenging the limits of golf course marketing and if we've encouraged a few more to believe that there's more they can achieve for themselves on line then it 's been a successful day"

You can read more about the First in Fife Golf Workshop here

What's the difference with VisitScotland today?

The headline is the last question in the interview with VisitScotland Chair Mike Cantlay published online at The Caterer. It is asked in the context of a series of questions about how things will change, the focus, marketing spend and activity, partnerships with DMOs and industry groups and external relationships with funding bodies and VisitBritain.

Mr Cantlay's answer is below.

"Now we have a total industry focus. VisitScotland is here to do what industry can't, otherwise why would we be here. My hope and aspiration is to drive confidence in the industry that we can do the bits that they can't, especially taking the Scottish product to the world."
I've copied and pasted this bit because to me it should be the absolute deciding factor on everything that the public sector, not only VisitScotland, should ask when planning tourism expenditure.

Visitscotland exist as he says elsewhere in the article as a destination marketing organisation and while business can assist in marketing the national destination it can't currently bring the key elements together in effective partnership. That's not to say that shouldn't be the aspiration as the greater depth of expertise still lies within the private sector.

However in the short term VisitScotland do have an important role to play in marketing Destination Scotland. Not individual promotional campaigns, not specific areas and regions, not specific product producers and suppliers but the destination. A strategic marketing responsibility that will showcase the destination to a mix of travel trade buyers and consumers through a variety of media.

So Mike Cantlay's statement should be welcomed and become the watchword or watch-sentence for all VisitScotland destination planning.

"VisitScotland is there to do what the industry can't" - It's a new mantra...

The first three questions therefore relate specifically to the sales funtion that VisitScotland still see themselves having.

1) Should VisitScotland be running call centres and Booking facilities with public money?
A call centre remains an enigma - there are plenty of tour operators and travel agents providing these services. Are we really saying that people would not come to Scotland because they can't book with a public sector call centre?

Selling rooms and packages is not something that the industry can't do...

2) Should VisitScotland be running expensive Visitor Information Centres at all?
Visitor information centres or TICs as we all knew them cost a fortune to run and again are we seriously saying that our visitor numbers or spends would be affected by their loss? Every hotel reception has a bank of information, every visitor attractions racks of leaflets. VICs with its shelves of brochures and tartan retail

Providing accurate and up to date information is not something that the industry can't do... 

3)  Should VisitScotland be selling Scotland's rooms online? 
Online marketing is a key el;element of any destination marketing strategy and it is the most cost effective method of distributing information to the potential hospitality markets be they discretionary tourists, non discretionary business, event based tourism or conference and convention marketing. That does not mean that VisitScotland should automatically have a role in being a sales vehicle. Taking such a role displaces private sector activity and has the (unintentioned, perhaps,) outcome of disincentivising business development and reducing the market place for tour operators, travel agents and direct sales. Tourist boards taking on the role of agents or operators or even product aggregator simply has the impact of increasing costs to the buyer and removing profits from the market place.
It is about time that this juxtaposition was recognised and the role of selling - however well intentioned - completely jettisoned.

Developing on line sales is not something that the industry can't do... 

It is perhaps unfair to pick on VisitScotland only but maybe this is just part of an ongoing series...

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Plans For Another Five Star Golf Resort...

It's not quite regular but there is still a trickle of announcements of new golf developments cropping up and of course the Trump one is the one that hits the headlines.

The latest is The Angus and the developer Mike Forbes was naturally keen to play it up: “This is a hugely positive decision for the community. Delivering the first five-star hotel and a championship golf facility – which will complement the famous Carnoustie links – bringing with it a massive cash injection for the local economy, was my focus when we first proposed this development.

“Tourism is vitally important to Scotland, and in Angus and Tayside we have to look at ways to ensure that we continue to attract not only overseas visitors but also people from throughout the UK.

“Golf continues to be a major draw for people worldwide and there is a real appetite to create world-class developments which will maintain Scotland’s position, not only as the home of the sport but also as the home of the finest courses.”

Now the statement has some merit for sure but some of the common statements that are rolled out should in all honesty start to be questioned.

Tourism is important to the economy of Scotland for sure and development can have positive local impacts but there is nothing to say that another five star golf resort will add new golf visitors to the country and it could probably be argued that is will have a negative effect on an increasingly crowded five star luxury sector that is failing to turn profits. Displacement is the most likely option with other resorts having to compete with increasing supply and flat demand.

There is little evidence emanating from any of our five star luxury product that making profit at the top end in tourism in Scotland is an easily profitable exercise - this can be seen in lower occupancy, massive room yield reductions, published losses, stalled refurbishments.

Okay it may not be opening for a few years but does the east coast, does Scotland, need let only can it justify two resort hotels less than an hour and a half apart competing with Gleneagles, Old Course, Fairmont and others?

I would have to say that the jury is out on whether Scotland needs or can sustain more golf and more accommodation.

When are we going to look more seriously at what over supply can do to your tourism sector?

Just look at Ireland...

Monday 22 November 2010

Gentle Masters Giant

I watched from the sidelines last week at The Golf Tourism Scotland Awards Dinner at The Marine Hotel in North Berwick and couldn't help but be impressed by the quiet dignity of guest of honour Sandy Lyle. I remember, like the rest of Scotland, watching him firstly drive into that Augusta 18th bunker and then follow it with that magnificent recovery shot in 1988.

The big man carried himself so graciously throughout the evening and it was all the more disappointing to read of his hurt by his continued absence from the World Golf Hall of Fame. He has always struck me as a most principled individual and his stance on a number of issues has maybe distanced him from some of the establishment. I suppose I was disappointed when he walked off during the open but his actions are no worse than that of many other professional golfers and are more than offset by the positive memories he has left us all

The 52-year-old confessed in an interview that he will be left with a sizeable void in his career if he is not eventually accorded the honour given that Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer are already members.

When interviewed at the dinner he said: "When my career ends it won't be a particular disappointment if I have never been Ryder Cup captain.

"I would never close the door on it happening, of course, but it looks like Jose Maria Olazabal will be the next captain in America in two years time and I think Gleneagles in 2014 is too far away for me. The age gap between me and the youngster players will be a little too severe by then and that is a big factor. Monty was still playing with and seeing the players on the European Tour whereas I am too far away from it now. But inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame would mean more to me than the Ryder Cup captaincy. It's a bit of a mystery to me why it hasn't happened, given the number of times I have been nominated. But it's the one big ambition I have left and it would be a nice way to end my career."

I can't surely be alone in thinking that Sandy Lyle deserves so much more.

Bookassist iPhone App Hits Scottish Hotels

Bookassist in Scotland are on the road from this week with the kick off of their "Account Surgeries" starting on Thursday 25th of November at The Inn at Lathones in Fife.

The series of workshops will be going around Scotland over the next eight weeks and will not only be re-enforcing how best to use the Bookassist system and maximise direct sales from their hotel website but will be introducing to the Scottish market some of the more recent additions such as the superb Bookassist Hotel iPhone application.

As mobile becomes increasingly important for all things from Ebay, YouTube videos, news, Facebook and on-line sales of all sorts, Bookassist has moved quickly to create a fully functioning web version of the booking engine for the iPhone.

The development of the iPhone version for your hotel is extremely competitively priced and can be developed in a short period of time. So if you're looking to get your hotel more ready for the mobile age give Bookassist Scotland a call on 01292 521404

Friday 19 November 2010

Bookassist Launch Online Marketing Workshops

The first of an ongoing series of Bookassist workshops is to take place on Wednesday the25th of November at The Inn at Lathones in Fife.

The informal workshop come surgery is aimed at developing the understanding of current Bookassist users and those interested in finding out what the technology can achieve for their business and will consist of a dynamic mix of tutorial and question and answer with hotels expected to share experiences and best practice.

Ian McCaig, Managing Partner in Scotland, was enthusiastic about the outcomes. "We think that bringing together businesses in an area can build understanding of not only what the software can do for the business but potentially lead to strong partnership working and support. The programme is aimed at highlighting to hotels how they can maximise the return on their online marketing investment through the use not only of Bookassist's powerful booking engine but also explaining how social media, SEO and website design play critical roles in developing traffic and thereafter conversion."

The Bookassist workshop will be fronted by James Kennedy, who is in charge of client management in Scotland and he was equally upbeat, "This is the first of a rolling series of two hour events with similar workshops scheduled for Ayrshire, Inverness, Fort William and Central Scotland. They will be used to introduce new Bookassist product and reinforce the benefits of the current functions. For example the event in Fife will feature discussions on the new iPhone App, a demonstration on getting the most out of Linked Packages, the massive conversion benefits of Promo Codes, understanding Multi-Language extensions, the time saving use of Dynamic Packaging and Deep Linking for email promotion."

Bookassist now provides the online booking engine for more than one hundred and twenty five accommdoation businesses across Scotland. Find out more at Bookassist Scotland

Thursday 18 November 2010

VisitScotland Budget Cuts

The copy below is recounted from the press release and is for reference. Once we've had time later today to look through the media we'll see what the general reaction is and where possible get a view from "the industry" in due course.

However the one thing again that keeps jumping out of every press statement and quote eminating from either the chair, CEO or VS spokespersons is this £20 return for every £1 invested.
Is anyone else sceptical? Does anyone else think it should be higher? Does anyone else think that more effective and efficient (yes perhaps reduced) spending may actually increase that ROI substantially?
Later perhaps...Here's the copy

Tourism body VisitScotland has given itsreaction to the announcement of the Scottish Government’s budget, announced yesterday by finance secretary, John Swinney.

Swinney presented his draft budget for 2011-2012, announced a pay freeze for public sector workers earning over £21,000 per annum, in order to protect around 10,000 jobs.

He also announced departmental budget cuts in enterprise and tourism as a measure of ‘increased efficiencies’ which may mean staff cuts in order to achieve a cost saving of £61m in 2011-2012 and £200m over the next three years.

Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland's Chairman said that the organization was ‘delighted’ at the recognition by the Government towards tourism that the he believed that funding levels offered were ‘still at a significant level’ in a tough financial climate.

“Scottish tourism has proved to be resilient through the recession and this shows confidence in the industry and its potential,” Cantlay continued.

"Although we face challenging times ahead, we have and will continue to deliver for tourism. We know that our activity delivers at least £20 for every £1 invested in marketing and that it is helping to grow the Scottish economy.

 "We believe that funding for tourism is an investment in economic recovery. We are committed to working together with the tourism industry to deliver sustainable economic growth and best value for Scotland. We have already made significant internal efficiency savings to release more funding for marketing activity.

 "We have been reviewing our business over the last few months, focusing on becoming more efficient and putting more of our resources into the high yield activities that bring the biggest returns for Scotland. Our Board will consider these proposals at the end of November.”

Cantlay added that despite the organisation’s budget cut, he was still confident that the refocus on the business would ensure that tourism was still ‘at the heart of economic recovery’ for Scotland that that the money it invested in marketing offered immediate return for the country, with around £400m being brought into the economy last year as a result of VisitScotland’s key marketing campaigns.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Great Value Golf Passes in Ayrshire

We've updated all the rates for the three wonderful value Ayrshire golf passes featuring West Coast Golf Links courses.

The three passes - Ayrshire Qualifier Card, Gailes Links Experience and The Prestwick Pass - are all bookable now.

Find out more about prices, times and availability on the website now

Fairfield House Offers Free WiFi

Good news for visitors is that Scotland's West Coast Golf Links hotel partner The Fairfield House Hotel in Ayr is now offering Free WiFi to all its guests.

It's also got some great deals for golf groups in 2011. Check availability at the hotel's own website with four star twin rooms from only £99 per room in May 2011 - tie in with one of West Coast Links great golf packages for a superb value Ayrshire Golf Break

Ayrshire Golf and Hotels Represented at IGTM

At the time of writing the first appointments for IGTM will be due to start and for the first time in many years Ayrshire's golf and hotel product has a co-ordinated representation at this premium event for the golf tourism industry.

The group of ten links golf courses - from Irvine Bogside south to Turnberry are represented by Guy Redford of Dundonald Links who will be meeting more than forty buyers from across Europe, North American and emerging golf markets such as Russia, China and India.

Guy said this morning, "I'm delighted to be representing the clubs and hotels out here and looking forward to generating some really positive interest in what Ayrshire has to offer both on and off the course. It's great having the materials pulled together for the first time with all the green fees, tour operator rates and playing information all collated. It's really positive to have the golf clubs recognising that collaborations with hotels, service providers and even the golf pros is the way forward. I'm very encouraged that Scotland's West Coast Golf Links has achieved this in its first year and look forward to cementing that presence over the next few days in Valencia."

Find out more about IGTM and what golf in Ayrshire has to offer for 2011 by visiting the website

Saturday 13 November 2010

Golf industry reveals Gold Standard winners

This year’s top golf honours have been announced at the glittering Golf Tourism Scotland’s Gold Standard Awards held at the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwick. The sell-out event has become the golf industry’s annual jamboree during which the very best of Scottish golf tourism is celebrated.

This year’s exciting evening culminated in Angus Watson, a leisure sales executive at the Fairmont in St Andrews, being named Young Industry Person of the Year, which carried with it an international learning journey. Earlier, Davy Gilchrist of Kingsbarns Golf Links picked up the CaddieMaster of the Year award for the second successive year.

One of the biggest winners on the night was Castle Stuart Golf Links which beat off competition from Kingsbarns and the Old Course in St Andrews to clinch the Golf Course of the Year award. In addition, Mark Parsinen, managing partner at the Highland resort, was honoured with the acclaimed Special Achievement Award.

Following a memorable Open Championship at the Home of Golf, St Andrews also had a successful night with no less than five winners hailing from the Auld Grey Toon, and two others from its outskirts. But as the chairman of GTS pointed out, this year’s winners came from across Scotland.

“It’s been a fantastic year for golf tourism throughout Scotland,” said Nick Hunter. “Scotland has hosted a number of high-profile tour events which have showcased exactly why playing golf here is so special. And despite tough times, our members have upped their game so that once again our facilities have improved and our standards of service have been fine-tuned. The Gold Standard Awards recognise the very best exponents of this process, but I think the golf industry generally should be congratulated for a job well done.”

On hand to meet the winners was two-time major winner Sandy Lyle, who highlighted the importance of the GTS awards. “Playing golf in Scotland is very special indeed,” he said. “And often what makes it special, apart from the terrific courses, are the people who arrange your trip, transport you between venues or meet you at the hotels. In my view, the GTS Gold Standard Awards celebrate the efforts of these individuals who are the golf tourism industry in Scotland.”

In all, 11 awards were handed out on the night, three of which were sponsored by some of the country’s leading businesses. Joining the awards’ host resort, the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwick, was Arnold Clark Car and Van Rental, Europe’s largest independently owned, family run motor dealer, and the Fairmont St Andrews, which hosted the G20 Summit in November 2009.

The award recipients came from every sector of the golf tourism industry. And the winners are…

GOLF COURSE OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any golf course in Scotland that offers tee-times to visitors. And the winner is:
  • Castle Stuart Golf Links
GOLF SECRETARIAT OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any golf club/course whose administration provides a service to visitors and/or the travel trade. And the winner is:
  • Crail Golfing Society
CADDIEMASTER OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any caddiemaster providing a service to visitors and/or the travel trade. And the winner is:
  • Davy Gilchrist, Kingsbarns Golf Links
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Small hotel/guest house category). Nominations for this category were open to accommodation providers with 20 or fewer bedrooms that provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:
  • Ugadale Cottages, Machrihanish
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Country house hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to hotels and exclusive-use properties operating in rural areas that provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:
  • Rufflets Country House Hotel, St Andrews
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Large hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to hotels with more than 20 bedrooms which provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:
HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Resort hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to resort hotels with golf course(s) attached. And the winner is:
  • Fairmont St Andrews
GOLF TOUR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any tour operator bringing golfers to Scotland. And the winner is:
  • Links Golf St Andrews
TRANSPORT OPERATOR OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any business providing transport services in Scotland including rail, road, air and sea. And the winner is:
  • St Andrews Executive Travel
  • Mark Parsinen, Castle Stuart Golf Links
  • Angus Watson, Fairmont St Andrews
This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design, content management, marketing and project management services to Golf Tourism Scotland and golf tourism businesses across Scotland. In addition to the website The Edge have supported GTS with social media, design and print, exhibition support and production of their Corporate Video - below.

Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.

    Thursday 11 November 2010

    Scottish Golf Tourism Industry Presents 2010 Awards

    Since its inception five years ago, the Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Standard Awards have become a must-attend event for the golf industry in Scotland. The awards ceremony took place last tonight 11th of November at The MacDonald Marine Hotel in North Berwick in East Lothian.

    List of Winners in each category
    • Golf Course of the Year - Castle Stuart Golf Links
    • Golf Secretariat of the Year - Crail Golfing Society
    • Caddiemaster of the Year - Davy Gilchrist, Kingsbarns Golf Links
    • Hotel of the Year - Small Hotel/Guest House - Ugadale Cottages, Machrihanish
    • Hotel of the Year - Country House - Rufflets Country House Hotel, St Andrews
    • Hotel of the Year - Large Hotel - Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch
    • Hotel of the Year - Resort Hotel - Fairmont St Andrews
    • Transport Operator of the Year - St Andrews Executive Travel
    • Golf Tour Operator of the Year - Links Golf St Andrews
    • Young Industry Person Award - Angus Watson, Fairmont St Andrews
    • Special Achievement Award - Mark Parsinen

    For further information on the awards please email or visit for digital images.

    Friday 5 November 2010

    Golf Course Group Hold Prices for 2011

    That’s the message from First in Fife, and it confirms the Golfpass’s position as the best value way to play on 13 fine courses in the Home of Golf – Aberdour, Balbirnie Park, Burntisland, Canmore, Charleton, Dunfermline, Elmwood, Forrester Park, Kinross Bruce and Montgomery courses, Kirkcaldy, Pitreavie, and Thornton. A 3 round Pass is still just £63, and a 5 round Pass is even better value at only £99.

    First in Fife also has its own online system for buying your Golfpass and then booking your rounds – still the only Golfpass in Scotland to offer this unique facility. Just go to, read all about our courses, buy your Pass, check tee time availability at all 13 courses, and then use your online account to book your tee times. It can all be done 24/7 and at the touch of a few buttons.

    The Golfpass can be used any time from 1 April to 31 October 2011, and on one trip, or several, to Fife. There are some supplements, so please read the full terms and conditions on the website before buying your Pass.

    You can also check out details of our hotel partners, both on and on their own websites. They will be happy to quote you excellent rates for your golf break in Fife.

    So, join the thousands of golfers who have already used the First in Fife Golfpass to enjoy great value golf in the Home of Golf – we’re waiting to welcome you!

    Find out more about First in Fife Golf on their website.
    This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design, content management, marketing and project management services to First in Fife Golf and golf tourism businesses across Fife and Scotland. The fly through video was created by The Edge using Google Earth Pro.

    Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.

    Fife Golf Pass Holds Prices for 2011

    That’s the message from First in Fife, and it confirms the Golfpass’s position as the best value way to play on 13 fine courses in the Home of Golf – Aberdour, Balbirnie Park, Burntisland, Canmore, Charleton, Dunfermline, Elmwood, Forrester Park, Kinross Bruce and Montgomery courses, Kirkcaldy, Pitreavie, and Thornton. A 3 round Pass is still just £63, and a 5 round Pass is even better value at only £99.

    First in Fife also has its own online system for buying your Golfpass and then booking your rounds – still the only Golfpass in Scotland to offer this unique facility. Just go to, read all about our courses, buy your Pass, check tee time availability at all 13 courses, and then use your online account to book your tee times. It can all be done 24/7 and at the touch of a few buttons.

    The Golfpass can be used any time from 1 April to 31 October 2011, and on one trip, or several, to Fife. There are some supplements, so please read the full terms and conditions on the website before buying your Pass.

    You can also check out details of our hotel partners, both on and on their own websites. They will be happy to quote you excellent rates for your golf break in Fife.

    So, join the thousands of golfers who have already used the First in Fife Golfpass to enjoy great value golf in the Home of Golf – we’re waiting to welcome you!

    Thursday 4 November 2010

    Castle Stuart Collects More Plaudits

    Castle Stuart's list of credits simply gets longer as time goes on. The most recent "award" in in a recent Golf Digest article which heralds it as "the first great links of the 21st Century."

    Hugging the coast of the Moray Firth, and the bluffs above it, Scotland's Castle Stuart was named as Overseas Destination of the Year by Golf Digest magazine in The States and simply confirms the view that has become one of the must play links courses in Scotland.
    The article highlighted the course,
    "Not that Scotland needed another great golf venue, but it has one in Castle Stuart Golf Links, a resort layout closer to Royal Dornoch than St. Andrews in distance and architecture. Co-designed by managing partner Mark Parsinen, a transplanted Californian, and American architect Gil Hanse, Castle Stuart might be the most perfectly conceived and executed design ever built. The first three holes on each nine hug the coastline of the Moray Firth, a thumb of the normally tempestuous North Sea made docile by extensive sea walls. The rest of the course is mostly atop a plateau, and the stair-step nature of the routing and shaping create the impression that every green is hanging right over the edge of the water. Call them infinity greens. Castle Stuart is more than 18 pretty faces. Parsinen and Hanse provided wide corridors to reduce the possibility of lost balls and to increase the excitement of recovery shots. Strategies are constructed around approach angles into generous but subtle greens. Each hole is as easy to read as a billboard, if you're not distracted by the stunning panoramas. As thrilling a trek along the ocean as Pebble Beach or Casa de Campo, Castle Stuart is the most stimulating and thoughtful architecture I saw all year. overnight destination of the year
    Find out more about this wonderful golfing experience at Castle Stuart Golf website

    Monday 1 November 2010

    Fife Golf Partnership Taking Shape?

    The latest in a long line of public sector funded golf initiatives is about to get off the ground apparently. Fife Council commissioned BRS to "see what the appetite would be to establish a collaborative, Fife-wide golf marketing and development organisation, the planned Fife Golf Partnership."

    According to the information sent out this will be a partnership between public and private sectors, but industry led and a group in the Fife golf industry have been invited to attend "to define the role, functions, management and operations of the planned Fife Golf Partnership." and they will focus on the key question
    “How can Fife maintain its premier international position and reputation as the Home of Golf?”

    The meeting will be held on Wednesday 1st December 2010, at Ladybank Golf Club and if you're not one of those involved you can find the summary market research report on the Fife Tourism Partnership Web Site.

    The question that automatically jumps out is a big why? Does Fife need an overarching body to develop golf tourism in the area. Is it going to replace the work done by others? Or is it going to duplicate? The fact it's taken nine months to get to the point of a first meeting must be worrying.

    We're aware of the East of Scotland Golf Alliance - with a remit to create cross boundary co-operation between East Lothian, Fife, Perth and Kinross; First in Fife Golf - group of courses developing product and marketing with a range of external parties; Links With History is a partnership with four courses in Fife; Visit scotland still have a role to play in developing Fife Golf at a local level; then there's St Andrews World Class and perhaps most stirkingly Golf Tourism Scotland which put forward proposals for regional golf development groups in an integrated structure some four years ago.

    The problem again is clear. The fear is that the new group is going to sit in splendid isolation in Fife having dotted line links with other bodies and little no co-ordinated strategic development.

    What is needed is not another isolated golf group but the joining up of the ones we have; the creation of a logical golf tourism framework under the auspices of Golf Tourism Scotland still seems to this outsider as the most logical way forward for tourism related bodies. It is quite clearly not a role for the councils nor for the Scottish Golf Union.

    What about it GTS?

    Thursday 28 October 2010

    Gailes LInks Course Guide

    Great new addition to the Gailes Links website has been unveiled with  a fantastic Video Course Guide.

    Gailes Links, also known as Glasgow Gailes, have introduced a short video on their
    web home page showing the course, clubhouse, practice facilities and other amenities.

    Even more impressively they have on their web site an “Interactive Video Course Guide” - (right). 

    You can click on a hole number to view the video fly through with expert commentary from John Greaves, PGA Professional, and the Golf Pro at Gailes Links.

    Gailes Links will be represented at the forthcoming  International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Valencia with the rest of Scotland's West Coast Golf Links on the Visitscotland stand.

    Wednesday 27 October 2010

    Gold Award for Isle of Eriska Hotel

    Success is golden for a luxury hotel near Oban which has been presented with the highest award given by VisitScotland.

    The Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa and Island has won the gold award for country houses — a testament to its outstanding service — having already achieved VisitScotland five-star status.

    The hotel, which stands on its own small island, accessed by bridge from Benderloch, first gained its five-star rating five years ago and has continued to strive for excellence since.

    Beppo Buchanan-Smith, managing director of the family business, said: “I am very proud of the team who work here.

    “They work endlessly and tirelessly to produce the standard of service that we have.

    “People get the choice to go anywhere in the world, but what sets us apart in Scotland is our level of service and hospitality.

    “It sets us as a world-class destination.

    “I can invest all that I can into the facilities, but it is down to the service and the standards of the staff that actually creates that.”

    VisitScotland’s regional director, David Adams McGilp, said: “I’m delighted that the hard work and dedication of the Isle of Eriska Hotel has been rewarded with five gold stars.

    “Establishments such as the Isle of Eriska Hotel really are the leading lights in tourism when it comes to exceptional quality and service in accommodation provision.

    “The rewards of these gold stars will be reaped not only by the hotel, but also by their customers and, by extension, Scottish tourism as a whole, as we work together to encourage visitors to Scotland to stay longer and spend more.”

    The hotel has also been shortlisted in the Taste of Scotland category at the Scottish Thistle Awards.

    Monday 25 October 2010

    Ayrshire Golf Group Head For Travel Market

    Scotland's West Coast Golf Links are delighted to confirm that they will be attending the International Golf Travel Market in Valencia this November alongside industry partners on the VisitScotland stand.

    Group Chairman, and Prestwick Golf Club Secretary, Ian Bunch was delighted that the marketing group were going to be represented, "IGTM presents an exciting opportunity for Scotland's West Coast Golf Links to promote the golf destination of Ayrshire to the travel trade. Whilst we are hardly unknown there is more to the area than many realise and this market gives us the opportunity to present our product clearly to the travel trade."

    The group will be represented by Guy Redford from Dundonald Links who is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities the event offers. "We've believed for some time that Ayrshire needed a presence at key travel trade events and we are sure that being at IGTM will open up some great new business relationships not only with the golf courses but also the accommodation providers all over Ayrshire."

    Find out more about Scotland's West Coast Golf Links on their website and get the low down on IGTM online
    This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design, content management, marketing and project management services to Scotland's West Coast Golf Links and golf tourism businesses across Ayrshire and Scotland.

    Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.

    Ayrshire Business Celebrates National Award

    The Old Loans Inn, the hotel, bar and restaurant near Troon, part of the privately owned SimpsInns hotel group based in the heart of Ayrshire, reached dizzy new heights this week after being announced as winner of the Scottish Licensed Trade News (SLTN) award in the category of “Best New Business” for 2010.

    Based in the village of Loans near Troon, The Old Loans Inn was short-listed for the prestigious award before taking top plaudits at the glittering ceremony hosted by TV personality Tess Daly at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on Thursday night.

    The much sought-after SLTN awards, now in their 15th year, identify stars of the hospitality industry with the category of “Best New Business” fiercely contested after organisers received hundreds of entries across Scotland.

    Owner Malcolm Simpson was delighted with the recognition, "The award is tremendous acknowledgement for all the effort, commitment and dedication that our entire team deliver on an ongoing basis.”

    The Old Loans Inn has also been nominated for Hotel of the Year in the Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Standards Awards, which celebrate the very best in Scottish Golf Tourism. With this nomination we are now in the running for four awards over the next month.

    This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design, marketing and on-line booking services to The Old Inn and hospitality business across Ayrshire and Scotland.

    Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.

    Travel Award For Fairmont St Andrews

    The five-star Fairmont St Andrews has been named as Scotland's best golf resort and spa by the World Travel Awards. Beating off competition from a number of the world’s best golf courses – including Gleneagles, Turnberry and Cameron House – the Fairmont boasts two championship golf courses, the Torrance and Kittocks, and has played host to a number of prestigious events, including both the Open Championship's final local qualifying and the Scottish Senior Open. 

    “Over the years we have collected many awards but to receive one that recognises both the golf and spa sides of our operation is particularly special,” said Charles Head, general manager of Fairmont St Andrews. “I know everyone works very hard to maintain consistently high levels throughout the resort and things like this make it all-the-more worthwhile.” 

    With thousands of votes cast by travel professionals from 183,000 travel agencies in more than 160 countries globally, winning a World Travel Award has become one of the highest accolades a travel product can receive.

    SimpsInns Announce Latest Development for Irvine

    The site of Irvine’s Golf Hotel is set to be transformed into a continental-style bar and restaurant.

    This week, new owners Malcolm and Karen Simpson, of SimpsInns, confirmed they had big plans for the former hotel in Kilwinning Road which will see the hotel being torn down within a year as work starts on Si! Restaurant and Bar.

    The ambitious project boasts a two-storey restaurant and bar complete with a balcony for al fresco dining. And it will bring 40 jobs to the town. Malcolm and wife Karen, who also own the Gailes Hotel, the Old Loans Inn and travel company, Wilkinson Golf, have also bought over the Waterside Inn in Seamill.

    The Waterside is set to be transformed into a five-star hotel and spa, the likes of which have never been seen in North Ayrshire.

    As Malcolm showed the Irvine Herald his ambitious plans for Si! and the Waterside Hotel he said: “The Golf Hotel site deal has taken some time to put together but we are finally at the planning stage.

    “I had a clear vision for the sort of restaurant and bar that I wanted to see open in Irvine and to achieve that I felt it was best to start with a clean canvas and knock the old hotel down.

    “We want to create somewhere fairly informal but with quality dining along with a bar offering continental lagers and somewhere different.

    “We anticipate creating 40 full-time and part-time jobs at Si! and a further 140 at Waterside. We are in pre-consultation with North Ayrshire’s planning department who have been very supportive and we are working closely with Irvine Bay Regeneration.”

    SimpsInns are also about to launch their first ever loyalty card for customers to gain points, whatever hotel or restaurant they choose.

    This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design, on-line reservations software and online marketing services to SimpsInns and their businesses at Old Loans Inn near Troon and Gailes Hotel in Irvine and hospitality and tourism businesses across Ayrshire and Scotland.

    Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.

    Friday 22 October 2010

    McCaig Electrical Celebrate 25 Years in Business

    Twenty Five Years on – From kitchen table to staff of 50 and electrical contractor John McCaig & Sons has celebrated a quarter century business.

    The milestone was marked with an open day held at the company’s old farm road premises in Ayr and has been further enhanced by a short-listing in the annual Select Awards.

    To help with the celebrations customers and suppliers of John McCaig & Sons attended to show their continuing support.

    Director Frances McCaig said: “ We were delighted at the turn out for our open day, it is with the help and support of such people that has made the past 25 years such a success”.

    John and Frances started the business in 1985, where they worked from their family home, while looking after their two young sons before moving to a leased premises in York Street in Ayr.

    It was always their aim to own premises and they and they achieved this in September 2008. The prominent block 3 Old Farm Road became available and it proved to be ideal for the rapidly expanding business, which now employs 50.

    It was always there wish that their two sons joined the company and they were delighted both of them decided to do so.

    Frances said: We thought it was extremely important John and Jamie had a trade behind them, so both served their apprenticeships as electricians”.

    John now holds the position of Contracts manager and Jamie is Estimator/Buyer.

    Dad John said : “ we feel the experience both our sons have within the company stands them in good stead for the many years they have ahead of them”.

    In 2005, Robert Stirrat, who started working for John McCaig & Sons in 1998, was made a Director. Robert started off as an electrician and has worked through the ranks.

    This article is just one part of the on-line Business Development and PR support available to all clients of The Edge Studios. The E-dge provide web design services to McCaig Electrical and business across Ayrshire and Scotland.

    Contact us by email or telephone 01292 521404 for further information on how we can help develop your on and off line business.