Friday, 22 January 2010

VisitScotland’s £150,000 bonus bill to taxpayer !! Wow

Exclusive article in The Herald has exposed that Visitscotland has paid nearly £150,000 in bonuses to its senior management. VisitScotland has also confirmed that the taxpayer handed out about £75,000 in performance-related enhancements to its chief executive Philip Riddle.

The Herald requested the figures under a Freedom of Information exercise. Apparently under VisitScotland rules, the PUBLIC SECTOR directors are entitled to bonuses worth 10% of their salary, while the chief executive is entitled to a 15% increase. It would seem that Visitscotland are reluctant to talk about the specific targets but did say "that five corporate objectives were relevant when awarding increases based on performance." These included generating income and “in kind” contributions to support the public body’s core activities, helping build a positive corporate reputation, and promoting a successful tourism brand.

The figures reveal Mr Riddle received nearly £75,000 worth of bonuses since 2004, which took his remuneration package last year to nearly £220,000. Part of his latest pay deal included around £36,000 of retrospective bonuses from between 2005 and 2007 whilst his bonus for the last financial year has not yet been approved.

Riddell Graham, director of strategy, partnerships and communication, has benefited from about £9500 in bonuses since 2005 whilst Eddie Byers, director of business engagement, received nearly £14,000 in performance add-ons in the same period. Malcolm Roughead, director of marketing, got almost £29,000 in bonuses since 2004, while Ken Neilson, director of corporate services, received about £11,000. Paul Bush, the chief operating officer of EventScotland, has benefited from payments of about £9000 in the last two years.

The Herald states that the bonusses are controversial because "VisitScotland’s performance has not always pleased MSPs."
Not pleasing MSP's?
Let's put this in perspective here. This covers a period where restructuring saw the removal of area tourist boards and in spite of promises a much greater centralisation of control, it is also the period where the flagship policy of developing a world class online booking strategy failed, it is a period where the call centre function was criticised and ultimately was removed. 

If it doesn't please MSP's how do you think the tourism industry are going to take it!

Even regardless of the merits of VS strategies over the past five years, the revalation that bonusses have been paid whilst our market share has declined will be to many in the industry quite odious.

The industry has never felt more disenfranchised than it does currently and the revalations might just be good timing. If the public sector purse requires tightening then the role and status of the national tourist board must be questioned. Whilst the rest of us are worried about Return on Investment and how we can spend our money more wisely there remains a lack of leadership, of direction of strategy to take Scotland's tourism and hospitality sectors forward in the nedct ten years.
Instead strategy and long term planning appears to have been replaced with short term promotional activity - yes for sure there will be loud shouts about work in emerging markets and the success (sic) of Homecoming Scotland in developing our world profile - but the truth is that the role of VisitScotland, and indeed the public sector as a whole in the second decade, needs a reality check and radical scaling back.
It must get back to basics understand that it's role is in defining the destination and working with other agencies such as SDI to develop a consistent message about Scotland being a great place to live, to invest and to visit.
A single message consistently promoted across the necessary multiplicity of channels. 
Visitscotland should not be a promotions business, it should not be a booking agent, it should stop producing product as if it's a tour operator. It needs to have a simple role in marketing Scotland. The rest, in our opinion is the role of the private sector - hoteliers, attractions, restaurateurs, destination management organisations, marketing associations. 
According to the article, Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said people would be “very surprised” at the revelations, which “need to be investigated” and a spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: “Any bonuses paid at VisitScotland are based on robust performance measures which have to be achieved to a very high standard.” My goodness if I hadn't read the article I would have thought it was the PR company for RBS...
Mr Mather there has never been a better time for a radical review of what Destination Marketing for Scotland really means.
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