Wednesday 31 March 2010

What Are You Doing for the 2010 Olympics?

Interesting link came through from the Chamber of Commerce this monring outlining the 2012 Games-related Tourism Objectives for Scotland.

Raising our Profile – We want to provide a sustainable boost to the visitor economy. Hosting football events at Hampden Stadium will raise the profile of Scotland and we will maximise the potential this opportunity creates.

Visitor Economy - Growing visitor numbers to Scotland before, during and after the Games, securing increased Scottish visitor numbers a lasting legacy. To persuade independent visitors to extend their stay with a visit to Scotland to offer a complementary visitor experience, such as taking advantage of the myriad of activities the Scottish landscape can provide.

Showcasing Scottish culture - We want to use the 2012 Games and the Cultural Olympiad as a catalyst for greater involvement in cultural activities across Scotland and to enhance the image of Scotland as a stimulating, friendly and bold place.

Improving tourism and hospitality skills - We hope to make use of new hospitality and tourism schools to improve tourism skills in readiness for the 2012 and 2014 Games

Encouraging athletes to Pre-Games Training Camps in Scotland

Plans for 2010 - 2011

Scotland's main plans for the financial year 2010 to 2011 are as follows:
  • To encourage the Scottish travel trade to make links with Sports travel agencies and ticketing providers to develop add-on Scottish packages to those visiting the Olympics.
  • To work with VisitBritain to influence their long-haul marketing so that it highlights Scotland as a wonderful place to visit before or after the Games.
  • For the pre-Games period to encourage tourism to Scotland with Torch Relay and cultural activities, such as the Hansel of Light Voyage, a spectacular voyage of two yachts from Shetland to London, offering gifts of light to ports and highlighting the 2012 Games. 
You can find out more about these plans on the Visit Britain Scotland Olympics page

I would also recommend that you have a wee read at the press page for Scotland on VB's press centre. As others see us...

North East Needs Improved Accommodation

According to findings, published by Scottish Enterprise, “improved tourism accommodation is key to the future economic success” of the North East of Scotland area.

They say that a variety of niche resorts, boutique hotels, self-catering lodges, spas and quality fully services hotels are needed to fill gaps in the tourism market.

David Littlejohn, director of industries and infrastructure at Scottish Enterprise, said the area offered “significant opportunities” to attract “investors and developers in the tourism and leisure industry.”
According to the article in the Press and Journal, Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage are investing a combined £5.8m into the area’s tourism sector.

The Royal Deeside and the Cairngorm Destination Management Organisation’s tourism development manager, John Carnie, backed the reports findings saying, “There seems to be a shortfall in terms of serviced accommodation or hotel accommodation whereas there has been a 25% increase in self-catering accommodation over the past few years. We also think there may be potential for a small scale resort type development,” he said.

VisitScotland’s Regional Director, Ken Massie, added: “As is the case in many parts of rural Scotland, capital investment will be key to improving the visitor experience and guaranteeing a sustainable future in tourism for the region. Tourism growth is critical to the economic future of Scotland and rural areas have a huge role to play here.”

The article however finished with what seems to be the obligatory press statement for politicians across the country when asked about tourism, with north-east MSP Nanette Milne calling on VisitScotland and the Scottish Government to do more to promote the area’s tourism industry. She said: “I believe that there is not enough focus from VisitScotland on promoting the north-east, even though there is so much on offer."

So does North East Scotland need more varied accommodation?

Do Tourism Businesses Deserve the Public Sector Spend?

“Isn’t it time businesses asked themselves if they deserve support? Why should they get help when the butcher down the road does not.”
Peter Lederer
We have to say, "Well said Mr Lederer", but there’s more than a few of us who wish you hadn’t waited until a week before leaving your post as Chairman of VisitScotland to say it so publicly and with such clarity. Many will have been well aware of your feelings and how you fundamentally believe that tourism, perhaps the most free of free markets, needs to be driven by the private sector.

Many of us also fundamentally believe that over the past ten years it has been VisitScotland’s interventionism (in areas of product promotion, micro destination and micro-product marketing and most horrendously in the role Visitscotland decided to play in becoming a travel trade player with it’s disastrous strategy) that has impacted upon the dynamism of the private sector.

In intervening in these and other areas the smaller non VAT registered businesses have been spoon fed a diet of local, regional and destination marketing support that has become the staple, even sole, part of their promotional menu.

Unsustainable Tourism Information Centres still abound for no more than political purposes; an administrative heavy centralised national tourism organisation still exists with far too much involvement in far too many, too specific areas such as product promotions and, still, online selling.

As long as the public sector continue to carry on with these activities, the entrepreneurial tourism operator will have less opportunity to develop. They cannot compete with the public sector purse and therefore they do not innovate nearly as effectively as they would if the playing field was level.

In his interview as outgoing chairman interview Peter Lederer, “issued a stark warning to the Scottish tourism industry to rise above an ingrained “dependency culture” and learn to rely on its own resources and initiative rather than rely on public-sector support.”

It is clearly the right thing to say but why oh why did VisitScotland continue to oversee a growth in activities that were clearly counter to this ethos?

Peter Lederer continued, “I have been frustrated by sections of the industry not taking a lead and taking things forward themselves. It still feels like a large part of the tourism industry is living in a dependency culture. In fact it is one of the best-supported industries in Scotland at national and local level, and yet Government agencies can never do enough to please. Isn’t it time businesses asked themselves if they deserve support? Why should they get help when the butcher down the road does not. Are they doing their bit to support growth in tourism by investing in quality, and ensuring they understand and meet their customers’ needs?”

In short, the clear answer to the questions that he asks, is that businesses do not deserve the support. My local record shop is struggling away competing for business against online, off shore, non VAT liable, music giants and he doesn’t have a 120 page full colour brochure printed with his picture and contact details on it. Nor does he sit there expecting the local council to send him 50 CD buying customers to justify their existence. Why should a non VAT registered lifestyle business expect any different? Indeed why should any tourism business expect any different.

That probably sounds brutal but unfortunately life for many small businesses is brutal just now and Lederer is absolutely right; businesses must take the lead in developing their own products and services and understand the strength of good collaborations. They should not however expect these collaborations to be underpinned for a three year period by public sector funding “until they can become self sustainable”. I’m not sure that any more than a tiny percentage of government, VS, enterprise or council funded or supported tourism initiatives or organisations have ever become “sustainable”. We all can list a dozen organisations that have taken the money set up and vanished just as quickly.

That profligacy continues even today and somewhere in the country there will be another public sector funder pouring money down another three year hole.

The public sector role in tourism spending must be curtailed and curtailed sharply. I am pretty sure I must have written about this before but much of the expenditure is geographically protectionist and ultimately aimed at displacing visitors from one area of Scotland to another, to become Scotland’s 'must visit' destination. This puts Highlands against Fife, Aberdeenshire against the Borders and taking it to its most ridiculous East Ayrshire against North and South.

The counter to a diminishing role by the public sector therefore has to be a more mature and proactive private sector that has to build in realistic joint ventures and marketing plans – and expenditure – into attracting the business it needs to grow, reinvest and grow further. The responsibility for marketing Scotland therefore must shift.

But not everyone sees it in the same way and in an interview in The Scotsman today (31st of March) George Kerevan, former chair of Edinburgh Tourist Board, appears to argue that more needs to be spent [by the public sector?]. He rightly in my opinion states that “tourism remains a Cinderella industry at a UK level – with limited political support, a limited skills base and poor productivity” but then ruins it by saying that “Yes, it needs a bigger marketing budget but that is only part of the answer.”

When politicians come out and say tourism needs a bigger marketing budget the assumption is that they mean more expenditure by the public sector. Mr Kerevan hits out at cuts in VisitBritain budgets; yet many, perhaps most in the industry didn’t shed a tear at those reductions. Does he really mean that we should be spending more marketing money at VisitScotland level? Or council level? Or just “in general”?

Banging the same drum can become repetitive but it’s not that we’re not spending enough on tourism in and to Scotland; it’s that we’re not spending it efficiently nor effectively.

The VisitScotland shift to “buy in” opportunities where the businesses have to pay for what they get is undoubtedly correct but it has to be implemented with a system that allows that same private sector buyer to input to the strategy. Same drum again but a lack of appropriate structures will inevitably lead to lack of engagement.

In the same Herald interview David Smythe, chairman of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: “ “The fact is that the good people are taking a lead themselves and getting on with their business, just as the designation management organizations have taken advantage of the funding. There will always be some businesses who ask ‘What has VisitScotland done for us?’, and that’s just not fair. The organisation does the big picture stuff very well and I give Peter Lederer high marks in a very difficult job where you can’t please everyone.”

I would probably tend to agree. On the big picture stuff VisitScotland has turned itself around under Peter Lederer’s tenure, and in such challenging circumstances, they have actually done the “Big Picture” stuff increasingly well; international profile, destination marketing, effective branding have all been major plusses in the last decade. Surely therefore “concentrating on the knitting” should be the strategy going forward. Concentrate on the destination marketing development that is required and reduce the expenditure on the detail and leave the private sector to pick up the proverbial baton.

Perhaps it is time for government, at all levels, to recognise its role is to facilitate the development of tourism; it is time for the private sector to accept the detailed responsibility and the financial commitment required to make it happen.


And all the very best to Peter Lederer!

Thursday 25 March 2010

Administrators called in as Scottish airline fails

Sadly it has been announced that Scottish airline Highland Airways has ceased operating as administrators have been called in.

The carrier operated a fleet of nine aircraft on various contracts including routes from Inverness and Oban to the Western Isles as well as Cardiff to Anglesey.

Routes included Inverness to Benbecula via Stornoway and Oban to Tiree, Colonsay and Coll. Highland, which employs approximately 100 people, is in contact today with those passengers who had been expecting to travel in the coming weeks.

Bruce Cartwright and Graham Frost of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Scotland were appointed as joint administrators last night and warned of redundancies.

The company had experienced a period of difficult trading which was further exacerbated by recent bad weather which grounded the fleet for a significant period and the loss of three contracted routes in the last six months of trading.

Administrators said they believe there are around 800 forward bookings at an approximate value of £50 per flight. Funds for flights booked in the last two months and not flown have been retained separately from company funds, PwC said.

But no refunds will be made for cancelled flights and passengers are being advised to contact their credit card or insurance company.

Cartwright said: “The company had encountered trading difficulties including the loss of certain contracts.

“As a result they were in discussion with a number of parties over a period of time with a view to developing a new and viable operating model.

“The directors have now concluded that the option of maintaining operations while introducing a new investor is no longer feasible.

"As administrators we are conscious that Highland provided a valuable service within Scotland and Wales and we will be working with contracted customers to ensure an orderly handover of services to new operators wherever feasible.

“It is inevitable that there will be a substantial number of redundancies but we will endeavour where feasible to assist the work force in securing employment with the new service providers.”

Customers are advised to visit the Highland Airways website for further information.

Tories Call For Increase in Support in Perthshire

According to a press release Tory MSP Murdo Fraser has called on VisitScotland and the SNP Government do more to promote Perthshire.

Mr Fraser said Tourism was Scotland’s biggest industry, certainly in the Mid Scotland and Fife Region which he represents, “In Perthshire, tourism is by far the largest employer and if we are to see a strong economy in rural areas then we do have to ensure growth in tourism,” 

“Unfortunately, the changes to VisitScotland and centralising the organisation have created an organisation which is less accountable to the tourism industry in Perthshire and local tourism operators cannot put their case on how best to market the area. The voices of local tourism operators must be heard at the top of the industry in order for local needs to be met and local opportunities to be developed.It is important that we have the appropriate infrastructure in place in Perthshire for our tourism industry. VisitScotland and the other SNP Government agencies must do more for tourism promotion in Perthshire.”

This follows on our "rant" the other day on how we rued the fragmentation of Scottish Tourism on which we got some robust feedback!

The central theme to our argument is not that government needs to invest more but needs to ensure somehow that the expenditure is efficient and effective and not simply duplicated as it currently is. I recall many years ago that one of the main measures on whether public sector spending was whether it caused dispalcement, that is did it just move jobs or activity or revenues around Scotland rather than adding new economic benefits. The same strict rule should be applied immediately to public sector expenditure relating to tourism and hospitality.

The role of the public sector in tourism for sure needs clarification; VisitScotland is not there to micro manage tourism destinations at a local level but it must give clear structures, guidance and means of communicating.

The private sector has to understand that a national tourism body may be able to fulfill the role of raising awareness and interest and perhaps even the desire but it's very much down to the private business to convert the potential visitor into action.

It sounds boring but without a robust organisational structure this simply CANNOT take place. It is in the hands of the Scottish Governement to facilitiate; no-one else can.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Open Rooms Website for Ayrshire Cottage

When we at The Edge developed our SiteBuilder Lite and the subsequent Open Rooms CMS Website package for accommodation providers it was always with the veiw that as an entry level pacakge it should provide good solid design backed up with easy to use content management and supplemented by strong SEO from the outset.

If ever there was an exampale of what we were trying to achieve it's been over the past few days with new business Rose Cottage in Maidens.

The cottage has been bought by Guy and Jo Redford and will be let out to families and golf groups seeking quality self catering accommodation a mile from Turnberry.

Following agreement to go ahead with the development of an Open Rooms website on the Friday the site has already gone live on the Tuesday with new domain name, content, imagery and every page tagged and submitted. The cottage now has its own Google account complete with Picasa Gallery, Google Analytics account and content managed website.

There is no reason why any tourism business regardless of how small should not have a porfessional presence on the internet. Jo provided us with about ten pages of copy and a couple of dozen digital images of the preoprty which gave the feel for both the product and the market place. In return we've produced a high quality entry level Content Managed website which they can now drive forward.
It is anticiapted that they will add Bookassist online availability in the next few weeks and the availability checker jsut simply drops into the site.

If you are a self catering operator in Scotland or indeed beyond and you haven't looked at your online marketing strategy in the past couple of years you really could do worse than have a look at what an entry level website should comprise of.

All the very best to Jo and Guy from the Edge!

"Tourism is Getting its Act Together" (Alledgedly)

According to the STF newsletter, "Jim Mather Minister for EET committee called for a tourism debate in Parliament last wednesday.

The Minister commented 'the industry is getting its act together, very much a leading sector and one that has importance beyond its direct economic proposition.'"

Now I'm not sure whether this is just me having another cynical moment but with the exception of limited pockets of joint marketing and development partnerships and some strong and positive collaborations it can hardly be said that Scotland's tourism industry is getting it's act together.

It is a statement of proposterous hyperbole when all you have to do is type "Scottish Tourism" into Google alerts and watch for the disfunctional, disjointed, disaggregated and duplicated projects, organisations and initiatives across the country.

What there is, is a plethora of projects taken on by positive well intentioned, motivated groups of individuals; creating DMO's, area marketing initiatives, product groupings, online marketing. But what they all have in common is that they are working in isloation; they are not as Mr Mather insists getting "their act together" in anything that even resembles strategic planning.

They are not joined up in any sense and no formal communciation flows exist neither up nor down across the sector.

Of all of the people who should not be making such statements, Mr Mather must surely be one. He can quote every management theory ever applied in business management so the simple concept of Goals Down, Plans Up is not alien to anyone who has listened to him speak around the country. He is an extremely intelligent individual with a very strong vision and apparent desire to effect change. But change needs to be an action not a discussion. And making inane statements about an industry as clearly disjointed as tourism getting its act together does little for either party.

Strategy implementation needs structure. The dismantling of the ATB network was long overdue but it was replaced with informal communications and informal communciations do not lead to co-ordinated implementation. The net result of removing formal communications was fairly predictable and Scotland's now left with a tourism organisation that can, after restructuring, talk more effectively to itself but has forgotten in large part how to absorb inbound communications.

Every time the quote claiming that this initiative or that project is another great example of how Scottish tourism is rising to the challenges of a difficult marketplace there is a counter argument running deep that would state that here we go with another duplicated project using more public funds for narrow local issues. Positive projects not fulfilling their potential abound simply because they are being developed and implemented in isolation from prospective partners across the country.

Council funded initiatives and alliances, Visitscotland Growth Fund projects, SE and HIE investments, Leader money. Lots of public money is being spent of that there can be little doubt. The argument that public money is being spent well or spent wisely is an entirely different proposition.

One thing is for certain, this fragmented public expenditure is not being spent under some grand strategic tourism plan and someone really has to step up to the mark and explain why not?

This may be an industry (it may actually be more of an eclectic group of businesses which sometimes share common markets)but it is likely to be "an industry" which over the next five years will actually face more challenges post recession than during it.

There is NO framework, there is NO clear communications structure, there is NO clear direction, there is NO clear leadership.

Strategic thinking is required to deal with future isses of supply and demand, with changes in international marketing, with product development, with structure and communications, taxation and capital investment, with mis-spending, with the role of councils in tourism, with a whole host of areas relating to tourism and hospitality.

Tourism businesses need a lot more than to be told it's getting its act together.

MSc International Tourism Enterprise

I guess it's the sort of thing Tourism matters should be promoting more of. Education is absolutely critical to the future of tourism to and in Scotland and improving understanding of the business at secondary and tertiary levels is really not given the coverage or support we should. So it's a commitment from now on to promote education and training more prominently in the blog.

First one comes from STF's weekly newsletter promoting the MSc International Tourism Enterprise at Glasgow Caledonian University.

"The only MSc International Tourism Enterprise in Scotland offers flexible modes of study both full and part time. The course is created to maximise opportunities in specific areas of enterprise: Tourism, Hospitality, Heritage or Events. Designed to develop knowledge and leadership skills contributing to the successful development of tourism enterprise. Combines management development skills, with understanding of international contexts.

The course holds varied opportunities and prospects for developing a future in the international arena of tourism, whether seeking to establish and enterprise or career progress through management and development in the chosen sector."

Please click here to download the prospectus for more information. Moffat Scholarships of £3600 per annum are available for this course. 

Monday 15 March 2010

Fife Golf Alliance Consultants Appointed

Edinburgh based BRS have been appointed to investigate the merits of a new Golf Alliance in Fife. The project which has been commissioned by Fife Council will undertake an audit of the Fife Golf Product and research and investigate the viability of setting up a Fife Golf Alliance. The work is planned in two phases, the first to assess the opportunity, the second, if positive, to help set up and hand over management of a Fife Golf Alliance.
You can get more information on the project's objectives at the Fife Golf site set up by BRS.

We don't know how this fits in with other plans about including the SGU Framework which has been floating about for a couple of years. We do know that Golf Tourism Scotland produced their own structure plan a couple of years back which was aimed at creating strong communication links at natioanl, regional and local level. There's little doubt that increased communication is required not only between golf tourism related businesses in each area but also between regions. The duplication of resources, expenditure and marketing crossover continues to be wasteful and in the end analysis detrimental to the industry. More joined up thinking at a national level with clear structures and responsibilities would be nice.

Golfers Clear Argyll Water Hazard!

Interesting article in the For Argyll website introducing Golf Links Express an offshoot of the award-winning Loch Lomond Seaplanes business which will offer golfers  a 20 minute seaplane flight to some of Argyll’s spectacular golf courses from prestwick International Airport.
As one with memories of the golf tourism potential of linking Ayrshire, Argyll and Antrim by ferry the new route is more than interesting. In the mid nineties Celtic Links developed packges in conjunction with Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet company which created three or four centre golf breaks with joined up sailings between Ballycastle and Campbeltown, Argyll and Arran, Arran and Ayrshire and Troon to Belfast with the old Seacat.
So the idea that these can be linked by air shows great promise for this niche golf market for sure.

David West, from Loch Lomond Seaplanes, puts the logic of the development and paints an enticing picture. He says: ‘Prestwick International Airport already welcomes tens of thousands of golfers every year but many rarely venture further than Ayrshire because of the travel time by road. Now they can access some of the best links courses in the world within minutes. Golf Links Express will be able to carry up to 10 golfers and their clubs from Prestwick to Islay in around 25 minutes, on to Machrihanish in 15 minutes then to Loch Lomond in another 25 minutes. That’s three fantastic locations across Scotland (and all in Argyll). Each would usually take a day’s travel to reach by car.

‘We’ve already had bookings from golfers as far a field as the US, Scandinavia and Ireland,” said David West, founder of both Loch Lomond Seaplanes and Golf Links Express’.

Jim Mather, Scottish Tourism Minister was quoted, ‘Having seen the setting up and launch of the Machrihanish Dunes resort I am delighted to see that the potential realised for expanding the golfing appeal of Kintyre and of Islay by providing an air ferry service based on Prestwick, another of Scotland’s golf attractions.

‘As David West of Loch Lomond Seaplanes has said, the new Machrihanish Dunes course and the historic Machrihanish Course are but a short hop of twenty minutes away from Prestwick. The beautiful Machrie course on Islay, known only to true aficionados, is less than ten minutes on and for those who really want to extend the golf experience there are superb courses accessible in Northern Ireland 25 minutes flying time from Kintyre. It will be obvious that this could set up a wonderful opportunity for golfers to mix and match and that all the courses could enjoy an increased footprint as a result.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Have You Secured Your Facebook URL?

More and more Scottish hospitality businesses are setting up Facebook Fan pages to allow their business to build their relationships with their clients further. Whether you are a hotel, golf course, restaurant or visitor attraaction you cannot simply ignore distribution channels such as Facebook and apply the "Manana Principle" to them.

The potential benefits of using social media distribution channels are clear. For sure they won't work without effort but with time, clear marketing focus and commitment to testing the parameters of the medium they can reduce costs, increase revenues and thereby hit the target of ensuring positive ROI.

Over the coming weeks Tourism Matters blog will focus on small things that can make big differences to your online marketing. Where possible we'll answer your queries and always try to make the end objective improved business communciations and conversion.

Facebook URL's

If you currently use Facebook for your business you may not be aware that you can secure your own URL. We set up a new account for The Tartan Army a couple of weeks ago; once it had secured enough followers it was allowed to register its own URL - the Facebook pages can now be found at instead of the old line of digits and letters such as  "id=482942674."

It's now simple to register your own business name - go to and simply follow the instructions. Two minute job.

Once you've got your URL you can use it on all your on and off line marketing. Print up tent cards for your tables, use it on letterheading, bills, room packs, on the foot of your emails, site wide on your site, your blog, in fact promote it everywhere you can. Use the pages to build your following through promotions, offers and giveaways.

Your Facebook page is not an alternative to your website or email marketing or blog it is complementary to it and should be used as just another one of your positive distribution channels.