Friday 30 July 2010

New Logo For Kilmarnock History Group

It's always good fun when you're given a blank sheet of paper and allowed a bit of free expression!

Well as part of a wee project we're doing for The Kilmarnock and District History Group they asked us if we could start with a bit of branding. The project's going to be broken into a couple of phases with the group needing to first of all get their on-line communications in place using social media and then in the longer term looking to working collaboratively with other bodies to create both written and visual on-line archives of all things Kilmarnock.

The phase one website is due to go live on the 7th of August, The Facebook pages have been set up and the group are testing their blog pages as we speak.

The logo however has already been completed much to the delight of project co-ordinator Gary Torbett and it is already featured on the Kilmarnock History Facebook Page and Blog

New Tourism Blog For Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Businesses

Ayrshire based Hospitality marketing company The Edge have just gone live with a new blog in conjunction with the the Tourism group of the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce.
Using the recently designed brand for Ayrshire and Arran, the new Just Be Here blog is giving all the key hospitality groups involved in the chamber free access to publishing their events, news and product information directly onto the blog generating news coverage and another distribution channel for their businesses.

Ian McCaig, managing director of The Edge explained, "We offered to put the simple blog in place simply because it wasn't there! We were recently asked to join the tourism group by the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and at the first meeting suggested that it would be worthwhile looking at giving the various groups involved an aggregated online outlet for promotional purposes.

"It fits in waith the strategies we're trying to get rouism businesses across Scotland to buy into just now. Online marketing is now so much more than jsut having a website and expecting the business to come to you. It needs work and recognition that single channels of distribution are not enough; multiple routes to market must be exploited. Using Blogs alongside social media tools, e-mail marketing and recognising that off line marketing still has a place can help tourism businesses develop a much stronger and profitable online presence."

Ayrshire tourism businesses can now post their press copy or promotions direct to the Just be Here Blogger and once approved they'll go live with appropriate links back to the business website.

New Live Music Venue in Perthshire

The music scene in Perthshire is about to be shaken up! A brand new music venue is launching this autumn within The Green Hotel in Kinross. Operated by Mundell Music, the performance area to the rear of the hotel will have separate access, and in keeping with Mundell Music's previous music ventures, gigs will be kept intimate with tickets available for every performance. This means the audience really feels like part of the experience as the acts don't 'disappear' after the event, instead they can often be found hanging around for a drink and a chat with fans!

It was Mundell who put the Music into The Inn at Lathones, St Andrews, hosting regular gigs and workshops as well as the hugely successful Fifestock festival. The new and unique setting at The Green will incorporate many genres of music, with Mundell Music regularly bringing quality artists 'backstage' to meet the fans.

Being just off the M9 and less than an hour from Edinburgh and Perth this promises to be a very exciting new destination for Scottish gig-goers!

Are you wondering who Mundell Music works with? Try these legendary artists for starters! Mick Taylor, Tony Joe White, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Albert Lee, Henry McCullough, Ian 'Mac' McLagan, Simon Kirke, Benny Gallagher, Curtis Stigers, Gene Parsons, Paul Jones, Micky Moody, KT Tunstall, Nik Kershaw, , Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford, Snowy White, John Jorgenson, Deborah Bonham, John Hammond, Strawbs, Terry Reid, Finbar Furey, Andy Fairweather Low, Dennis Locorriere, Denny Laine, the late John Martyn, Peter Tork, Stackridge, Man, Graham Gouldman and Mick Wilson, Lindisfarne and many, many others! Every act that Mundell Music works with has one thing in common - they are all true 'artists'.

Expect to see your favourite acts perform intimate gigs. Expect music festivals without the push and shove. Expect workshops with some of the world's most accomplished musicians and songwriters. Expect to be introduced to lots of new music. But most of all, expect the unexpected!

Expedia Claim "Unfair Playing Field!"

Expedia who almost tripled their second quarter profits to $114.3 despite hits associated with the Iceland volcanic eruption have claimed that the Google travel threat could create an "unfair playing field" if it started to favour its search results over those of third party travel companies.

Now is this the same Expedia that owns and operates TripAdvisor, creates controversial terms and conditions for hotels distributing product through its third party distribution channels and squeezes more and more commission out of accommodation providers during a time of hardship?

An unfair playing field eh... try being a thirty bedroom hotel in the west of Scotland

Wednesday 28 July 2010

New VisitScotland Digital Strategy

Just been to a presentation by Robbie Parish the Head of Digital for VisitScotland, the purpose of this was to share a preview of the new digital strategy for VisitScotland.  On first impressions I have to say I'm very encouraged with the approach.

I'll blog in more detail soon, but wanted to share my initial thoughts with you.  It was particularly pleasing to see the plans for the use of a centralised database structure similar to that of the Claymore Project and also how this fits with the broader Digital Scotland landscape.

I look forward to sharing more with you on this topic soon....

Cantlay on Scottish Golf Tourism

Over the past couple of weeks everyone in the public sector has been talking golf. Mike Cantlay Chair of VisitScotland took time out to do the same with an exclusive interview with the Dundee Courier.

He said that although golf tourism is already worth £220 million to the Scottish economy each year, there is still room to drive up revenues with the Chinese market potentially worth millions and the increasing popularity of golf in China makes it an ideal, and largely untapped, market to target.

He continued, "Scottish tourism is basically a £4 billion industry as a whole. Within that, golf is worth about £220 million pounds. it's very significant. Golf is absolutely key; the Open Championship alone was expected to raise about £84 million and more than that there is around £40 million of TV exposure that comes with it. It showcases Scotland around the world."

Cantlay recently visited China to promote golf tourism and said there has been an explosion in interest there.
He said, "The week before last, the First Minister led a delegation to China to build relationships there and we went out specifically to focus on the golf side of promoting Scotland.

"There are something like one million registered golfers. What is particularly exciting about it is that those Chinese customers who come to Scotland are some of the highest spenders we've got -- tourists are spending even more than American customers, who were traditionally our highest spenders."

He added, "We are just scratching at the market, which will be huge. They are excited about spending time on Scottish courses -- they can't believe the accessibility. The visit included the launch of a new golf brochure advertising Scotland, written in Chinese.

The Chinese market is one that seems to be getting pushed very heavily by the Government and Visitscotland. There is no doubting that it is an emerging market and one that neighbours Ireland have been pushing too but from an industry perspective there seems considerable scepticism that this market is going to contribute greatly for a long time to come.

Any thoughts on the Chinese market ?

Tuesday 27 July 2010

More O'Leary Duplicity

You've got to give him  credit for continually getting away with it...

Following on from the winter schedule cuts, Michael O’Leary said:
“Sadly UK traffic and tourism continues to collapse while Rxxxair continues to grow rapidly in those countries which welcome tourists instead of taxing them.

“Rxxxair’s 16% UK capacity cutback, 17% cut at Stansted, shows just how much the UK’s tourist tax and the BAA’s high airport charges are damaging UK tourism and the British economy generally.

“Today’s cutbacks underline the urgent need to break-up the high cost BAA Airport monopoly, as recommended by the Competition Commission, and scrap the damaging £11 tourist tax which has caused UK traffic to collapse over the past two years.” 

It's a shame for independently owned (and Rxxxair shafted) Prestwick Airport that this PR rhetoric doesn't prevent the transfer of the key routes from Prestwick to BAA owned Edinburgh Airport.

Ah such unfettered power....

TripAdvisor Business Listing

Should you, shouldn't you? From a starting point of about £300 many hoteliers are asking whether it's for them. We're no great fans of TripAdvisor/Expedia strategy when it comes to Scottish hotels but if it can add value and drive more direct traffic back to the individuals own website then it may be worth looking at.

An excellent piece of research from Spanish company Mirai is well worth a ten minute read for the range of opinions vented both in the blog article and by respondents themselves.

Have a look and let us know your conclusions. Is TripAdvisor Business listing for you?

Monday 26 July 2010

Prestwick To Lose Half its Ryanair Flights

We must have missed the announcement somewhere along the line but it would appear that Ryanair are pulling more than half of their flights from Prestwick Airport this winter. We only found the information by chance on the Prestwick Airport blog site and don't have any more information other than the statement taken from the website below. However for Ayrshire, a destination already beleaguered, the news could be devastating for a large number of businesses already feeling the downturns of the past eighteen months. We will publish any more details on the story when we have them. Please leave your comments.

The article mentions the prophecies of the politicians. At Tourism Matters we've been hammering on about the threat to Prestwick for rather a long time. More here from last June

The following is from the Prestwick website.

Ryanair’s decision to pull half of its winter flights out of Prestwick Airport could have resounding consequences for the local workforce. The Ayrshire hub has revealed that up to a third of its permanent staff members could be fired, as passenger numbers at the airport continue to fall.
Prestwick employs around 410 people at present, including those housed in the various retail units around the site.
Job cuts will leave the hub short-handed, but bosses have envisaged a plan to retrain staff to take on multiple tasks. Fire fighters could be encouraged to take on baggage handling duties, for example, but hopefully, the scheme doesn’t work in reverse: baggage staff are unlikely to be as efficient at dousing flames.
The airport will consult with unions and workers before axing any jobs. Iain Cochrane, the airport’s CEO, claims that Prestwick is ‘optimistic’ about the future, but warned that job cuts are ‘likely,’ - ‘these are extremely difficult times. I am very sorry to say that in this review it is likely that there will be redundancies.’
Mr. Cochrane went on to list the problems that the airport was facing, including the Air Passenger Duty and the growing trend in ‘staycations’ – Brits holidaying at home. Prestwick is at the mercy of Ryanair, however, and the airline’s decision to cut 52% of its winter flights has done damage to the tiny airport.

In December, Ayrshire MP, Brian Donohoe, warned Prestwick bosses about the possibility of a Ryanair exodus, and even went to the trouble of phoning rival airlines, in an attempt to lure extra business to the airport. The MP’s clairvoyance will be of no comfort to Prestwick’s beleaguered workers now though, as many of them could be jobless by the time the advent calendars appear on supermarket shelves. Irene Oldfather, another Scottish MP, expressed ‘deep disappointment’ at the news.

Christian Tourism Trail For Scotland?

The newspapers today are reporting that The Church of Scotland has suggested harnessing the religious significance and fascinating history of the Scottish saints to attract a new wave of tourists and pilgrims.

In an editorial of the August edition of Life and Work, Lynne McNeil writes: "I have often felt that the Church should engage more in the business of tourism.

"At the moment, it is piecemeal and depends very much on local congregations."

Mrs McNeil highlights the tourist popularity of lona, St Giles in Edinburgh and Glasgow Cathedral. She adds: "But what about the stories of faith that inspired the buildings and are important to local communities?

"Scotland has a rich tradition of saints and spirituality. However, much of that is rarely promoted outside Scotland. Tour parties from Scotland regularly visit the Holy Land on pilgrimages, but what about the rich seam of heritage and spirituality on our doorstep? Perhaps the answer lies in the Church developing its own informal tourism strategy. In these financially straitened times, in both the Church and secular society, every opportunity should be grasped."

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland was quoted in The Scotsman: "Our shared Christian heritage could help us through the recession. Most of our history is pre-Reformation, but I agree entirely with the Church of Scotland over a Christian tourism initiative. We had been thinking about writing to VisitScotland about producing a Christian Heritage Trail leaflet for tourists. After all, we have a Whisky Trail in Speyside, why not a Christian Heritage Trail? There is an enormous interest in Scotland's history of Christianity and there is an opportunity to better promote visiting sites that are pivotal to our Christian past. There is also a potentially huge overseas market among the Scottish Diaspora."

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "Scotland is viewed as a very spiritual place to visit."

Not sure whether that last reference was related to the whisky trail or the potential of a Christian Trail but it seems like an extremely positive move and one that has this year already got some foundations to build on from the work done on the Cluny 2010 Celebrations in Paisley, Ayrshire and the South West of Scotland.

Any thoughts on how it should be tackled?

Friday 23 July 2010

How Safe is Your Hotel Name Online?

We've been doing some work for a client this week in trying to get their hotel "brand" tidied up.

It was when doing a search for their property that they noticed that in the Google sponsored links section someone was bidding for their term but also using a URL that would make anyone think that they were clicking on the official hotel website.

Once you clicked it the URL pointed to a hotel reservation booking system with a very inferior representation of their hotel. But with the URL in place and the hotel's logo, colours and on-line availability it was clearly trying to pass off in the first instance as the official hotel website to sell rooms.

Now okay, you may think well it's distribution and a potential room sale so why should I bother? Well this hotelier quite rightly was very bothered. And quite rightly.

You've developed you're brand through time, your name is important to you and how it is represented on-line should bother you too. This hotelier has made the decision to go down the route of increasing his direct business through his own website as it costs him less in commission charges and improves the communication he has with his client and potential visitors.

Having that undermined by someone hijacking his trading name is therefore a clear attempt to make his direct business into indirect business. Encouraging the customer to click what they think is hi official website. Nothing thereafter tries to tell the site visitor otherwise.

We've heard this referred to as mirror marketing before and it's dangerous for the hotelier;
  • Increased commission
  • Lost Bookings based on First impression of the site
  • Loss of control of your brand
This is different from your normal third party distribution where it is quite clear that the customer is clicking on a hotel sales company and there are unfortunately plenty examples of where it's happening. A perfect example; I recently drove past The Purple Hotel outside Glasgow and noticed it was closed. I then searched Google to find the background to its demise and came across a site with the hotel name in the URL.

Clicking on it revealed a page with the hotel branding, colourschemes, the hotel logo, full details and an availability checker. It quite easily passes itself off as the hotel website and we assume it will remain live until the URL is up for renewal.

You really need to assure yourself that your business is protecting itself as best it can from such mirror marketing. It may even be going on with one of your third party booking channels without your knowledge.

We recommend that on a regular basis you go on to Google simply type in your own business name and check who's trying to be you!

Google Hotel Reviews - Rankings Issue

Another interesting phone call that highlights the issues facing hotels trying to keep their reputation up to speed.

It's difficult enough trying to keep all the customer service balls in the air without then being hammered by reviews that are actually glowing but are then being shown as a one star!

Where's it happening? Well we'd suggest that you have a very quick look at your ratings under Google reviews as it looks as though the logarithm between Active Hotels and Google Reviews are going awry somewhere.

The hotel in question, The Sunnybrae Hotel in Nairn has sat with a 5 star rating for months and months on end and noticed that it has dropped down to three. Why? Well a quick investigation threw up a clear problem. All his 10/10 Active Hotel ranknigs were being displayes as a 1out of 5 on Google and thereby hammering his average ratings!

Could it be that the Google is taking everything out of five and not recognising the scale of measurement? Meaning that a 10/10 is recognising only the 1 and converting it to 1/5. Surely not.

We haven't found out the answer yet but when we do we'll let you know! In the meatnime however we'd suggest that you have a look at how your ratings are being affected.

PS On the Sunnybrae Hotel website they currently make use of a Bookassist Guest Reviews system from their own booking engine compiled from comments from guests who have booked through the hotel website. They currently rank at 4.9/5

Thursday 22 July 2010

Kingsbarns on Facebook

If you're wondering whether it's worth having your business on Facebook or not you could do worse than have a look at the simple but effective us of Facebook by Kingsbarns Golf Links.

Okay there may not be any devastating content on their but I'm sure it may well gravitate to offers, exclusives and provide other benefits.

In the meantime however it's great at giving the visitors a platform to sing its prasies, publish images and communicate the personal touches that make, I believe, Kingsbarns, the most accommodating and personable of all of Scotland's golf courses.

If you've never visited before you really must and many courses in the country would benefit from their whole attitude. It's a magnificent course for sure but it is the welcome which adds the value. Quality service but without servility or formality. It remains a quintessential Scottish, indeed Fife, welcome. Welcoming without being fawning. Kingsbarns Facebook can allow this essence to be captured so simply.

Irish Room Rates at 1999 Levels

Really interesting and sobering article on the Irish hospitality industry published in yesterdays Irish Times in which the striking headline was that average room rates at Irish hotels are now at 1999 levels, according to a survey of businesses in the hard-hit hospitality industry.

The study, conducted by accountancy firm Horwath Bastow Charleton (HBC), found "profit levels had plummeted up to 50 per cent since 2007" - that's right in two years!

It may be easy to say that the Irish tourism economy had it coming - and there are plenty out there saying just that - there are many parallels with our own sector in Scotland.

The Irish clearly focussed on creating new supply with less emphasis on future demand trends. Tourism numbers after all we were advised were on a permanent growth curve. Have we done much different in Scotland? Have we also not been driven almost totally by increasing supply and indeed supply side economics.

We may not have the volume of new product in problems in the way that the Irish resort hotel sector has but we undoubtedly have issues of our own.
Hotels have been severely impacted by the fall off in corporate business, a reduction in the average size of a functions and the competitive rates being offered by properties in the race to secure a booking, the report said.

In summary the report details - and when it's listed in bullet points like this it is bloody frightening.
  • The average room rate has fallen from €97.69 in 2007 to €77.81 in 2009
  • Average rate has fallen by a further 10 per cent in the first six months of this year
  • Average debt per room of €135,000
  • €6.4 billion in total loans outstanding for hotels at the end of 2009
  • Profit per room at luxury hotels had fallen from a high of €13,954 in 2007 to just €3,092 in 2009.
  • 30 hotels in the hands of administrators
  • Restructuring will be required to reposition at least 300 of our 900 hotels where solvency issues exist.

Dublin Equals Edinburgh?
The report also indicated that whilst hotels throughout the country continue to struggle, there was a “marked difference” in the Dublin market compared with the regional hotel market. The report noted room rates were on average €16 higher in the capital, and there was a 10 per cent higher room occupancy levels in Dublin and the indicated that recent investment in infrastructure in Dublin including the Grand Canal Theatre, The Aviva Stadium and The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) would help the Dublin market rebound quicker than elsewhere.

That cannot be dissimilar to Scotland where the regional picture remains a whole lot less rosy than in the cities. 

The study cited Central Bank figures which estimated total loans outstanding for hotels in the Republic stood at €6.4 billion at the end of 2009 and that as more than 40 per cent of room stock or 25,000 rooms were developed over the last 10 years, this meant an average debt per room of these hotels to be in the region of €135,000 per room and indicated that one third of Irish hotels were experiencing difficultly in paying the interest on these loans and were experiencing severe cash flow problems.

The worst-hit sector of the industry was the newly developed four and five star resort market has been hit hardest. Not surely too dissimilar again from Scotland? In Ireland profit per room at luxury hotels had plummeted to 25% of its highs in the boom years
"The costs of developing these resorts, particularly if they included golf and spa elements, were extremely high, it said. Much of the development cost was borrowed leading to substantial interest payments."

As for a “worrying acceleration” in the number of hotels going into receivership and liquidation, can we in Scotland be complacent about what the next year is likely to bring? Horwath Bastow Charleton said it anticipated this number would increase in the coming months, and that some form of restructuring will be required to reposition at least 300 of our 900 hotels where solvency issues exist."

Scotland will clearly not need to restructure in the same sort of way but restructure we will have to face up to. We will at some stage have to look at the current imbalance between supply and demand in the hospitality sector and inject realism into what strategic response is required for our own future.

Too many rooms leads to reduced operating profits across the sector and whilst competitive rates may be a bonus to increasing demand they will impact on service levels and reinvestment in capital and fabric leading to a reduced level of facility.

This can be seen across a large swathe of hotels across Scotland who simply cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and room improvements. Scotland fortunately started from a base of having good facilities whilst Ireland just went into development mode building, building and building more. The recent case of City West about half an hour from Dublin going into administration was always likely. It was huge. Started off with one golf course and a reasonable (100 plus!) bedrooms but soon rose to have more than 1700 rooms, two golf courses and 1.2 million square feet of meeting space. Everyone saw it coming but it didn't stop it!

Aiden Murphy of Horwath Bastow Charleton said in the report : “We are entering a period where profit levels in the hotel sector have reached an all time low.” That surely could be said of Scotland too? If we haven't reached it many will soon.

Another Scottish parallel?

"The downturn has led to an increasing dependence on the price sensitive domestic market which has forced hotels to target “alternative market segments” and eat into the market share of lower classification properties, he said.

This is clearly being replicated in areas of Scotland, the aggressive pricing strategies of the higher rated hotels and resorts in certain areas is decimating the occupancy and rate achieved of some neighbouring independents. And this is not just apocryphal.

The analysis of the report is startlingly blunt "While our economy was growing we had a need for more hotels to meet growing demand but the exuberance of the Irish property development sector provided 16,000 extra rooms between 2005 and 2008, when 6,000 rooms would have been sufficient.The market now finds itself in the position of having 10,000 excess hotel rooms to fill. The impact of this over capacity also means that occupancy levels have fallen from 63.5 per cent in 2008 to 59.4 per cent in 2009,” he said.

Scotland's figures may be different but at a micro level the model is familiar. Take Ayrshire in focus. Are we really to say that there weren't too many rooms developed in and around Ayr following the book in inbound travellers in the same period. How many excess rooms does Ayrshire have? How has it impacted its room revenues and its occupancy? Or even that room development in Glasgow wasn't too ambitious? Some certainly argue so.

The Irish Times reported that Fine Gael’s spokesman on tourism Jimmy Deenihan said the survey made for “chilling reading” for everybody who worked in the sector. He said unviable hotels, which were being transferred into National Asset Management Agency (Nama), were being kept artificially afloat at the expense of more viable hotels and called on the finance and tourism ministers to summon Nama and the banks for talks in order to map out a strategy for the hotels sector.

Scotland is not even measured on the same scale as what's facing Ireland but if you took out the numbers the story reads comparably. We cannot afford to be complacent and complacent is what Scottish tourism often comes across as.

At a recent tourism event there was some "at least we're not in the same boat as the Irish" pontificating. A glee from some in the public sector that we didn't make their mistakes. For sure we are relatively fortunate but simply because you are not as badly off as your neighbour who is having his house repossessed is of cold comfort when you are struggling to repay this month's mortgage.

We would all be wise to look at what may be ahead for ourselves without the government and tourism bodies spin.

Scotland has been an affordable destination for the past couple of years. The currency swing has already made us more expensive since Easter - this helped cripple Ireland greatly in Euro/pound reverse over the same period. They became viewed as an expensive destination.

This time next year with any continuing strengthening of the pound, increased rate burden and the addition of 2.5% VAT could see Scotland what maybe 30% worst case 40% more expensive to the same European visitors that we've been relying on for growth?

What impact any real reduction in low cost travellers through our airports? Ask Ayrshire hoteliers who have lost massive chunks of Swedish and German business. Have they noticed it. Sure as hell they have.

And what if it is a double dip recession? Do we really think that we won't have hotels at the top end hitting serious financial trouble by the end of this year and small businesses simply realising that they can know longer hold things together?

Sometimes I think this blog simply makes for depressing reading. Doom and gloom.

Other times I read the press releases that come out from the usual sources simply talking everything up. Have we not learned from the past two years that talking something up is not strong enough to prevent it from falling down around us?

We can certainly be thankful that Scotland started from a position of relative strength; the Irish economy made the mistake of being seduced by the vision of ever increasing demand for their services and for sure they over heated.

Our fall may therefore not be to the same scale but the realities many Scottish tourism and hospitality businesses are facing are very similar and we should be learning lessons as they do to minimise the effect of impact.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Fairfield Christmas Brochure

Fairfield House Hotel in Ayr are a long standing client of ours using our website services and Bookassist for their online reservations. We're just planning out a new social media campaign with them currently which will lead to an improved on-line presence through the use of Blogs, Facebook and email marketing as well as a refreshing of their website for 2011.

In the meantime the website remains live and performing wonderfully well with a high level of on-line bookings being converted through the site.

The hotel is well known for its creative festive programmes and it has just taken delivery of the 2010 Festive Brochure. You can download a copy of the programme from the Fairfield House Hotel website.

Find out more about how The Edge could help your hotel market online.

Using Google Blogs? Share Your Posts

You can now make it easier for your posts to get out and about and see more of the world.

If you're using Google Blogger, go to Design; click on Edit in the Posts section and tick"Show Share Buttons.

Once saved every post will be accompanied by a Share this Post option which will allow links to your information to be quickly posted elsewhere.

Worth taking a few minutes to add we'd suggest

Stats say Scottish Golf Tourism is Buoyant... So it must be true

We've just got the press copy through from the EventScotland site on a few things golf. Here's a list of the key bullet points.
  • The Open at St Andrews is on track to deliver an £80 million benefit for the Scottish economy, it was announced today. (Sports Industry Research Centre Sheffield)
  • Leading US based golf tour operators have reported that 2010 sales for Scotland up to June have risen 49 per cent against the same period last year.(VisitScotland)
  • The Open is expected to generate £35 million for Scotland in visitor spending and £45 million in place marketing effect through over 3,000 hours of global television coverage, a 35 percent increase on last year's event.
  • Initial reports from Chinese tour operators show they are expecting to exceed their revenue targets from Scotland tours following a ministerial visit.
Mr Salmond said: "This is a great time for golf in Scotland. As one of the world's greatest golfing nations and the home of the game, our fantastic courses and scenery continue to provide a draw for visitors across the globe.

"Hosting The Open at the prestigious Old Course on the 150th anniversary of the event could bring in £80 million for the Scottish economy. As the only major staged outside the US, this world class championship is the jewel in the crown of our sporting calendar and continues to ensure Scotland shines on the world stage.

Following on from last week's Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, as we gear up to towards staging five Women's Open Championships over the next decade and hosting the Ryder Cup in 2014 we have a fantastic story to tell. The Scottish Government invests £500,000 in clubgolf, our national junior golf programme, where we are introducing record numbers of young people to the game, with an estimated 41,000 children in P5 set to benefit this year. We are also investing £1 million to support Scotland's most talented amateur players make the transition to the professional game."

As the debate goes on about public sector roles, spending cuts and David Cameron's big society you really have to, given the above, start questioning what role government has in tourism. The statistics produced in every single case above are valueless, they are worthless providing no direction or clarity to the golf tourism sector about the market place.

So leading US based operators are nearly 50% up? Up on what? The worst year ever? How many leading US based operators? 

The Chinese operators are going to surpass their expectations? What expectations? From a zero base?

The Open is going to have an economic impact on Scotland.I have a public sector report from maybe five Open's all saying exactly the same thing with just slightly different subjective numbers based on how many hours coverage and the perceived cost of notionally buying that coverage.

And Scotland spend £500K on ClubGolf. Firstly should they? And secondly is it providing a return across the country. I listened to someone from the SGU say recently that having high profile success at professional level is over rated. Paraphrased I grant you but not by much. If it had been a Scot leading by eight I'm quite sure that the promotional impact of 3000 hours of coverage could perhaps have drowned local golf courses with junior golfers come Monday morning.

I am always conscious that it is easier to criticise than compliment but the problem at the moment is this jolly backslapping makes out that there are no problems and Scottish Golf and the directly related Scottish Golf Tourism sector is gelling and working as a unit with common goals and objectives and the future is hazard free.

Nothing but nothing could be further from the truth and the government and government bodies can only peddle this PR nonsense for so long before disenfranchising the very partners they need to work with.

Members clubs are bereft of waiting lists; junior play is declining in many areas;  golf courses across the country are seeing visitor revenues down as much as 40% on last year; some tour operators are in real danger of going under; hotel occupancies in some key golf destinations are at dangerous levels,;reinvestment is not possible and there is no communications or organisational structure on which to move forward.

How can it be said that this is a great time for Scottish Golf? We have to build the future of Scottish golf tourism on solid foundations built on genuine collaboration (not single route communication) and with recognition of the threats facing the sector.

It cannot be built on sound-bites and meaningless statistics.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Enterkine Celebrates Ten Years with New Restaurant

Over the years at The Edge we've worked with the team at Enterkine on a number of projects and currently provide the exclusive Country House Hotel near Ayr in the west of Scotland with their booking engine Bookassist.

We've also just spent some time doing a quick mini audit and update of the hotel's search terms and key content on The Enterkine Hotel website. In updating the site we were once again impressed by the quality this wonderful hotel offers the visitor to Ayrshire and their continuing commitment to taking it further.

2010 marks the 10th anniversary of Enterkine being opened as a Country House Hotel and in that time have established themselveas as a Hotel and Restaurant of great merit having been awarded numerous accolades for the quality accommodation and service they offer and, of course, recognition as one of Scotland’s top fine-dining venues thanks to the talents and skills of their award winning Head Chef, Paul Moffat, and his team.

Much of their success has been achieved through a commitment to develop and continue to grow the hotel and restaurant services. With the introduction of our unique Woodland Lodge and the opening of the refurbished Kirk House they now have more quality accommodation on offer than ever before. More recently, the installation of their stunning permanent Marquee at Enterkine has allowed them to develop their corporate events business and to cater for larger scale weddings, now placing them as one of Ayrshire’s leading wedding venues.

We look forward to a continuing relationship with the team at Enterkine.

Friday 16 July 2010

New Website for Redspire

We're delighted to have gone live with a new Content Managed website for Glasgow based Retail IT Consultancy Redspire.

We first worked with Graeme Miller of Redspire when we developed a website for the Olympia Skating Club last year and so delighted with the ease of use of our very own CMS, The Claymore Project, that he came back to us recently when his own company website needed a refresh.

We've brightened the look and feel of the old site up and the content including the metatags, images, links are all client managed.

Graeme commented on the project, "The Edge has worked closely with us to develop a website that we are very proud of. They understood our requirements from the outset and were able to interpret them into a creative execution that exceeded our expectations. We are delighted with the results."

Travelodge acquire Innkeeper's Lodges

Travelodge has acquired the leases of 52 Innkeeper’s Lodges from restaurant and pub operator Mitchells & Butlers and as far as we can make out this includes the acquisition of eight Scottish properties - two in Perth one in Cumbernauld, Strathclyde Park, Helendburgh, Balloch, South Queensferry and Corstorphine.

It claims the deal is the largest in the hotel sector since 2008 and will boost its portfolio to 452 hotels.

The hotels include a number of grade ll listed buildings and are next to Mitchells & Butlers restaurants and pubs.

The budget chain said it is going to spend £10m to bring them in line with the Travelodge brand.

It also said it will “seek to retain” all 430 Mitchells & Butlers staff and will look to recruit a further 115 positions, which include 25 hotel manager roles and 90 hotel staff.

It hopes the hotels will be fully operational under the Travelodge brand within four months and rooms will be available from £19 in line with Travelodge’s pricing policy.

Travelodge executive chairman Grant Hearn said: “We have an aggressive growth plan in place and with this acquisition we are on track to more than double the size of Travelodge hotels over the next ten years.

“We hope to explore further opportunities like this deal with other similar businesses.”

Salmond on Scottish Golf Tourism

Picked up on an interesting series of blog articles Letters From St Andrews

The blog author Wright Thomspn is covering the Open for ESPN and walked with Alex Salmond nd asked him a couple of questions at which he talks briefly and mostly about his St Andrews student days.
Most interesting response however is when asked "How would it be different if Scotland were in charge of its own destiny?"

The First Minister replied, "Let's take a golfing example. We're in charge of golf in Scotland. So what are we doing? We are promoting Scotland and golf together. That's having a fantastic effect in terms of tourism figures for golf. The second thing we're doing in golf is every child in Scotland, at the age of 9, is now playing golf. Every single one. We have an initiative called Club Golf in primary schools, so every child -- 40,000 9-year-olds in Scotland this year -- gets to play. The point I'm making? If we can do that running golf, just think what we would do running the economy."

Is it just me I keep wondering...

Thursday 15 July 2010

How Is Your Booking Engine Running? Have Another Look at Ours...

The Booking Engine For Growing Direct Business

Did you know just how capable the Bookassist Booking Engine really is? If your hotel is already a client, you still may not be using all of the capabilities fully so it's a good opportunity to review what we can bring to your direct booking business and what continues to make Bookassist unique.

Bookassist's Booking Engine delivers on customer service because we know that your guest's online experience needs to be as good as their offline experience. Bookassist has been frequently first-to-market with new features that others rush to catch up to. Under constant development to bring you what need for today's demanding customer, here are just a few of the features it gives you right now:

  • Multilingual Corporate & Frequent Booker system allows preferential rates for each corporate or individual for your hotel or across your hotel groupLoyalty System to reward regular bookers with any gifts or reductions, or private rates, as you wish
  • Promo Codes to allow instant discounts on displayed rates
  • Electronic or offline vouchers used directly in the booking process or in the hotel
  • Customisable Email Confirmation with mapping and hotel specific information
  • SMS Reservation confirmation, a first for Bookassist since 2004
  • Full PCI-DSS compliant security, a first for Bookassist since 2009 - if your supplier is not certified, you should ask why not
  • Book multiple rooms and room types - a feature we've had since launch in 2000
  • Book family rooms and have dynamic pricing based on number of children and their ages - a first for Bookassist since 2005
  • Book additional services and add-ons along with room bookings to allow customers to dynamically package - a feature we've had since 2006
  • Multilingual throughout, uses UTF-8 so that multiple languages display properly and customer details can be entered in customer's own alphabet (eg Russian, Polish, Czech etc)
  • Live currency exchange built in - a feature we've had since 2003
  • Automatic emailing of guests after arrival for reviews collection - a feature we've had since 2007
  • Display a full table of rooms and rates direct from the booking engine on any page of your website as a handy price grid
  • Display special offers and packages with dynamic content, and fully bookable, on any page of your website or in newsletters and emails
  • Over 99.99% uptime annually over the last 5 years giving industry-beating consistent reliability
To help you out at the back end, here are just a few additional features that keep you in full management control of your system:
  • OTA/XML Integration with leading front office systems such as Protel, Softbrands, Micros Opera
  • Full integration via Ecommerce API with Google Analytics lets you track advert spend right through to specific bookings - a feature we've had since 2008
  • Administration Reporting using Google Charts for quick visual data - a feature we've had since 2008
  • Administration Reporting with alerts on low availability and email reporting
  • Administration Reporting on what is selling and what is not so you can see your missed opportunities
  • Direct-to-hotel-account banking capability for 100% upfront offers and packages
  • Administration management so staff only see the information they need to see
  • Base rates for rooms or packages can be in multiple currencies
  • Linked rates system allows you to define room rates with respect to a master rate, simplifying quick rate changes across the board
  • Full control of length of stay, day of arrival and other required limitations
  • Manage guest reviews and ratings, and post responses visible on your website and on webapp
  • Channel management solution to control how you sell on third party websites
  • GDS connectivity
  • Downloadable guest contact details with Privacy Legislation Compliance as verified with the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland and elsewhere as applicable
With the Bookassist Booking Engine integrated into your website, matching the look and feel of your website, you can choose to have a tabbed version that brings you all the following features, or you can use the content of each of these tabs on different pages of your website as embedded dynamic content. Click any image to see more:
Hotel Online 
Booking System from Bookassist Booking Engine Allows Multiple Room Booking
Languages & Currencies Create Customer Confidence

Hotel Online Booking System with Reviews from BookassistIntegrated Customer Reviews
Encourage Confidence In Your Product

Hotel Online Booking System with Maps from BookassistMapping To Aid Your Customer

Hotel Online Booking System with Vouchers from BookassistSell vouchers for packages or for fixed amounts

And of course Bookassist was the first supplier to bring you a hotel-specific webapp for iPhone, Android and mobile devices to ensure that you are giving the mobile customer exactly what they want.

With Bookassist's Facebook integration about to launch soon, we continue to innovate for our hotel clients. There is much more to come from our development and research teams. 
Stay tuned or if you're ready to make the switch give Bookassist Scotland a call nowon 01292 521404 or email

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Golf Tourism Scotland Annual Awards 2011

Date for your Diary - The 2010 Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Standard Awards will be held on Thursday 11th November at the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwick - more details to follow.

View the GTS award winners from the 2009 Awards Dinner at Turnberry

Tuesday 13 July 2010

New General Manager for Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch Golf Club have announced the appointment of Neil Hampton as the club's new General Manager.

Neil who is currently golf and marketing director of Fairways and Loch Ness Golf Club will start his position on 1st of September 2010.

He was selected from over 50 applicants, many of whom were of a very high calibre and will take with him to the club a wealth of experience in golf club management, marketing and the hospitality trade.

We've known Neil for years having worked with him on a number of golf related projects in The Highlands in his days as the golf development manager for Golf Highland. He was instrumental in a number of positive initiatives in those years and more than helped in the creation of The Highland Golf Classic a decade ago.

Can't help but think that this will work out as a great appintment not only for Dornoch but for the tourism sector reliant on the club.

Congratulations Mr Hampton!

Further information is available from the Royal Dornoch Golf Club website

Friday 9 July 2010

New Branding for Highland Golf Group

We're getting the final launch of the new website for Highland golf group Dornoch Firth Golf.

The group comprise of five wonderful links golf courses in the North Highlands - Tain, Dornoch's Championship and Struie Courses and the great layouts at Brora and Golspie.

The clubs have got together to create a discounted golf pass and over the past six weeks The Edge have been busying themselves with leaflet design, member cards, wallets and of course website and blog development.

The logo was developed after a meeting with the project leaders and was designed to encapsulate the history and heritage of golf in the area and the links with course designers Braid, Ross and Morris. We feel that the end product captures all of that.

The whole project reflects this pedigree and plays heavily on it. More to follow in the next week about how the project developed in the meantime you could have a look at some of our other logo and branding projects.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

The Gailes Golf Experience - New For Ayrshire

The Gailes Golf Experience was launched today, the 7th of July 2010.

Three Ayrshire courses - Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes Links and Dundonald Links - have joined together to create this unique golf pass with great value for the visiting golfer. Golfers to Ayrshire can play three of the finest links championship courses in Ayrshire for just £180.

For further information on Gailes Golf Experience call 01294 311649 or visit for details on how to book.

You can get information on all three of these great Scottish West Coast links golf courses - including maps, scorecards and clubhouse information at