Friday, 26 November 2010

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...
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