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.

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