Friday, 26 November 2010

First in Fife Golf Tourism Online Marketing Workshop

Plan B, Ayrshire based leisure and tourism marketing consultants had a great morning with some of the First in Fife Golf group members at the Pitbauchlie House Hotel in Dunfermline.

The presentation coome workshop was aimed at encouraging the golf courses and accommodation providers to take more ownership of their online marketing activity and certainly rasised some solid questioning from around the room.

This is one of a series of workshops that Plan B boss has done for the golf and hospitality sectors over the past twelve months with the most recent forays being this one to Fife and in early November to members of The Kintyre Way in Tarbert.

Earlier in the year similar workshops extolling the virtues of on-line marketing took place for Golf Tourism Scotland, Scotland's West Coast Golf Links and Holiday Southern Scotland in venues as far apart as Castle Stuart in the north through Fife, East Lothian, The Borders, Loch Lomond and Ayrshire.

Ian McCaig was delighted with the Fife event, "It's great challenging the limits of golf course marketing and if we've encouraged a few more to believe that there's more they can achieve for themselves on line then it 's been a successful day"

You can read more about the First in Fife Golf Workshop here

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...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Plans For Another Five Star Golf Resort...

It's not quite regular but there is still a trickle of announcements of new golf developments cropping up and of course the Trump one is the one that hits the headlines.

The latest is The Angus and the developer Mike Forbes was naturally keen to play it up: “This is a hugely positive decision for the community. Delivering the first five-star hotel and a championship golf facility – which will complement the famous Carnoustie links – bringing with it a massive cash injection for the local economy, was my focus when we first proposed this development.

“Tourism is vitally important to Scotland, and in Angus and Tayside we have to look at ways to ensure that we continue to attract not only overseas visitors but also people from throughout the UK.

“Golf continues to be a major draw for people worldwide and there is a real appetite to create world-class developments which will maintain Scotland’s position, not only as the home of the sport but also as the home of the finest courses.”

Now the statement has some merit for sure but some of the common statements that are rolled out should in all honesty start to be questioned.

Tourism is important to the economy of Scotland for sure and development can have positive local impacts but there is nothing to say that another five star golf resort will add new golf visitors to the country and it could probably be argued that is will have a negative effect on an increasingly crowded five star luxury sector that is failing to turn profits. Displacement is the most likely option with other resorts having to compete with increasing supply and flat demand.

There is little evidence emanating from any of our five star luxury product that making profit at the top end in tourism in Scotland is an easily profitable exercise - this can be seen in lower occupancy, massive room yield reductions, published losses, stalled refurbishments.

Okay it may not be opening for a few years but does the east coast, does Scotland, need let only can it justify two resort hotels less than an hour and a half apart competing with Gleneagles, Old Course, Fairmont and others?

I would have to say that the jury is out on whether Scotland needs or can sustain more golf and more accommodation.

When are we going to look more seriously at what over supply can do to your tourism sector?

Just look at Ireland...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Gentle Masters Giant

I watched from the sidelines last week at The Golf Tourism Scotland Awards Dinner at The Marine Hotel in North Berwick and couldn't help but be impressed by the quiet dignity of guest of honour Sandy Lyle. I remember, like the rest of Scotland, watching him firstly drive into that Augusta 18th bunker and then follow it with that magnificent recovery shot in 1988.

The big man carried himself so graciously throughout the evening and it was all the more disappointing to read of his hurt by his continued absence from the World Golf Hall of Fame. He has always struck me as a most principled individual and his stance on a number of issues has maybe distanced him from some of the establishment. I suppose I was disappointed when he walked off during the open but his actions are no worse than that of many other professional golfers and are more than offset by the positive memories he has left us all

The 52-year-old confessed in an interview that he will be left with a sizeable void in his career if he is not eventually accorded the honour given that Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer are already members.

When interviewed at the dinner he said: "When my career ends it won't be a particular disappointment if I have never been Ryder Cup captain.

"I would never close the door on it happening, of course, but it looks like Jose Maria Olazabal will be the next captain in America in two years time and I think Gleneagles in 2014 is too far away for me. The age gap between me and the youngster players will be a little too severe by then and that is a big factor. Monty was still playing with and seeing the players on the European Tour whereas I am too far away from it now. But inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame would mean more to me than the Ryder Cup captaincy. It's a bit of a mystery to me why it hasn't happened, given the number of times I have been nominated. But it's the one big ambition I have left and it would be a nice way to end my career."

I can't surely be alone in thinking that Sandy Lyle deserves so much more.

Bookassist iPhone App Hits Scottish Hotels

Bookassist in Scotland are on the road from this week with the kick off of their "Account Surgeries" starting on Thursday 25th of November at The Inn at Lathones in Fife.

The series of workshops will be going around Scotland over the next eight weeks and will not only be re-enforcing how best to use the Bookassist system and maximise direct sales from their hotel website but will be introducing to the Scottish market some of the more recent additions such as the superb Bookassist Hotel iPhone application.

As mobile becomes increasingly important for all things from Ebay, YouTube videos, news, Facebook and on-line sales of all sorts, Bookassist has moved quickly to create a fully functioning web version of the booking engine for the iPhone.

The development of the iPhone version for your hotel is extremely competitively priced and can be developed in a short period of time. So if you're looking to get your hotel more ready for the mobile age give Bookassist Scotland a call on 01292 521404

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bookassist Launch Online Marketing Workshops

The first of an ongoing series of Bookassist workshops is to take place on Wednesday the25th of November at The Inn at Lathones in Fife.

The informal workshop come surgery is aimed at developing the understanding of current Bookassist users and those interested in finding out what the technology can achieve for their business and will consist of a dynamic mix of tutorial and question and answer with hotels expected to share experiences and best practice.

Ian McCaig, Managing Partner in Scotland, was enthusiastic about the outcomes. "We think that bringing together businesses in an area can build understanding of not only what the software can do for the business but potentially lead to strong partnership working and support. The programme is aimed at highlighting to hotels how they can maximise the return on their online marketing investment through the use not only of Bookassist's powerful booking engine but also explaining how social media, SEO and website design play critical roles in developing traffic and thereafter conversion."

The Bookassist workshop will be fronted by James Kennedy, who is in charge of client management in Scotland and he was equally upbeat, "This is the first of a rolling series of two hour events with similar workshops scheduled for Ayrshire, Inverness, Fort William and Central Scotland. They will be used to introduce new Bookassist product and reinforce the benefits of the current functions. For example the event in Fife will feature discussions on the new iPhone App, a demonstration on getting the most out of Linked Packages, the massive conversion benefits of Promo Codes, understanding Multi-Language extensions, the time saving use of Dynamic Packaging and Deep Linking for email promotion."

Bookassist now provides the online booking engine for more than one hundred and twenty five accommdoation businesses across Scotland. Find out more at Bookassist Scotland

Thursday, 18 November 2010

VisitScotland Budget Cuts

The copy below is recounted from the press release and is for reference. Once we've had time later today to look through the media we'll see what the general reaction is and where possible get a view from "the industry" in due course.

However the one thing again that keeps jumping out of every press statement and quote eminating from either the chair, CEO or VS spokespersons is this £20 return for every £1 invested.
Is anyone else sceptical? Does anyone else think it should be higher? Does anyone else think that more effective and efficient (yes perhaps reduced) spending may actually increase that ROI substantially?
Later perhaps...Here's the copy

Tourism body VisitScotland has given itsreaction to the announcement of the Scottish Government’s budget, announced yesterday by finance secretary, John Swinney.

Swinney presented his draft budget for 2011-2012, announced a pay freeze for public sector workers earning over £21,000 per annum, in order to protect around 10,000 jobs.

He also announced departmental budget cuts in enterprise and tourism as a measure of ‘increased efficiencies’ which may mean staff cuts in order to achieve a cost saving of £61m in 2011-2012 and £200m over the next three years.

Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland's Chairman said that the organization was ‘delighted’ at the recognition by the Government towards tourism that the he believed that funding levels offered were ‘still at a significant level’ in a tough financial climate.

“Scottish tourism has proved to be resilient through the recession and this shows confidence in the industry and its potential,” Cantlay continued.

"Although we face challenging times ahead, we have and will continue to deliver for tourism. We know that our activity delivers at least £20 for every £1 invested in marketing and that it is helping to grow the Scottish economy.

 "We believe that funding for tourism is an investment in economic recovery. We are committed to working together with the tourism industry to deliver sustainable economic growth and best value for Scotland. We have already made significant internal efficiency savings to release more funding for marketing activity.

 "We have been reviewing our business over the last few months, focusing on becoming more efficient and putting more of our resources into the high yield activities that bring the biggest returns for Scotland. Our Board will consider these proposals at the end of November.”

Cantlay added that despite the organisation’s budget cut, he was still confident that the refocus on the business would ensure that tourism was still ‘at the heart of economic recovery’ for Scotland that that the money it invested in marketing offered immediate return for the country, with around £400m being brought into the economy last year as a result of VisitScotland’s key marketing campaigns.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Scottish Golf Tourism Industry Presents 2010 Awards

Since its inception five years ago, the Golf Tourism Scotland Gold Standard Awards have become a must-attend event for the golf industry in Scotland. The awards ceremony took place last tonight 11th of November at The MacDonald Marine Hotel in North Berwick in East Lothian.

List of Winners in each category
  • Golf Course of the Year - Castle Stuart Golf Links
  • Golf Secretariat of the Year - Crail Golfing Society
  • Caddiemaster of the Year - Davy Gilchrist, Kingsbarns Golf Links
  • Hotel of the Year - Small Hotel/Guest House - Ugadale Cottages, Machrihanish
  • Hotel of the Year - Country House - Rufflets Country House Hotel, St Andrews
  • Hotel of the Year - Large Hotel - Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch
  • Hotel of the Year - Resort Hotel - Fairmont St Andrews
  • Transport Operator of the Year - St Andrews Executive Travel
  • Golf Tour Operator of the Year - Links Golf St Andrews
  • Young Industry Person Award - Angus Watson, Fairmont St Andrews
  • Special Achievement Award - Mark Parsinen

For further information on the awards please email or visit for digital images.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Fife Golf Pass Holds Prices for 2011

That’s the message from First in Fife, and it confirms the Golfpass’s position as the best value way to play on 13 fine courses in the Home of Golf – Aberdour, Balbirnie Park, Burntisland, Canmore, Charleton, Dunfermline, Elmwood, Forrester Park, Kinross Bruce and Montgomery courses, Kirkcaldy, Pitreavie, and Thornton. A 3 round Pass is still just £63, and a 5 round Pass is even better value at only £99.

First in Fife also has its own online system for buying your Golfpass and then booking your rounds – still the only Golfpass in Scotland to offer this unique facility. Just go to, read all about our courses, buy your Pass, check tee time availability at all 13 courses, and then use your online account to book your tee times. It can all be done 24/7 and at the touch of a few buttons.

The Golfpass can be used any time from 1 April to 31 October 2011, and on one trip, or several, to Fife. There are some supplements, so please read the full terms and conditions on the website before buying your Pass.

You can also check out details of our hotel partners, both on and on their own websites. They will be happy to quote you excellent rates for your golf break in Fife.

So, join the thousands of golfers who have already used the First in Fife Golfpass to enjoy great value golf in the Home of Golf – we’re waiting to welcome you!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Castle Stuart Collects More Plaudits

Castle Stuart's list of credits simply gets longer as time goes on. The most recent "award" in in a recent Golf Digest article which heralds it as "the first great links of the 21st Century."

Hugging the coast of the Moray Firth, and the bluffs above it, Scotland's Castle Stuart was named as Overseas Destination of the Year by Golf Digest magazine in The States and simply confirms the view that has become one of the must play links courses in Scotland.
The article highlighted the course,
"Not that Scotland needed another great golf venue, but it has one in Castle Stuart Golf Links, a resort layout closer to Royal Dornoch than St. Andrews in distance and architecture. Co-designed by managing partner Mark Parsinen, a transplanted Californian, and American architect Gil Hanse, Castle Stuart might be the most perfectly conceived and executed design ever built. The first three holes on each nine hug the coastline of the Moray Firth, a thumb of the normally tempestuous North Sea made docile by extensive sea walls. The rest of the course is mostly atop a plateau, and the stair-step nature of the routing and shaping create the impression that every green is hanging right over the edge of the water. Call them infinity greens. Castle Stuart is more than 18 pretty faces. Parsinen and Hanse provided wide corridors to reduce the possibility of lost balls and to increase the excitement of recovery shots. Strategies are constructed around approach angles into generous but subtle greens. Each hole is as easy to read as a billboard, if you're not distracted by the stunning panoramas. As thrilling a trek along the ocean as Pebble Beach or Casa de Campo, Castle Stuart is the most stimulating and thoughtful architecture I saw all year. overnight destination of the year
Find out more about this wonderful golfing experience at Castle Stuart Golf website

Monday, 1 November 2010

Fife Golf Partnership Taking Shape?

The latest in a long line of public sector funded golf initiatives is about to get off the ground apparently. Fife Council commissioned BRS to "see what the appetite would be to establish a collaborative, Fife-wide golf marketing and development organisation, the planned Fife Golf Partnership."

According to the information sent out this will be a partnership between public and private sectors, but industry led and a group in the Fife golf industry have been invited to attend "to define the role, functions, management and operations of the planned Fife Golf Partnership." and they will focus on the key question
“How can Fife maintain its premier international position and reputation as the Home of Golf?”

The meeting will be held on Wednesday 1st December 2010, at Ladybank Golf Club and if you're not one of those involved you can find the summary market research report on the Fife Tourism Partnership Web Site.

The question that automatically jumps out is a big why? Does Fife need an overarching body to develop golf tourism in the area. Is it going to replace the work done by others? Or is it going to duplicate? The fact it's taken nine months to get to the point of a first meeting must be worrying.

We're aware of the East of Scotland Golf Alliance - with a remit to create cross boundary co-operation between East Lothian, Fife, Perth and Kinross; First in Fife Golf - group of courses developing product and marketing with a range of external parties; Links With History is a partnership with four courses in Fife; Visit scotland still have a role to play in developing Fife Golf at a local level; then there's St Andrews World Class and perhaps most stirkingly Golf Tourism Scotland which put forward proposals for regional golf development groups in an integrated structure some four years ago.

The problem again is clear. The fear is that the new group is going to sit in splendid isolation in Fife having dotted line links with other bodies and little no co-ordinated strategic development.

What is needed is not another isolated golf group but the joining up of the ones we have; the creation of a logical golf tourism framework under the auspices of Golf Tourism Scotland still seems to this outsider as the most logical way forward for tourism related bodies. It is quite clearly not a role for the councils nor for the Scottish Golf Union.

What about it GTS?