Friday 28 January 2011

Reality in Scottish Tourism at Last?

It could be that the latest Scottish Tourism figures release could just be the cleanser that was required. Ahead of the election in Scotland it may stop the false political claims about the resilience and exaggerated strength of the tourism and hospitality sector and put to bed the claimed positive benefits of a disastrous Homecoming the year before.

In short the figures tell us - and by us that is almost everyone involved in the tourism sector - that things are extremely difficult just now, that 2010 was not a boom year and that whilst the government may say tourism is our rock the reality at business level is that occupancy and rates have been under incredible pressure and demand has been falling.

That is not intended to be a pessimistic message. Far from it.

The counter however is that overplaying the resilience of the tourism market for PR spin does no-one any good other than the politicians. Businesses can now clearly see that we are all in the same boat. How many times have we spoken to tourism businesses across Scotland who think that the rest of the country is doing well and they therefore must be doing something wrong because they were down on the previous year?

Tourism is resilient and Scottish tourism operators across the sector will enable long term growth by their creativity and service standards but let's hope that we can now recognise where we are, stop banging on about useless statistics and build from a realistic position.

Read the tourism figures article in The Scotsman

Workshops for Tourism Businesses in Dumfries and Galloway

TOURISM businesses in Dumfries and Galloway are being encouraged to work together and learn about local events taking place.

A series of region-wide roadshows have been organised by Destination Dumfries and Galloway (DD&G) in Dumfries, Thornhill, Gretna, Gatehouse of Fleet and Stranraer.

Chairwoman of DD&G Wilma Finlay, who is also the managing director of Cream o’ Galloway, said: “Destination Dumfries and Galloway has been moving apace in order to bring together the energy and enthusiasm of the region’s tourism businesses to influence the public sector in how best to market our fantastic region.

“We also want to hear from tourism businesses about the training and development opportunities that would be most beneficial to them so that we can organise events at the most appropriate time of year and at an affordable price.

“By working together the industry can help Dumfries and Galloway to punch above its weight.”

The roadshows will provide a platform for tourism businesses to share their burning issues in a discussion forum and to network with other providers.

Dumfries and Galloway Council, LEADER, VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise, DGArts, the Mountain Bike Business Network are some of the businesses who have already agreed to take part.

Ros Halley, rural development manager, Dumfries and Galloway LEADER Programme said:

“This will be an excellent opportunity for all tourism businesses to come together to learn about local strategies and activities in the area.

“Naturally LEADER recognises the value of tourism to the local economy and will continue to support the work of DD&G and all the many community groups in the region.”

Businesses can learn about new opportunities such as grants schemes for small businesses, how to be included in visitor guides as well as training and marketing techniques.

Councillor Roger Grant, chair of the council planning, housing and environment committee, added: “The council is keen to work with and support businesses in the region.

“There are bound to be common problems and ideas to share at the roadshows and I hope that useful solutions will also emerge.

“When business people meet, new opportunities can come to light.

“Dumfries and Galloway has creative and energetic people in its tourism industry and I know they will make the most of the chances that come their way, helping to improve our region’s economy.”

Anyone wishing to attend the event, is asked to contact

Scottish Golf Tourism Forums - Spaces Available

Golf Tourism Scotland are inviting bookings for their February Forms. The theme for this year's events is market intelligence and how to use it to get ahead. For instance, what is good information, how can it help businesses make better decisions and how can it be used to improve the bottom line?

As well as three key-note presentations, the seminars will also include Q&A sessions, creative innovation workshops and networking buffet lunches.
The forums will take place on:
  • 8th February at Meldrum House Country Hotel in Aberdeenshire
  • 10th February at Longniddry Golf Club in East Lothian
  • 15th February at Panmure Golf Club in Tayside
  • 17th February at the South Ayrshire Council County Buildings in Ayrshire
  • 22nd February at Nairn Golf Club in The Highlands.
The sessions are open to all GTS members and any golf-related companies looking to maximise profits and grow their business. Bookings can be made by calling Elaine Townsend on 0131 225 5734 or by emailing

GTS Members - Free
Non-Members - £25 (If you decide to join on the day, the £25 will be deducted from your membership fee.)

Monday 24 January 2011

Sutherland golf pass scheme brings £40,000 tourism boost

According to North Highland Tourism golfing visitors making use of the Dornoch Firth Golf Pass have boosted the local economy by an estimated £40,000 since the scheme was launched eight months ago, according to an online survey.

Plan B and The Edge produced the new design for the group which was then developed into new print, new website and online marketing support materials.

The pass enables golfers to receive 30 per cent discount off five rounds of golf once they have purchased the pass for £30.

The obvious attraction of the pass is the opportunity to play Royal Dornoch's Championship Course but it also promotes the area for golfers to stay in and to enjoy a range of courses at Brora, Golspie and Tain as well as Royal Dornoch's Struie Course.The pass was launched between the four clubs with assistance from the Highland Council ward discretionary fund, the VisitScotland Growth Fund and five local hotels.

Jill McNicol, marketing and membership manager of North Highland Tourism, said: "The pass has been the result of the clubs' collaboration and the recognition that by working together the Dornoch Firth area can be put on the map as a destination for the golf visitor.

"Results from our online survey reveal that visitors to the area expect to spend three or more nights in the area, spending an average of £250 per trip, and we estimate that the visitors who purchased the Dornoch Firth Golf Pass have put £40,000 into the local tourism economy."

The partnership behind the scheme has sold 160 passes, generating revenue of £4800 for the Brora, Golspie, Tain and Royal Dornoch golf clubs, with further green-fee sales of £30,000 when used.

The Dornoch Firth Golf Pass gives golfers an opportunity to play Royal Dornoch as well as other courses in the area.

To raise awareness of the pass, and to encourage accommodation providers to promote it within packages that they offer, the partnership is organising accommodation providers' briefings on Tuesday 1st March at 5.15pm (Tain Golf Club) and Wednesday 2nd March at 3.15pm (Brora Golf Club). Anyone interested in going can email

The partnership's new website,, is starting to see its first online pass sales come through.

Jeanette Cumming of Golspie Golf Club said: "We envisage a pick-up in online sales as visitors from around the world plan trips to coincide with such tournaments as the Walker Cup, which is being played at Royal Aberdeen, and whose head greenkeeper, Robert Paterson, was formerly at Royal Dornoch."

Further information from North Highland Tourism's online survey showed that everyone felt the pass represented great value for money and would buy it again. Seventy-seven per cent had stayed four or more nights away from home using the pass. Sixty-seven per cent spent more than £51 per person per day, with over 11 per cent spending £101-plus per person per day.

Over 55 per cent planned to stay away again using their existing pass.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Golf History Exhibition Worth a Visit

Why was Scotland a natural home for golf? Learn the answer and other fascinating facts in a major exhibition. running through to 20 March 2011.

Discover why Scotland is so important to the story of golf by visiting the National Library of Scotland's exhibition.

'A swing through time' charts the social history of golf in Scotland and highlights the influences that made golf the game we know today.

Find out how an ordinary 'ball and stick' game took hold in Scotland and eventually transformed into what is now a billion-dollar industry.

A Swing Through Time: Golf in Scotland Exhibition takes place between 9 December 2010 to 20 March 2011 at the George IV Bridge Building in Edinburgh.

Admission is free and the opening hours are Monday-Friday: 10.00-20.00; Saturday: 10.00-17.00 and Sunday: 14.00-17.00

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Golf Merger Discussions

Interesting juxtaposition of Words and Phrases in a Scotsman article. "breakneck speed" and "SGU" were used in the same sentence.

Most unusual use of language...

Golf Merger Talks

Tuesday 18 January 2011

New Route from Shannon to Edinburgh

Another boost for Scottish Tourism? A new route into Shannon is being hailed by Irish hoteliers as a massive boost and could provide some additional business for key elements of the tourism sector in Scotland including the lucrative US inbound golf market.

Hoteliers in Ireland's mid-west welcomed the decision by Aer Lingus and Aer Arann to launch a new route between Shannon and Edinburgh from March 27.

Michael Vaughan, Chairman of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said the new route will directly link Shannon with a substantial tourist market in Scotland and is a strategically important development in increasing Shannon airport’s connectivity with Britain.

Mr Vaughan said: "Hoteliers in the mid-west are looking forward to working with Aer Lingus and Aer Arann to promote this new route which provides us with direct access to a market of 500,000 people in Edinburgh

"The route will give us greater access to the wider Scottish market of over five million people and will allow us to link in with niche markets such as golf tourism from the US where many visitors seek to combine a holiday playing links golf in both Ireland and Scotland."

It's the sort of announcement that some airports in Scotland are desperate to be able to make

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Friends and Family Rates Go Online

The recent addition of the creation of Promo Codes to the Bookassist system is allowing hotels in Scotland even more creativity in promoting their empty rooms.

The most recent being rolled out by the Scottish team is the integration of Friends and Family rates.

Ian McCaig explained, "We all think that the Promo Codes is a fantastic tool but still not being used to full potential by the hotels and we've started proposing specific uses. Friends and Family was triggered by a recent stayover in one of our Inverness properties when I called ahead looking for a rate. The idea of using the hidden promo code rate to give access to reserving a Friend and Family rate on-line made sense. As a result we've gone live this week with a couple of hotels who are now using the deep link to the hidden rate to sell some off season rooms."

The Inn at Lathones are now planning to use the F&F rate over the coming weeks. Owner Nick White explained, "We have a number of travel trade partners and industry colleagues who we often offer heavily discounted rates to manually - the Promo Codes now allow us to mail it out to the whole list and subject to our controls on availability they can book the 50% rate online. It remains secure and we sell some rooms without the public seeing the discounted rates. Ideal solution and we are planning to do a similar promotion for fam trips in the spring."

For more information on how you could get the most out of Bookassist's Promo Codes give the Scottish office a call on 01292 521404 or mail

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Tourism Innovation Award for Alba Travel and Events

Congratulations in order to Christine Seaton of Alba Travel and Events who's secured a Tourism Innovation Award in the latest round with a collaboration with Scottish Farmhouse Holidays.

Julie Franchetti, Scottish Enterprise’s tourism innovation manager, commented: "Scotland has unique tourism assets. However, the challenge is to use these in innovative ways that will grow our tourism offering to visitors in both number and quality of offerings.

"The four awards being made are all sound ideas based on an understanding of the market and which cater to visitor needs, and should lead to increased profitability and improved competitiveness for the companies.

"Scotland’s tourism industry already has around 20,000 businesses, supporting nearly 204,000 jobs directly and indirectly. It generates nearly £4.1 billion for Scotland’s economy ever year, accounting for 5% of Scotland’s GDP.

"By encouraging higher levels of innovation and collaboration, we can continue to improve Scotland’s tourism experience and attract more visitors in new and exciting ways, growing the sector even further."

The award to Alba centres around Packaged Agritourism Experiences

Scottish Farmhouse Holidays is a unique opportunity to collectively market farm-stay providers of Scottish Farmhouse Holidays (which was bought by Alba Travel in 2009) and will offer packaged ‘Agritourism’ experiences. The project aims to develop a programme with the working farms within the Scottish Farmhouse Holidays portfolio that truly enhances the visitor experience and shares best practice, and will develop a useful guide of all farm-related shops, events and activities throughout the annual calendar and to extend the existing portfolio in 2011 and 2012.

Friday 7 January 2011

Visitscotland Chairman Talks About Ayrshire Tourism

According to The Ayrshire Post, Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland chair has been playing up the opportunities for Ayrshire in a recent visit to the area or interview with the paper and yet again another statistic appears in the press copy.

"Dr Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, insists Ayrshire is a jewel in the nation’s crown. And he believes more can be made of beauty spots like stunning golf courses and the Isle of Arran.

Dr Cantlay said: “People come from around the world to see what Ayrshire has to offer and you should rightly be proud of what you have. But it’s ironically the people of Scotland who don’t know what they have under their own noses."
If you've been reading any of the blog posts on Tourism Matters you'll know that there's a theme rallying against this incessant use of tourism statistics which fill VisitScotland press releases - many of them meaningless and irrelevant to the article published. 
This one's a new one though to us:
“A startling statistic is that 40 per cent of Scots have never had their main holiday in Scotland."
Startling? Only if we're saying that Scots having a main holiday in Scotland is a key target market. The secondary, tertiary or just regular short break market is a much more sell-able product to Scots surely than trying to make main holidays the object of new business development?
The short break UK market has always been the more attractive and trying to convert this to fourteen day trips is surely not a key focus of VisitScotland's strategy? Not sure what the question asked was, what the definition of main holiday was nor what the sample size was but I'm surprised that 60% have taken a "main" holiday in Scotland!

He continued, “There are a lot of reasons to be confident that 2011 will be a good year for tourism – particularly in Ayrshire. The opening of the new Burns Museum is something to be excited about and is obviously something that will attract people from around the world.”
There was however no mention of lost inbound flights through Prestwick Airport and how that will impact on the local hospitality business.

But Dr Cantlay is under no illusions that local authority budget cuts could mean slashed investment for tourism.

The article finished with Dr Cantlay saying, “I have arranged to meet with the three Ayrshire councils so we can discuss how to make the most of tourism in this area."

Therein lies the problem; the meeting is with the public sector not the private, there are three councils and it's yet more discussions. Hmmmmm.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Online Booking Issues are Universal...

I have no earthly idea where Pigeon Forge is (I will do more research later however) but I picked up the following debate from Google Alerts and if you remove the Proper Nouns from the article it could be any other part of Scotland (and indeed beyond).

The Department of Tourism is looking to add online booking to its new website "to allow visitors to book lodging reservations, buy tickets to entertainment and attractions and, eventually, purchase merchandise."
The question being debated may sound familiar to Scottish Tourism operators - Would the one-stop-shop be a boon for tourism? Or, by routing vacation shoppers through a government-owned site, will the change prove the bane of some businesses?

The idea of a booking engine on the city-owned website has been under discussion for more than a year, and it was reported that "focus group members" (yes they have them in Pigeon Forge too) asked for the additional functionality.

The Tourist Board executive, sorry Department of Tourism representative used the quote that appears to be completely interchangeable with public marketing sector bodies across the world
"We think it's a great idea that needs to be pursued;We feel like it's the right thing to do for our businesses. It's the right thing to do for our guests. The needs of our guests come first."
But Pigeon Forge has its own doubters! And a local internet marketing consultant is adamantly opposed to the city getting into the booking business.

"A  public owned booking site will take business from businesses and charge the businesses for doing it," he said. "Three or four businesses in town sell tickets (to theaters and attractions). If the city sells tickets, the city will be in competition with them."

The consultant who works with lodging, entertainment and attractions companies, said the city's booking engine could take traffic away from businesses' websites, which could drop the businesses' sites in online rankings and lead to fewer direct connections with potential customers. Rhodes also is concerned about potential profits for the city from the site, money that would come from area businesses and he calculated that
if half the businesses in Pigeon Forge participate in the venture and the city receives a 10 percent commission on each purchase - a percentage the public body didn't refute - the city could make millions.

Referring to a previous presentation, the consultant said the site could evolve past lodging and tickets into retail, with the city selling T-shirts and trinkets online. "Down the road, it's going to keep costing and costing and costing business owners," Rhodes said. "At some point, the city might as well put a sign on the Department of Tourism building that says, 'Pigeon Forge Stores.' "

And we thought we were a lone voice...

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Another Good Year Ahead for Ski Industry?

"Thousands of snowsports enthusiasts took to the slopes over Christmas and New Year, providing a seasonal boost to the Scottish economy.
About 15,000 skiers and snowboarders visited the five ski areas – Cairn Gorm, Glenshee, the Nevis Range, the Lecht and Glencoe – over the past two weeks. A total of 77,000 have enjoyed the slopes since the season began in November – one of the earliest starts for several years. 
The figures have been welcomed after last season, the best for nearly 15 years, generated more than £37million for the economy."

Read the full article at The Press and Journal

It's absolutely great news for so many businesses - large and small - around the main ski areas that the snow is back at least for now! Only downside to the article is again the regurgitation of all of these multiplier factors and economic impacts that are clearly now just dropped in as a matter of course into every press release issued by the Scottish Government or VisitScotland. This time the figure is that for every £1 spent on the slopes there is another £4 contributed to the local economy. We're thinking that we'll make a database of Scottish Tourism statistics for 201...