Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tourism Committee Discusses Strategy

Tourism Matters we keep saying. Not just us but the political elite, the business leaders and for sure all of us who are involved in it on a daily basis.

But apparently this "driver of our economy" matters not enough to either of The Scotsman or Herald on line editions to warrant any coverage.

Yesterday saw the first of two sessions at Holyrood examining the strategy embarked upon by VisitScotland and The Scottish Government titled The Winning Years. (Okay Nicola and Ec will say it's nothing to do with them but we all know really the 2014 political undertones guys!)

Yet I've searched and searched and no reporting of the comments even though there is little doubt that the honesty revealed some serious issues about the current state of business and the knock on impacts on future investment.

So big congratulations first to The Daily Record for bothering to cover it, for it is they who were found in Google when searching for a report on the day's questioning.

Second big congratulations must go to Stephen Leckie of the Scottish Tourism Alliance. Okay, I haven't had access to transcripts of his answers but the ones reported indicated a refreshing public honesty about the state of the tourism nation.

Stephen Leckie, the current chair of the Tourism Leadership Group representing members from B&Bs, self-catering and tourist attractions, told the committee "that half of its members experienced worse results in 2012 compared with 2011, partly due to weather and partly due to the economic crisis. Only one in five (21%) were up on the previous year. Cities are "level-pegging with last year"while parts of the north and west performed "much worse", he said.

"We're not in great shape actually," Mr Leckie concluded.

There someone has said it! We're not in great shape actually. 


Willie Macleod, former VisitScotland Director and now executive director for Scotland with the British Hospitality Association also concurred saying, "I think the weather undoubtedly has had an impact on the season overall. Certainly in the early part of the year there were concerns that 2012 wasn't going to be a materially improved year on 2011. While hotels are broadly maintaining their occupancy levels, many struggle to achieve industry targets for average rates per room, Mr Macleod told MSPs. The second and third holidays are not as high on people's agendas as there is still pressure on consumer spending," he said.
There he said it too. The Staycation boom is over - if f course you ever believed it actually existed.
The flip side? Yes, but please note it came from the Director of Communcaitions and Marketing whose remit probably includes the development of a postive profile for The Commonwealth Games. I know I'm going to be called cynical again...
Gordon Arthur, of Glasgow 2014, said: "We have already seen a massive bounce from the Olympic Games in terms of interest, in ticket buying, volunteering, and getting involved. Almost by necessity, we've kept fairly below the radar while the Olympic Games were building up. We are now about to step out and become much, much more high profile in the coming weeks."

Fortunately Stephen Mr Leckie was a little more circumspect when he said what the rest of us beleive by being "unconvinced that London 2012 boosted Scottish tourism. I'm not sure how good the Olympics has been for Scotland, the jury is out on that. Lots of BHA members and others around England and Scotland just weren't very busy during the Olympics. The worry is that, is something similar going to happen during the Commonwealth Games?"

There it was said. Marquee events do not necessarily impact positively on tourism. In particular one off events that move on can often leave very little behind. See Ryder Cup K Club or  Celtic Manor.

And is it time to bin one more of the myths that we are all sick and tired of having peddled at us?

"People do not come to Scotland for the weather" - used by successions of tourism bosses, marketing gurus and the like. And yes it is a true statement.

Change a couple of words however and it can take on an entirely different meaning.

"People do not come to Scotland because of the weather" is a reality for much of our market place and a reality that everyone of us in the sector recognises. Weather has both positive and negative impacts. This idea that we should just treat it as a neutral is quite ridiculous. It needs to be built into tourism future planning, economic estimates and growth forecasts. Fore example a sustainable outdoor Festival calendar is less likely to be feasible if grounds are flooded eight years out of ten.

The mythical Brave like view and vision of Scotland is fine when pixelated but in real life small and medium sized hospitality businesses have to plan under increasingly heavy meteorological and financial clouds.

It is time for a proper balancing of flag waving and the more stark economic realities facing us.
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