Tuesday 27 November 2012

Website and Booking Engine Options for the small operator

Plan B have unveiled three new website and booking packages under their Open Rooms branding.

The three options which are aimed at the smaller independent accommodation provider have been developed around Plan B's proprietary and purpose built hospitality Content and Destination Management System known as The Claymore Project.

The competitive pricing of the packages recognises the challenges facing the smaller operator in a constrained market place where investment in improving services and infrastructure is at a premium.

Ian McCaig of Plan B explains, "The pressures on smaller operators is coming from all sides in particular  from Online Travel Agents (OTAs) such as Booking.com and others driving prices down and increasing the cost of sales through increasingly high commission levels. The Open Rooms suite of products has been designed and developed to try encourage a Best Book Direct attitude from the operators who can and should be taking more control over everything they can do to increase lower costs DIRECT reservations"

The suite combines full content management with award winning low cost booking engine technology using Bookassist's Web Booking Engine.

McCaig continued, "We are particularly aware of the removal of VisitScotland's booking engine in Scotland at the end of December and these solutions are perfect for the operators who are now looking for a long term replacement. We think it's important that businesses consider their strategy before signing up to something that simply says we're FREE - there is always a cost to a booking and providers just have to ask where those costs come in."

We strongly believe that the best booking - for both the provider and the guest - is the DIRECT booking and with all of our booking engine clients it is about increasing the reservations through the accommodation providers' OWN sites not traffic through high commission third party sites. 

It's not easy to break the stranglehold of the big boys when the revenues are so desperately needed but it can be done slowly and surely with good practice."

Our Open Rooms suite gives businesses of all sizes the tools to start moving rooms back to DIRECT"

Open Rooms Postcard 1314

Open Rooms Postcard is a well-designed and update-able micro site featuring a rolling gallery of images and it also includes your contact information, Google Map, and direct links to your social media too! For small accommodation business you can even integrate Bookassist, one of the leading booking engines on the market, into the site to take commission free bookings.

On signing up for an Open Rooms Postcard website we will take your logo, images and content and turn it into a search engine optimised, online availability ready, fully content managed webpage and often in less than 48 hours!

Open Rooms Lite 1314

Our entry level package, Open Rooms Lite 1314, offers the independent accommodation provider all of the flexibility required and you can grow your site as required with our purpose built content and destination management system you can control as much of your online content as you need. Manage and update your content, add image galleries even integrate your social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and offer fully integrated and offer DIRECT online room bookings - commission free for under ten bedded properties.

Based on flexible Open Rooms Frameworks, we design around your colours and logos. You decide on your site content and pages and we build the site for you. You manage all of your content from day one. Your booking engine is integrated into the system with you ready to take commission free bookings from day one.

Commission Free Booking Engine

VisitScotland have announced recently that from the middle of December 2012 they will be removing access to their booking engine leaving many smaller accommodation providers with only a few weeks to find a replacement to ensure that they can receive online bookings through the important first three months of 2013.

Aimed at the small bed and breakfast and guest house provider this lighter version of the award winning booking engine offers a commission free booking option with a host of top end functions. Open Rooms 1314 offers a modified version of the web booking engine aimed at the smaller operator making it easier than ever to manage rates and availability and take reservations DIRECT from their own websites.

For further information click on the links above to view website examples and to download a detailed PDF Guide or if you wish to discuss your booking engine options please call us on 01292 521404

Monday 19 November 2012

Gearing up for Year of Natural Scotland

News Release from Scottish Government


With only two months to go till the Year of Natural Scotland officially gets underway in 2013, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing has been urging Scotland’s visitor attractions to get involved.

Speaking at the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions annual conference in Falkirk, Mr Ewing outlined how the twelve months showcasing Scotland’s outstanding natural environment has significant potential to boost visitor numbers.

He also met Ellen Walker of the travel company Brightwater Holidays. It is one of the first companies to take advantage of the Year of Natural Scotland branding which features prominently in their new brochure that is to be distributed across the UK.

The Year of Natural Scotland is the next of the Scottish Government’s Focus Years showcasing some of our best known tourism assets as we progress towards our second Year of Homecoming Scotland in 2014. The Year of Natural Scotland follows the Year of Food and Drink, the Year of Active Scotland and the Year of Creative Scotland.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

"The Year of Natural Scotland provides us with an excellent opportunity to make the most of Scotland’s magnificent natural heritage and increase visitor numbers in the process.

"I am encouraging everyone at home and abroad to discover or rediscover Scotland by getting out and seeing some of our world renowned scenery, wildlife and other natural attractions which will boost business and enhance both the local and national economies.

"Tourism attractions across the country can get involved by using the toolkit which is available on VisitScotland’s website and by thinking now about how they can make the most of this opportunity. Brightwater Holidays is already on board and I know many others are doing the same.

"The Focus Years have been a great success and the figures speak for themselves. Over half a million people attended events and activities celebrating the Year of Food and Drink, we saw a 6 per cent increase in "active" participation levels during the Year of Active Scotland and the messaging around the Year of Creative Scotland has already reached almost 70 million people across the globe.

"Together we can build on this success for the Year of Natural Scotland and keep the momentum going for the second year of Homecoming in 2014 when Scotland will take centre stage in world terms as host of two of the largest events in the world, The Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup."

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: "The Year of Natural Scotland is a great opportunity for Scottish tourism businesses to showcase exactly what this country has to offer. It is great to see that, already, we are seeing businesses such as Brightwater Holidays seizing the initiative and highlighting the Year of Natural Scotland. I would encourage all Scottish tourism businesses to think about ways that they, too, can get involved and take advantage of this unique celebration. Not only is the Year of Natural Scotland about putting Scotland’s stunning landscapes on the world stage, it is also about boosting the visitor economy and putting cash in the tills of tourism businesses throughout Scotland."

Ellen Walker from Brightwater said;

"The Year of Natural Scotland is the perfect timing for Brightwater Holidays to launch its new marketing division under the brand Brightwater Scotland.

"We have built up an enviable reputation over the last 20 years for our personable service and a range of Scottish Holidays that is second to none. Our Scottish Garden Holidays, Island Breaks and Archaeological Tours are the perfect fit for The Year of Natural Scotland.

"We are delighted to launch Brightwater Scotland - in association with Visit Scotland and the Year of Natural Scotland 2013."

Good Flight News For Scotland

Good news for Scottish tourism (and business) that Virgin Atlantic will launch multiple daily flights between London and Scotland from next March after it successfully bid for all the slots British Airways was forced to relinquish following its takeover of BMI.

BA and Virgin will now go head to head on flights between London Heathrow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen for the first time.

Virgin, which will lease aircraft with crew from a third party airline to operate its new domestic network, said further details would be announced within the next two weeks.

Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Steve Ridgway said: "We have fought hard for the right to fly short haul and take a strong challenge to British Airways within these shores.  For 28 years both airlines have battled for customers all over the world and it has meant that British consumers have ultimately had some of the world's best flying and lowest fares.

"This is the beginning of an exciting new era in Virgin Atlantic history and we now feel a responsibility to everyone that has supported us in this challenge. Passengers can look forward to a great short haul service with us but most importantly reap the benefits from the re-injection of vital competition we can provide on these routes."

The airline said the new routes, to launch around March 31, will complement its new Manchester to Heathrow route it is also introducing next year. Flights will be operated by a narrow-bodied A320.

BA, which already flies between Heathrow and Scotland, was forced to give up some of its take-off and landing slots from Heathrow to Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well as to Cairo and Moscow, for rival airlines following its takeover of BMI, which was the only other airline flying the same routes.

Lufthansa is believed to have been the only other airline bidding for the Heathrow to Edinburgh and Aberdeen slots, but Virgin lost its bid for slots to Moscow, which went to easyJet (see earlier story).

Thursday 15 November 2012

Alternative to VisitScotland Booking Engine Unveiled

Direct website reservations powered by Bookassist Booking Engine

VisitScotland have announced recently that from the middle of December 2012 they will be removing access to their booking engine leaving many smaller accommodation providers with only a few weeks to find a replacement to ensure that they can receive online bookings through the important first three months of 2013.

Plan B are delighted therefore to offer a range of booking engine and integrated website solutions powered by award winning online reservations specialists Bookassist.

Aimed at the small bed and breakfast and guest house provider this lighter version of the award winning booking engine offers a commission free booking option with a host of top end functions. Open Rooms 1314 offers a modified version of the web booking engine aimed at the smaller operator making it easier than ever to manage rates and availability and take reservations DIRECT from their own websites.

Read More on the website

Direct Web Business with Commission Free Bookings

Direct website reservations powered by Bookassist Booking Engine

VisitScotland have announced recently that from the middle of December 2012 they will be removing access to their booking engine leaving many smaller accommodation providers with only a few weeks to find a replacement to ensure that they can receive online bookings through the important first three months of 2013.

Plan B are delighted therefore to offer a range of booking engine and integrated website solutions powered by award winning online reservations specialists Bookassist.

Aimed at the small bed and breakfast and guest house provider this lighter version of the award winning booking engine offers a commission free booking option with a host of top end functions. Open Rooms 1314 offers a modified version of the web booking engine aimed at the smaller operator making it easier than ever to manage rates and availability and take reservations DIRECT from their own websites.

Read More on the website

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Broadband in Scotland - Any Improvements?

I was out and about visiting clients last week up Loch Ness and Loch Lomond and then back down the A9 and I reckon that I probably had a mobile phone signal for about 20% of the journey; rarely saw 3G and was really only in contact with the outside business world when using the hotels' very good free WiFi - thank you Loch Ness Inn and Cairngorm Hotel!)

It reminded us that we undertook an online survey last year of all things (dis)connected across Scotland. The results were neither positive nor surprising and we can't help but think that in spite of the words about improving connectivity we still haven't grasped the importance to the tourism sector.

Why would you bother creating a Mobile Version website if twenty minutes out of our airports the site cannot be accessed; what point apps if your iPhone can't connect. Telephone the office? Even in some of Scotland's top business hotels you can't get a mobile signal apart from an area of 24 square feet at the far end of the car park.

Anyway, no-one seems to bothered to do anything about connectivity. As long as we can build another wind turbine the world is good...

Anyway worth having a wee look at the results gathered last year.

Tourism Matters Survey

Scottish agents back Virgin's bid for BA slots

Scottish travel agents believe a single airline should be awarded the slots British Airways has been forced to give up following its takeover of bmi in order to provide strong competition on key Scottish routes to London.

A survey by the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association found that 97% of agents felt this would be "the best deal" for Scottish air passengers.

This new research published today finds overwhelming support for a single airline to compete with British Airways on routes between Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow.

The survey of travel agents follows a recent EU decision forcing BA to relinquish 12 of its 'slot-pairs' (daily return flights) as part of its acquisition of bmi earlier this year. Seven of these slot-pairs are reserved for the flights between Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow.

Airlines interested in operating these available slot-pairs have submitted business applications to the EU and Scottish passengers will find out in early December which airline(s) has been awarded the routes. So far, only Virgin Atlantic and Aer Lingus are believed to have submitted bids.

The survey also found that an overwhelming majority (93%) of respondents would be "very concerned" that fares could rise if no airline was selected to operate the 'slot-pairs' on either route.

80% of travel agents said that airlines that cannot demonstrate the "ability to offer convenient connecting flights from Heathrow to popular long-haul destinations" should not be offered the slot-pairs. The survey is based on responses from over 30 Scottish travel agent companies polled in October.

SPAA president Kevin Thom said ''Of course, as leisure and business travel providers we work closely with British Airways and other existing Anglo Scottish carriers, but we also recognise that Scotland and its travellers really need this additional capacity.

"We are confident that Virgin Atlantic's plans are well-conceived and their commitment long-term and we support their view that the slot-pairs must be allocated en bloc - to make the services both viable and sustainable. Above all, we firmly believe Virgin Atlantic's presence on the Anglo-Scottish routes would strengthen, stimulate and expand the market for all airlines operating here and encourage Scots to travel more and further.

"Virgin Atlantic has already lodged a bid to take over the daily slot-pairs at Heathrow. The SPAA is very supportive of this bid by Virgin Atlantic to operate services between Heathrow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, which would result in it having the ability to target both point-to-point UK domestic passengers, as well as connecting opportunities to key global destinations."

Today's new research follows the publication of a letter signed by five MSPs, sent earlier this month to EU decision-makers, highlighting their own concerns about the decision. In the letter, organised by Brian Adam, the MSPs say that "in a worst-case-scenario, close to 2m passengers each year on the Edinburgh and Aberdeen - Heathrow routes would be left with absolutely no passenger choice."

In the letter to Commissioner Joaquín Almunia the MSPs added that the decision, which rests with the EU, should "offer Scottish passengers a strong alternative to British Airways" on the Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow routes, which currently carry 1.8m passengers each year. They say just one airline should be awarded the available slots to ensure robust competition to BA - "we'd counsel ... a single airline that will operate services across both the Edinburgh and Aberdeen - Heathrow routes, enabling it to build a competitive pan-Scotland air network."

From April 2013 BA will retain eight daily return flights between Aberdeen-Heathrow and 12 between Edinburgh-Heathrow. So even if one airline is awarded all 12 slot-pairs and then splits them, say, 50/50 between the Aberdeen and Edinburgh routes they will still face a significant competitive disadvantage. "This would then be further exacerbated if the available slot pairs were split between a number of new entrants" according to the MSPs.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Changes to VisitScotland.com booking facility

Let's not beat around the bush.

It's been a ten year disaster, a monumental waste of public sector funding, a process that ignored best available advice, a project driven by egos and finally with a couple of hundred words and no regrets, the Chief Executive of VisitScotland has finally done what should have been done a decade ago and pulled the VS Booking engine.

It even sounds like it's a strategic decision and not one forced upon them by EC rulings. Well it's not strategic and the hundreds of businesses using their new online booking system (which was in fact only launched in April of THIS year) were certainly not told that it was going to have a lifespan of less than eight months. The fact of the matter is that the organisation knew that this was a possibility, we even asked them why they were going ahead specifically, and ignored it claiming instead at meeting after meeting that the position with the EC ruling was clear and they had the right to sell accommodation through their systems.

Well they were right, the ruling was clear, the direction from Brussels last November told VS to get out of the process. Instead they spent millions re branding their site and integrating another online booking facility that would last for just over two hundred days.

And the introductory paragraph reproduced below... wow what a selective use of memory. 

There were alternatives ten years ago. There were even more eight years ago, five years ago and three years ago. Plenty of time for VisitScotland to get out. Plenty of opportunities for the strategy to change and plenty of calls from the private sector for them to do so. 

Some estimates I've seen bundle the overall cost of the ten year debacle at as much as £30 million. Not just software development and new website building but public sector staff time in training, in becoming sales people for the system, for buy outs of public private partnerships. 

So that's it it's all fixed?

Well no, the new digital strategy continues to make claims that it just can't justify. Millions continue to be spent on flawed software and indeed flawed strategic thinking. There is no-one accountable for the backlog of online projects and there are still major questions outstanding about additional money now being spent on a public sector funded channel manager - arguably replicating the competition errors of the outgoing booking engine.

There are questions remaining about the access to event information that has been licenced to a private company at a ridiculous cost. Questions remain about the effectiveness of the search functions within the main website. Questions remain about the roll out of regional websites and their costs and effectiveness. Questions remain about the effectiveness of VisitScotland social media strategy. Questions remain about their mobile strategy. 

And after a year - arguably a decade of asking - these questions still remain unanswered. 

Accountability? Who knows. Responsibility? Questionable.

And you know what makes it worse this rant is not written solely with the benefits of hindsight. 

The whole VisitScotland digital strategy was questioned deeply by a wide group of travel professionals ten years ago and having just reread the points raised back then the whole scenario could and should have been avoided. Having been involved at those stages we highlighted this to politicians of all colours frequently and very very clearly. I recall Kenny McCaskill's indignation in a meeting at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh when in opposition all those years ago. I recall Jack McConell nodding knowingly at meetings.

In subsequent years that lobbying has continued by individuals but the decision making process within Scottish tourism has failed the businesses it's meant to be supporting and developing.

Did the industry memberships do enough to raise the fears of their subscribers? Did the government and opposition do enough to question the process? Did VisitScotland question the return on investment of the expenditure? Did the Scottish media delve into any of it fully? Nope. Tourism is growing so let's leave well alone. Why worry about big issues when we can focus on having another workshop or two on using Facebook.

Well now it's not growing and maybe it's time to look at how all the other decisions relating to Scottish Tourism and hospitality are being made and implemented and monitored. Maybe a review of the whole tourism structure is well overdue. Not the restructuring of a few jobs but a whole analysis of the public sector role in 21st century tourism. Not done from the inside but from without.

This whole online booking situation is most likely to be written off as insignificant but it is to some is an indication of continued institutional failures in tourism and hospitality and is a very strong argument for the public sector not doing more but actually doing LESS. 

It is indicative of ongoing political interference - just look at the spending ahead of 2014 - and it is also shamefully indicative of a hospitality sector that will not actually say what it feels often enough for fear of alienation from public sector funding and seats around tables.

Scotland's public sector hospitality strategy has created a structure that is divisive, fragmented and creates overlap, duplication and waste. Regional and local destinations and activity groups fight for small funds so that they can compete against each other better. It's lunacy. The North East get some money so the south west counter it. The Highlands create a golf campaign and East Lothian match it. Where is the logic in funding internally competitive projects. 

The country is flooded with DMO's (destination management/marketing organisations) many set up just to bid for grant funding. Councils developing strategies to compete with their neighbours. It is lunacy. It doesn't require a genius to identify that this expenditure needs reigned in to part of a joined up strategy. This expenditure is setting area against area; region against region, tourism group against tourism group. And we just let this horrendous volume of economic displacement activity go on and on and on.

It really is time for some serious activity, some genuine vision, some true understanding. We are blessed with some seriously visionary individuals in Scottish tourism. I can name a dozen right away who could cut through the rubbish. Some of them even currently sit on the boards and employees of the bodies driving the above. There is no lack of talent in either the public or private sector. There is however a lack of structure, responsibility and accountability.

What these influencers need to do is not sit quietly around the table but start banging the table and insisting on change.

It is a small country and yes debate and disagreement with those you work alongside can be stressful but the alternative to frank and open discussion is stale and cumbersome strategy with a lack of creativity. We can argue vociferously around the table and still have a drink afterwards.

So that's the rant over with. It may be read by as many as 100 people if we're lucky but it's great to just get it out of the system...

Downloads and Links

The following links give more information on the changes and how to manage them.


And here's the announcement that went out last night from VisitScotland

November 5th 2012

Changes to VisitScotland.com booking facility

Dear colleague,

When the online booking system on VisitScotland.com was developed ten years ago, for the majority of smaller tourism businesses this was the sole channel for consumers to book directly online with accommodation establishments. Over the last decade there have been a number of changes in the online booking landscape and there are now many more providers of this service.

Working with the European Commission and the other National Tourist Boards, VisitScotland will look at the way in which they work with tourism businesses around provision of online booking facilities via their websites. We have decided to accelerate our longer term strategy, which was to provide a website with a more direct connection between the visitor and the business.

As a result, VisitScotland will no longer be offering its own online booking facility. This means, from mid December 2012, to make a booking, visitors will have the following options: 

1.     Call or email the business directly to make a reservation
2.     Contact the business directly via their own website
3.     Click on a ‘book’ button - a new button will be introduced which can provide a link to the businesses online booking website.
4.     Use the VisitScotland Contact Centre or a VisitScotland Information Centre to make a booking, as is currently the case.
Visitors will still be able to find accommodation businesses through the search function on VisitScotland.com and it is vital that businesses continue to keep this up to date, accurate and have a description that best portrays the products and services on offer.

From June 2013, visitors will be able to book online via a third party provider. To assist businesses in identifying the systems that will be linking to the VisitScotland website, a regularly updated list will be published from the end of November on visitscotland.org.

Our priority is to do what we can to help the industry find the most suitable booking option against individual business needs, by providing support and advice on our industry website visitscotland.org, through face to face contact with our Quality and Tourism Advisors and via the telephone with our contact centre.

A letter has been sent to all accommodation businesses that appear on VisitScotland.com today, 5 November; therefore they should receive it in the mail tomorrow.

VisitScotland.com is, and remains, a showcase for Scotland, boasting a rich source of information for visitors and reaching out to some 14 million internet users. Our international and UK & Ireland marketing will continue to drive visitors to the site using a range of print and online communications, websites and campaigns all year round.

If you would like to talk this through in more detail, please get in touch.

Kind Regards

Malcolm Roughead OBE
Chief Executive - VisitScotland 

Monday 5 November 2012

Nairn Hotel Wins Scottish Hotel of the Year Award

Boath House, a member of the Connoisseurs Scotland family of properties, has been named “Scottish Hotel of the Year” in the 2013 edition of the Good Hotel Guide.

The publication, which is the leading independent guide to hotels of character and quality in Great Britain and Ireland, annually is sues its prestigious César awards, known as the “Oscars of the hotel industry.” Winning properties are listed in the 2013 edition of the guide, which became available in print starting Oct. 8 and which can be seen online at www.goodhotelguide.com. The guide annually nominates 10 hotels for its awards, which are named for celebrated hotelier César Ritz.

Boath House was a labor of love for owners Wendy and Don Matheson, who acquired the property in the 1990s and set about transforming it into the warm haven it is today. They’ve ensured that the eight-room, family-run boutique hotel offers the highest levels of service and attention to detail. Desmond Balmer of the Good Hotel Guide commended the Mathesons for creating “a feeling of warmth at their historic Regency mansion.” The property was further acknowledged by the guide for the efforts of its manager, Jonny Ross, and Chef Charles Lockley, who oversees the Michelin-starred restaurant.

Boath House is located in the Highland town of Nairn, near the cities of Inverness and Elgin, on Scotland’s northeast coast. Built nearly 200 years ago, the Georgian mansion is set on 20 acres of manicured gardens, well-tended lawns, woodlands and streams. A two-acre ornamental lake on the grounds is home to brown and rainbow trout, swans, wild geese and ducks, and a bog garden is occupied by such pond life as newts, frogs and dragonflies. The town of Nairn, located just 7 miles from Inverness Airport, is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s easily accessible to castles, whisky trails, Loch Ness, 30 golf courses, the Moray Coast, and Cairngorm National Park.

Boath House’s restaurant boasts one Michelin Star and four AA Rosettes, making it one of the four best restaurants in Scotland. Much of the produce it serves is either sourced locally or grown in Boath House’s own kitchen garden, which provides organic fruit, herbs and vegetables. The honey served on property comes from Boath House’s own hives, and eggs are from pet bantam hens. Local suppliers provide the highest quality seafood, which is caught and delivered daily by West Coast fisherman; meats and cheeses are sourced from a nearby organic dairy.

Connoisseurs Scotland's collection of 30 members includes four of the world's finest golf resorts (Cameron House, Gleneagles, Turnberry and St. Andrew’s Old Course) and several outstanding city center properties, including Prestonfield, one of only two 5 Red Star Hotels in Edinburgh, and Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow. Other members include The Royal Scotsman, the ultimate luxury train; MV Hebridean Princess, the finest hotel afloat; Blanefield, an exclusive-use property; and a collection of intimate country-house hotels that includes Inverlochy Castle. Seven of the members boast Michelin-starred restaurants. Information on Connoisseurs Scotland, its member resorts, partners and special offers can be found at www.luxuryscotland.co.uk

Scottish Attractions Autumn Conference

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), which represents the interests of the key visitor attractions sector in Scotland, will be holding its annual two-day Autumn Conference at the Inchyra Grange Hotel, Falkirk from 15th – 16th November 2012.

The conference will be opened by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise & Tourism, who will talk about the Scottish Government’s vision and strategy for tourism in Scotland and the crucial role that visitor attractions play in this.

Keynote speakers include Judith Owens, Operations Director for Titanic Belfast, who will talk about the operational challenges involved in opening and running such an iconic building and the motivational tactics used to drive her team to achieving world class customer service standards; Pete Jackson, Co-Founder of Earthy and Ewan McCarthy, Creative Director of Bright 3D, who will explain how interpretive techniques can be used to add drama and theatre to retail operations; Jenny Hess, Head of Customer Insights at Historic Scotland, who will describe how customer feedback can inform the strategy for growth as well as provide valuable benchmarking information on performance against other operators; and Hilde Bergebakken, Sustainable Tourism Manager with Destination Roros, who will talk about how a small former copper mining town and World Heritage Site in Norway, attracts over 1 million visitors every year without compromising its sense of place.

Breakout sessions focusing on ‘Understanding Your Visitor’, exploring how visitor feedback can be used to inform and develop business strategy, and ‘Visitor Experience’, highlighting on how staff and volunteers can help ensure a first class experience, will give delegates the opportunity to ask questions and listen to individual case studies.

Following the Breakout Sessions, an Awards Ceremony will celebrate the best of the visitor attractions sector in Scotland. The awards this year will include presentations in the categories of ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ and ‘Best Visitor Experience’, and will culminate with the ‘Rising Star’ award, which acknowledges young people who have made a significant impact on the tourism industry.

Andrew Johnson, Chair of ASVA said: “The ‘legacy’ theme of this year’s conference has particular resonance with the outstanding success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. We’ll be asking what lessons the visitor attractions sector can learn - not just from the vision of the athletes but also the delivery and legacy of the Games. Our speakers will highlight how having a vision of what you want to achieve can bring real business benefits and will use their own experiences to inspire delegates as well as pass on practical tips that they can take back and use in their own business”.

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, the convener of leisure, tourism and community at Falkirk Council, said: “We’re delighted to welcome ASVA’s annual conference to the Falkirk area for the first time. The event brings together industry experts from all over the country and gives us a chance to showcase the fantastic facilities we have in the local area.

“The conference is promising top industry speakers – true leaders in their respective fields. I hope attendees will be inspired by the conference and get great ideas to deal with some of the challenges we face in these difficult times. Working together, and learning from best practice, we can create a strong vision for the future, improving our ‘offer’ to visitors. This in turn can encourage people to stay longer and spend more in local economies.”