Eight days a week at #STW2017

By Dr Fiona Hutchison, Senior Engagement Executive for Tourism, Interface

Interface were very proud to be active participants in Scottish Tourism Week 2017. Designed for this crucial Scottish industry, a series of events took place across not seven, but eight days. My colleagues and I attended, exhibited and presented at a significant number of events across the country. You could find us in Argyll and the Isles, Dundee and Angus, Perthshire, the Borders, Fife, Glasgow, West Lothian and Edinburgh.

It was great to hear innovation  mentioned as key to developing tourism by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP, CEO of Scottish Tourism Alliance Mark Crothall and most of the speakers during the Signature Conference – I lost count! The day was helpfully summarised for us all.

An international perspective was brought across the pond from Visit Nova Scotia. ‘New Scotland’ has similar assets to ‘Old Scotland’: accessible seacoast, authentic cultural and culinary experiences, live music, outdoor adventure, five World Heritage Sites (we have six) and wine industry (we have the other “W”). They are also keen to extend their air routes, extend their tourism season and capitalise on the growing market of Chinese tourists.

Our tourism industry has real ambitions for growth too. Important tools to aid this were highlighted as digital marketing and data analysis. But it was emphasised that using these tools should also be accompanied by a culture change embracing new tactics more fitting for new technology and the modern consumer. For example, the industry was encouraged to harness the enthusiasm of key influencers in the social media age. Mark Beaumont, bedecked in lycra, cycled through a presentation explaining his role as brand ambassador for the Wild About Argyll campaign. Graeme Ambrose told us about 54 million “Opportunities to See” resulting from an event they organised at Loch Ness for bloggers.

Glasgow City Marketing Bureau gave a ground breaking example of harnessing online booking data and supported by DataLab and backed by Scottish Funding Council Investment. Daniel MacIntyre emphasised the need to open data and the expertise which can be harnessed from Higher Education data analytics teams to generate real time and predictive analytics to help tourism industry planning.

It was fantastic to hear further mentions of how Scottish Higher Education was helping the industry. I heard thanks given to partners from Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Strathclyde in presentations at the Destinations Conference. Some projects showcased, including Youth Travel Edinburgh, had their origins in the Destination Leaders Programme of Edinburgh Napier University. Speakers touched upon the need to attract talent and develop its workforce, including in collaboration with Scottish colleges. Students showed off their skills in cookery competitions within ScotHot, Scotland’s biggest food, drink, hospitality and tourism trade show.

It should not be forgotten how integral hospitality is to creating fabulous experiences for our visitors. My colleague Rachel Mirfattahi, Sector Engagement Executive for Food and Drink, also attended ScotHotand we both enjoyed seeing Scottish producers Interface have helped,  including Summer Harvest Oils . Blending work with pleasure, I took the opportunity to eat large quantities of cheese.

Interface have a crucial role in helping Scotland’s tourism industry through connecting very diverse businesses to weird and wonderful academic expertise. We enjoyed catching up with existing contacts and making new ones with people who recognise tourism as their business. We will make more and more connections to help the industry with its ambitions.  And we are looking forward to 2020 Year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters and 2022 Year of Scotland’s Stories, announced during the week.

Work with Interface to push your boat out and you’ll have great tales to tell.

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