Lesley Judge

By Lesley Judge, Sector Engagement Executive - Tourism

Scottish Tourism Month 2019 focused on future-proofing the industry, offering diverse perspectives on global, regional and local levels. #STM2019 events focused our thoughts on how to tackle the industry’s key challenges, sharing best practice, learning from others and finding ways to challenge our thinking. To recap, here are 10 #STM2019 take-aways. 

1.People: A sustained people-centred approach is a win-win when it comes to engaging with visitors and developing effective business practice. Greg Klingaman of Diageo showed us the value of putting the customer at the heart of the business to create memorable experiences which can be shared with others across the world. Iain Stirling of Arbikie Distillery showed us that focusing on the people behind the experiences is equally important and memorable for visitors. Caroline Couret of Creative Tourism showed how destinations are rethinking their offering and going back to their roots, creating more sustainable experiences for both visitors and communities.

2.Collaboration: The first ever Tay Cities Tourism Conference offered a fine example. John Mulcahy inspired us on Food Tourism Perspectives from Ireland with a refreshing take on getting food producers, restaurateurs and tourism businesses to work together to create highly profitable “saleable memorable experiences”. Carron Tobin enticed us into Wild About Argyll’s jaw-dropping natural beauty, reinforcing the value of collaborating with ambassadors (Marc Beaumont) and near neighbour city gateways (Glasgow) to share new, exciting stories of Argyll, with a strong focus on the people behind those amazing visitor experiences. 

3.Creativity: Is fundamental to ensure that we keep innovating and that our tourism offering is relevant, fresh, engaging and competitive. Through her own unique and colourful approach, Dundee-based designer Louise Kirby illustrated how design can change lives and help us see things differently, aptly demonstrated by the approach of tourism SME speakers at the Tay Cities Tourism Conference, such as Kecia McDougall of Tayport Distillery and James Wight of SUP 2 Summit. Not only in how they are developing visitor experiences but also in the approach they are taking to developing their businesses and to driving them forward.

4.Innovation: Often, the businesses making the strongest impact are those who have taken a different approach to engaging customers and developing products. When talking about definitions of innovation, Professor Bill Buchanan of Edinburgh Napier University says: “in the end, everything can be improved, and being a small and innovative company, you can take on companies that are many times your size, and win.”  Innovation can be simply being prepared to challenge your own thinking, take risks, learn from others. Piotr Dugan of Outdoor Explore offered the perfect example, engaging visitors and other businesses creatively, even designing new ways for his customers to enjoy cheese and wine when kayaking! The same approach is championed by Interface, in how it assists tourism groups and businesses to address industry challenges; such as collaborating with ASVA to explore VR for visitor attractions, and with industry partners to understand the issues around dementia friendly tourism or food tourism.

5.Experiences: Scotland’s reputation rests on the quality of the experiences of its visitors. We need to ensure there are plenty more “wows” and that the “saleable, memorable experiences” we provide for visitors are grounded in sustainable practices, protected environments and high-quality products, delivered by skilled, passionate people. This means investing in leadership, collaboration, skills development and technology. Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 offers businesses significant opportunities to develop new experiences for visitors as well as win-win collaborations with others.

6.Food & Drink: From the cheese or the seafood on their plate, the spirit or beer in their glass, visitors want to know who crafted these delights, and where in Scotland they can connect to the people, places and stories linked with them. Scotland must up its game to share inspiring food and drink stories and work together across the sector to address challenges. In the words of John Mulcahy, it’s a landscape ripe for collaboration. Scotland’s Food Tourism Action Plan offers opportunities to progress this.

7.Leadership: In order to ensure that tourism is a career of choice, relevant, diverse role models, fair and flexible working conditions and learning and development are fundamental. Positive examples exist in The Destination Leaders Programme, Women in Tourism, Women in the Food Industry, HIT Scotland. However, the industry also needs to look at the design of future industry events and activities to ensure sufficiently relevant, diverse role models become mainstream.

8.Sustainability: The assertion that “One person’s destination is another’s home” struck a chord when considering the current challenges faced by destinations. Whilst “taking responsibility” to contribute to sustainable tourism is complex, businesses should, however, focus on implementing practical, strategic steps however small: target, measure progress, act and keep acting. Glasgow’s circular economy is making progress for the city and Scotland’s Green Tourism scheme has experienced a 400% business membership increase in the last year, underlining visitor concerns regarding plastics, inspired by TV series such as the Blue Planet.

9.Technology: Our drive to create people-focused memorable experiences can be enhanced by immersive technologies such as AR, VR and AI which can help foster two-way conversations which drive shareability and create a sense of place. Data driven innovation allows us to do things smarter and more efficiently, Dundee’s Mobile Innovation Living Lab and Edinburgh and the South East City Region’s DDI just two examples. However, on a fundamental level, Scotland’s tourism products and services must be bookable and accessible online, with businesses possessing the necessary digital skills to effectively engage at all stages of the customer journey.

10.Learning: Scottish Tourism Month 2019 reminds us that learning, sharing knowledge and staying connected in our industry are fundamental. We must listen to all voices, in order to provide relevant role models, and to nurture and support future tourism leaders. We must deliver the very best visitor experiences; investing in skills, education, infrastructure and technology. We must continue to look outwards and keep on top of trends. In the end, everything can be improved: being agile and innovative in the face of change can help us take on future challenges and win.

Interface facilitates collaborative partnerships, helping tourism businesses work together on key industry challenges. Contact Lesley Judge, Sector Engagement Executive for Tourism: Lesley.Judge@interface-online.org.uk to find out more. 

15 April 2019