Fiona Hutchison joined Interface in September as Sector Engagement Executive for Tourism to encourage multi-party groups to collaborate with academic expertise. Here, we found out a bit more about Fiona and what she has been doing so far.
What attracted you to the position?
When I saw the advert for my job I couldn’t resist applying! I had come across Interface before so already had a high opinion of their people and their work. I also loved the idea of helping groups of tourism businesses across Scotland, getting out and about and making things happen.
What is your background?
My background is quite eclectic. I have loved working and volunteering for tourist attractions in the past and then working as a researcher in the field of tourism, with a particular focus on museums. I’ve always looked out for diverse opportunities, taken chances and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. One example was delivering a Dragons’ Den style pitch to a full Edinburgh International Conference Centre auditorium where I was cross-examined by the journalist Lesley Riddoch and lawyer Aamer Anwar.
What does your role incorporate?
My role is about working with groups of tourism businesses across Scotland. These can be formed already due to a common interest, or come together especially for a project. Really, I’m always trying to identify what the challenges are for the sector and what innovative ideas are out there. Then it’s a matter of matchmaking groups of tourism businesses to Higher Education Institutions and Research Institutions to help deliver this innovation.
What does a typical day look like?
There isn’t really a typical day at Interface. I’m based in the Edinburgh office but I’m very happy that my role takes me all over Scotland. I attend a lot of workshops and events designed for groups of tourism businesses. I meet with organisations supporting tourism in Scotland, including industry bodies. Of course, I follow up on leads and speak to businesses who see tourism as their business.
What do you like most about the role?
The thing I like most about this role is delivering a high quality free service to a sector I deeply care about. Tourism is an important growth sector in our economy. We have amazing tourism assets and products to appeal to people from all over the world. There is always more we can do to build on our success. I never forget that supporting tourism businesses brings positive knock-on effects for communities, through providing jobs and helping sustain services and attractions which local people also use and enjoy.
What advice would you give businesses that want to collaborate with academic expertise?
My advice to tourism businesses wanting to collaborate with academic expertise is that I am here to help. This kind of collaboration is an enabler for innovation, it can add value to your business and take you in directions you hadn’t thought of. You may have an ambitious idea for your business, but an expertise gap in making that happen - we can help fill that gap through our extensive networks in all Scotland’s universities. You may be in a group of tourism businesses for your sub-sector or destination with common challenges and a desire to address these together. Again, let us know your plans as we could introduce you to the right academics to help.
What motivates you on a dreary Monday morning?
On a dreary Monday morning I’m motivated to go into the office, or travel to a meeting, because I am so interested in everything about tourism in Scotland. As Henry Miller said: ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’
What three words sum you up?
Dedicated, open-minded and self-deprecating.