Lesley Judge

By Lesley Judge, Sector Engagement Executive, Tourism, Interface

Established by a group of women tourism leaders from the Destination Leaders Programme in 2015 to inspire and support women within the Scottish tourism sector, Women in Tourism (WIT) hosted its first ever conference at the Technology & Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow on Monday 19 November.

112 delegates from across Scotland and beyond came together for an event designed to encourage discussion and motivate attendees to adopt new skills and add their voices to the tourism sector. Just under 50% of attendees were 30 years and under, and organisations in the room ranged from agencies including VisitBritain, VisitScotland and HIT Scotland, to visitor attractions, venues, hotels, tour operators and destination organisations. Academic organisations also in attendance included St. Andrews University, Heriot Watt University, Glasgow University, Edinburgh Napier University, Ayrshire College and West Lothian College.

The conference was designed and delivered by WIT’s Year of Young People Board Director Julia MacGregor, Guest Engagement and Content Manager of Apex Hotels. WIT Chair Susan Russell, Head of Marketing for Criton opened the conference with a keynote speech before delegates listened to tourism leaders in an ‘Ask The CEO’ panel session.  Those taking part were Angela Vickers, Chief Executive of Apex Hotels, Marc Crothall, CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Sheila Gilmore, Executive Director of Visit Arran, and David Cochrane, Chief Executive of HIT Scotland.

The lively panel discussion, expertly chaired by Julia MacGregor, examined the challenges for women in the industry, and explored ways for tourism businesses to support and retain talent, with advice and top tips from the panel on developing leadership in the industry. Audience concerns centred on the impact of technology on the industry, how businesses should address an evolving work-life balance, 21st century work ethics and communicating the benefits of our industry more effectively.

Delegates attended interactive workshops: the leadership workshop was led by Dale McPhee, GM of the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, and Valerie Lederer, Marketing Executive, Criton. Mentoring was led by Cathy Craig, Commercial and Memberships Director, Entrepreneurial Scotland and Beth Thoms, Senior Communications Manager, Festivals Edinburgh. The Social Media session was led by Chloe Milligan, Owner of Mud Urban Flowers and Hannah Stewart, events management student, Edinburgh Napier University

By 2025, it’s estimated that 20% of the workforce will be millennials, which is already impacting on leadership hierarchies and has implications for sector skills. All on the CEO panel agreed that the tourism industry must meet the needs of an evolving workforce, adapt accordingly and tackle sector challenges, including the provision of education and after-school care, important factors in enabling more flexible working patterns. Attracting and retaining talent and developing future leaders has never been more important for Scottish tourism, given that, according to the Scottish Tourism Alliance, 147,000 new people will be needed for the industry by 2027.

For those inspired to be part of that change, the launch of an exciting Year of Young People legacy project, the very first Young Women in Tourism Awards will be welcome news. Those aged 30 and under on January 1st, 2019 will be eligible to apply for the awards, with each award winner receiving a package of support from WIT and the ‘Rising Star’ award winner receiving a HIT Scotland bespoke scholarship.

Supporting enterprise through collaboration and innovation beyond comes naturally to Interface. With established links to thousands of world-class leading experts, Interface finds and introduces companies to the perfect academic partner. Now in its fourteenth year, Interface has introduced over 2854 businesses to academic partners, and companies supported by Interface add an estimated £64.2 million GVA into the economy each year through new services, processes or products, or efficiencies leading to cost savings. In 2017-2018, 35% of Interface collaborative industry projects were led by a female business contact: an increase from 29.35% in 2016/17. Tourism groups, attractions and businesses have benefited from collaboration with academic partners, such as enhancing the visitor experience using virtual reality, developing augmented reality city tours, or improving business efficiency and sustainability using technology.

Business and university collaborations via Interface also foster other innovations that have wider impacts on communities and the environment across Scotland, much like that of Women in Tourism, where the sharing of expertise can help address industry challenges, develop learning and skills, generate creative ideas, and inspire innovation and collaboration. Let Interface help develop your ideas by identifying potential academic partners who can offer a wealth of expertise. Find examples of how we can help and contact us for free impartial advice and information.

06 December 2018