Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Long Day's Short Meeting

Back last Friday, I was asked by the Convener of the National Park Authority, to represent the authority at a Tourism Workshop yesterday (Tuesday) in Edinburgh hosted by Jim Mather MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Tourism. This was to be from 11am to 2pm at a hotel in Ingliston, just outside the capital city. And so, at 6.55am, I left the house to catch the 07.22 train out of Aviemore, which arrived, painlessly enough, in Edinburgh at around 10am. With me were Andrew Harper, a senior staff member of the CNPA, and Alan Rankin, CEO of the Aviemore and the Cairngorms Destination Management Organisation (DMO). A taxi took us speedily to our destination, where we were first to arrive. The meeting itself explored issues about how to raise the profile of tourism, effective marketing, the roles of local authorities and of visitscotland, and also the roles of individual businesses and collective business organisations. I made the point that I felt for many small businesses, who simply didn't have the resources to be able to become directly involved, the only organisations that they could trust to represent their position properly were business organisations, like DMO's and Chambers of Commerce - as only they really understood the issues from a business perspective. Both Andrew and Alan chipped in with comments too - but this wasn't the kind of forum where it would have been welcomed if I had said what I really felt - that visitscotland's role should be to attract people to come to Scotland, but not to try to manage their needs once they arrived. If it were down to me, I would remove the visitscotland role of running visitor information centres altogether, and place this responsibility with tourism business organisations locally, to work with local businesses in each town and village to provide the services and information visitors need. After all, who knows the local area better than local people? And in whose interest is it that visitors are provided with all that they need and are kept happy more than that of local businesses? There is a natural synergy here that goes unheeded and unexploited. But to get there needs a softly softly approach. Highlight of the meeting was watching Jim Mather's expertise in using mind mapping software on the fly whilst running the meeting - quite a trick - and one I'd like to learn. But by 2pm, all was over, and time to make our way back to Edinburgh Haymarket station for the 15.39 train to Perth where we had forty minutes to wait for the train to Aviemore. I got back home at ten past seven. So that was over a twelve hour day, for a three hour meeting. At least there was the compensation of a lively discussion and exploration of the possible with Andrew and Alan on the way down. And the thought that, thank God, Jim Mather was mind mapping a whole meeting - if it had been mine alone.......?

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