Jun 28 2011 by Denis Brown, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
KEEP calm and carry on – things can only get better.
That is the advice from Visitscotland chairman Mike Cantlay, who addressed the recent annual Perthshire Tourism Conference.
Speaking to the PA, the national tourism organisation head conceded that the industry – Scotland’s biggest, employing 10 per cent of the workforce – had been operating in a tough environment: “Very tough, what with coming out of the recession, an atrocious winter and volcanic ash cloud impacting on air travel.
“Even for businesses that are doing well – and it’s remarkable some have been prospering pretty well, given the economic challenges – no one can say it’s been easy.
“But, tough though it has been and to some extent still is, it’s even tougher everywhere else and at the moment tourism is facing extreme challenges in countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal, so comparatively we’ve been remarkably resilient.”
Looking ahead, he predicted a full-scale turnaround for our tourism industry, which employs 270,000 people in a country with a population of 5.222 million and which last year had an £11-billion turnover.
A positive indicator was the £2 billion of investment from private and public sectors, including Gleneagles’ £3 million Dormy House revamp and the green-lit multi-million resort development at Taymouth Castle Estate in Kenmore.
Developer Meteor’s ambitious plans for Taymouth, approved by PKC last week, envisage 160 estate properties, spa facilities, a restaurant, equestrian centre, golf clubhouse and course tweaks, a health and beauty spa, 14 apartments and a hotel suite.
“I played golf at Taymouth when the original development was just getting underway and I could see the enormous potential there so I was very sad when it collapsed," Mr Cantlay said.
“So I am delighted it is back on track and hopefully elements of Taymouth will come onstream in time to capitalise on the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the Olympic Games.”
He said the wider plan was to entice patrons of such events up north in a flow-on effect.
“One of the things I’ve been doing during the past year is putting tourism into perspective,” he said.
“With Taymouth, for example, it’s not just important to the building industry and for jobs. This development will be an enormous earner for Perthshire for decades and generations and the golf course itself in perpetuity.
“We will have attractions like these to exploit in the long term so Taymouth is a very long-term winner for Perthshire and for Scotland in general.”
Mr Cantlay also highlighted the new world of digital and social media, the theme of last week’s Perthshire Tourism Conference, where more than 50 local operators heard his vision for the industry’s future.
“At Visitscotland we are embarking on a radical new programme, establishing a digital media platform which is all about using data and accumulated information about visitors," he said.
“This will involve our 113 different websites being merged into one and collating data from 16 million customers.
“Tesco, for example, are very good at this sort of thing, which is all about knowing what customers want.
“My hope is that we can create enough of a stir and buzz to really understand as a country that tourism is what we do and take it seriously.
“We cannot be complacent. The world does not owe us a tourism industry.”