Monday, September 14, 2009

Where does VisitScotland go from here?

I'm not known to be VisitScotland's best friend in their Facebook entry.

Some people have campaigned against them, others have petitioned the Scottish parliament, everyone has a story to tell about them which makes them look silly.

I'm not a member of VS but I'm one of their best friends.


Gillian and I knew Scotland and its accommodation thirty years ago. To say that standards were pretty awful gives a new meaning to the word pretty.

We've just had a week at B&Bs in Orkney with Dumfries and Sutherland on the way. They were all brilliant. Standards were matchless. You won't beat them anywhere in the world.

They don't get many bookings from VisitScotland, and three out of five of them have pulled out. The last one said that their inspector wanted them to have furniture all with dovetail joints.
Another, in an old traditional building, had walls which were not at right angles. Another did not put parsley out with breakfast. Another did not have an underlay in some minor room which no one used. The inspectors use personal whims and fancies so they say.

In the Golden Mile in Fort William there are 38 B&Bs all doing well. In every one the standard will be world-class I'm sure. Only 9 of them are now in VisitScotland. But nearly all of them used to be in membership in days gone past.

That's the problem. VisitScotland without a doubt has set the standards for hotels, B&Bs and self catering. Without any doubt. But once the standards are set, then there is no point in being in membership. I believe that the standards they have achieved in the past are the envy of the English and Welsh Tourist associations.

So VisitScotland should be universally admired. But the words "by" "sell" "past" and "date" come to mind.

Unless, of course, members get bookings from VS. Now there is the rub.

People say they are not getting bookings from VS. In Stromness they tell me that their local VS office is far more important to them than the central booking service. Of course it is. They can grab the local girl by the throat if she slips up and they can't do that with a call centre.

The world has moved on from the days of hard copy directories and leaflets. Most people are Googling what they want. I can go to Google maps. Enter . I can then drag the map to Kentallen along the coast and find a nice cottage there. Where I want it. Ours. How easy is that? For hotels and B&Bs I can read visitors' reviews through Trip Advisor.

VS is trying to re-create the past. It is not at the forefront of the internet.

It is still very good at what it does traditionally, i.e. inspecting properties and creating booklets. Although these days it has not recognised the fact that most properties meet the standards they have set and they don't need now to go over the top.

It is very good at promoting Scotland generally. We've had masses of television programmes in England about Scotland. That may be due to Vs, or not. Don't know.

But it is all overbloated. Too many committees. Too many centralised managers. Stuck in past marketing ideas.

Slim it all down lads, take it easy. You've done most of the job that had to be done, so settle down to maintenance. Just bed in the new owners properly. You do that well.

ps We've put up two new pages in our site. Technical stuff really providing these links.

Fort William and the accommodation to the South
Lochside cottage near Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland
Last minute, late availability Glencoe, self catering cottage
Several cottages in the Fort William, Glencoe and Appin areas
Lochside cottage near Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland
  • Short Breaks Glencoe
  • Stories about Appin villages blog