Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Scottish Borders Are Being Undersold

In today’s Scotsman VisitScotland are bemoaning the lack of cash for marketing and the fact that it’s causing them to under perform – no0 surprise there then!

VisitScotland's marketing of the Borders is woeful and it's not a case of funding, it's more a case of incompetence and a failure to understand what the region offers. Statements like, 'we need to make sure that we move the whole Scottish industry up the value chain,' are indicative of the problem. There's a lot of fancy talk and not enough basic action.

On the VisitScotland web site in the Borders section and they are still promoting autumn and winter offers. Even on the Scottish Borders stand alone site run by the regional office of VisitScotland is totally underwhelming. Last week we had the announcement of a 'major spring into summer promotion'. Go looking for it on the web site and once you've found it there are just eight properties offering accommodation, there's one hotel and seven self-catering establishments. These are examples of more significant web site worries.For too long VisitScotland have failed to grasp the opportunity that is the Borders and until they do, or there's a change in the way the region is marketed, things will not improve. Tourism related employment accounts for around 8% of the workforce in the Scottish Borders and employs more people than agriculture, forestry and fishing, or construction. Yet it's still the lowest in Scotland and the average number of nights stay by overseas visitors is only half that of other areas. Just this week the Borders Party , which is fielding candidates in the local elections, is calling for funding for VisitScotland to be realigned. Amongst the other suggestions are:

• Revising the role of VisitScotland
• A new tourist organization, based in the Borders, playing to the real strengths of the region
• Opening a Borders Embassy in North America to strengthen genealogy based tourism
• Establishing a Reivers Trail that focuses on our fascinating, turbulent and unique past
• Establishing a World Heritage Park on both sides of the Borders
• Re-branding and introducing an exciting new image. The current logo and ‘corporate identity’ are dull and boring
• Abolishing the ‘Leading Short Break Destination’ Strategy. It says nothing.
• A stronger emphasis on recreation

Tourism chiefs have, for too long, downplayed the Reivers. We’re told that they don’t want to highlight ‘our violent past’. Try telling that to Americans with names such as Armstrong, Nixon, Johnson and Graham. America, outside of the rest of Britain, ought to be our biggest source of tourist revenue. With this in mind the Borders Party proposes the setting up of a Borders Embassy in North America to fully focus on promoting and selling our region.

It's not just about more money; it's about creativity in marketing and focus where it matters.

I've just discovered there's a Reiver Trail web site. It covers just a small area of the Borders south of Hawick. It is nothing to do with VisitScotland it is a privately run site.

No comments: