Friday, November 07, 2008

VisitScotland, if you can find anything to do. . .

VisitScotland are without doubt one of the most inept tourism organizations in the Western world. Disaster after disaster seems to come their way and yet the people that run it sail serenely on as if none of it is their fault. The latest problem we hear concerns £1.2 million of visitScotland's money, which is mostly our money, as the Scottish Government is their biggest funder, is having to be poured into visitScotland.com to save it from financial ruin. Things are so bad that visitScotland are taking over the running of visitScotland.com (inmates & asylums). What I hear you say they don't already run it? No of course not, it's run by a public-private partnership, eTourism. This in turn is run by Marco Truffelli, chief executive of VisitScotland.com, who is expected to continue running the website, despite its failings.

Mad or bad? Well back in February we were told that visitScotland were revamping the web site to make it more exciting. VisitScotland.com, which has endured fierce criticism from hoteliers and racked up millions of pounds in losses since it was set up five years ago. It was shut down in favour of a new site designed with the approval of key industry figures including Jim Mather, the tourism minister. Here we are ten months later and it's gone from bad to worse.

According to Philip Riddle, the chief executive of visitScotland, work would be carried out within weeks to ensure the website had a "more inspiring" feel, but he insisted a widespread overhaul was not required. However, he admitted he was having to fund the £1.2 million bail-out from his budget. That's the same as what was said back in February. . .

Just go take a look at the visitscotland.com site. It is so dull and uninspiring. Then of course there's visitscotland.org which is run by visitscotland, not eTourism. It's all very confusing and all very dull. Back in May 2007 I said on this blog. "I'll spare you all by not going on about the numerous bizarre things on their site, the mistakes and the tortuous process of actually finding out information. The problem is simple, their web site is designed by geeks not by people trying to market Scotland. Until it's fixed it will continue to under perform - despite what they say."

I'll give you one small example of how bad visitScotland.com is today. Under Edinburgh events there are two listed for today...both are traditional folk ceilidhs. Under next week's things to do....another ceilidh. Under the next 90 days, there's more ceilidhs, the Hogmanay celebration, the St. Andrew's day celebration and the Sleeping Beauty ballet....that's it! If you click on the St Andrew's day celebration for more details apparently nothing is happening. This is the capital for God's sake. . .and that's it? Still lucky you're not thinking of visiting Dundee where the only thing happening is the Orchar Collection at Broughty Castle or St Andrew's Day. . .where again nothing is happening.

It is time for a change, of that there is no question. visitScotland has been roundly criticised by government, industry figures, hoteliers, the public, B&B owners, in fact just about everyone in Scotland. Yet Mr Riddle the Chief Executive continues to hold down his job, one in which he's paid about the same as the Prime Minister and none of it is his fault or the fault of his board of directors. There's no question, given the industries importance to the Scottish economy, that radical action is needed. Above all else visitScotland.com fails to deliver on 'Scotland the Brand'. It's time for a change otherwise soon no one will be visiting Scotland.

4 comments:

CherryPie said...

It isn't very easy to navigate either.

Bluedog said...

The changes to the website made earlier this year are for the better, but the PPP has never sat easily with the industry.

But there are positives: the website has attracted a huge number of visitors - more than the the equivalent sites of England, Wales and Britain combined - and secured £65m worth of bookings since it started 6 years ago.

Buying the organisation will cost us taxpayers dear: this was year 6 in a 10 year project. I actually don't think we are being told the whole story, because if the site was in need of further work, there was no reason why (PPP) VisitScotland.com could not have done this, especially with VisitScotland as the big shareholder.

And what a day to pick to bury controversial news: the press release went out on Thursday afternoon. The big story on Friday was the Glenrothes by-election, with the surprise big cut in interest rates a bonus second big story.

We can't go back to where we were 6 years ago, but hopefully the new (public) VisitScotland.com will make changes to deliver what the visitor needs, and as importantly, take the industry with it.

Richard Havers said...

Interesting points Bluedog; baffling to me though is the ineptitude of visitScotland. It really is a rubbish web site. If you start to dog around it you find so much that is wrong or out of date. Mr Riddle seems somewhat out of touch with the market's needs. It all has the whiff of civil service thinking not twenty first century marketing.

Ellee Seymour said...

I see a challenge for you and C here. Whose going to get their teeth into this?