Scotland can do it
It’s going to be a big year, says Malcolm Roughead – 2015, that is.
The Chief Executive of VisitScotland is busy looking ahead at the same time as he is immersed in this year’s swirl of activity; the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the events and initiatives that coincide.
“There’s a danger that with everything that’s going on in 2014, at the end people will go: ‘Phew, that’s it then.’ What we are saying is: ‘This is just the start.’ We’ve always been clear that 2014 is the catalyst for growth.
“It’s about setting it in the wider economic context. Yes, it is about participation in sport, sporting excellence, facilities and venues. But it goes wider than that. We want to demonstrate that Glasgow, and indeed Scotland, is capable of holding world-class events.
“It’s important that we look to the future. We have this wonderful infrastructure – venues, but also people, skills and services – that we want to make sure is used to its maximum.
“Looking at 2015, we have the World Gymnastic Championships and the IPC Swimming World Championships and the European Judo Championships and the Turner Prize, all in Glasgow.
“There’s the Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, the World Orienteering Championships in Inverness and the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews. And there’s been a lot of hard work put in to hosting major conferences in Scotland next year.
“It’s so important economically; every £50,000 that is spent by visitors creates a new job and one of our tasks is to make sure that the growth we are seeing in the visitor economy is sustainable and touches the whole of Scotland, not just one region.”
The benefits of the major events being hosted in Scotland this year, he said, is that they provide “a showcase, a platform and if you look at the interest people are taking in the country, the challenge is how we take that to the next level”.
Evidence of intrinsic sustainability born out of 2014 comes in the number of airlines launching new services into and out of Scotland, said Roughead: “I think it’s no coincidence that we have had a spate of new routes announced – Qatar Airways flying from Edinburgh to Doha, United Airlines to Chicago and US Airways to Philadelphia.
“That’s on the back of what they perceive as demand now and demand in the future; it costs a lot of money to set up these kinds of operation so they are not doing it on a whim, they see a sustainable business model there for them.
“And, importantly for Scotland, it creates hubs which open up the world, such as Dubai, with Emirates flying from Glasgow, and Istanbul, with Turkish Airlines flying from Edinburgh. At the same time as we continue to work with KLM out of Amsterdam and Lufthansa out of Frankfurt.
“It means that we have all these hubs now feeding into Scotland and Heathrow, which is so busy, [it] is less of a barrier for people coming to Scotland both for leisure and business.”
Roughead said that since the Games were awarded to Glasgow in 2007, the agency and its partners have also been working hard to cement relationships with international media and provide them with opportunities to showcase Scotland.
It is anticipated that the Commonwealth Games will have a global audience of more than 1.5 billion. As well as news and sport media, it is expected that there will also be a media appetite for destination stories and features (see below).
“Since 2007, we’ve been conscious of the fact that there has to be ‘life after’ the Games and the Ryder Cup and there has been a concerted effort to bid for and win major events post-14, because really, it’s also been as much about the period 2015 to 2020.”
Roughead added that 2014 has also been the catalyst for initiatives which will make this period sustainable. They include:
It’s VisitScotland’s aim to ensure that Scotland is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, parents with small children and senior travellers. The accessible market is valued at around £370m a year and is growing.
The Greener Glasgow Tourism Project is helping businesses improve their profitability through better environmental practices. Support available in Glasgow is available Scotland-wide as well.
A unique online programme designed to ensure the city delivers an outstanding visitor experience. It aims to create a lasting legacy of excellent customer service standards across all touch points of the visitor experience and the aim is to roll it out across Scotland.
“We’ve also been involved in the Queen’s Baton Relay, maximising the benefit of the connections that we have made in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere. And we’ve been involved in business outreach, talking to Chambers of Commerce around Scotland about the opportunities.
“It’s a pretty big, all-encompassing piece of work operating both at a global and local level,” said Roughead.
After the Games, though, what is there at that scale which Scotland could aspire to? “Well, there are things that we are working on. But I’d rather look at it another way which is, if you have got one of those events – be it sporting or cultural – it is the icing on the cake.
“They are one-off events – not in my working life will we have another Games or Ryder Cup - and really, it’s about using them as a catalyst for change. How do you use the facilities and infrastructure that have been put in place for the benefit of the whole country?
“And then build on that reputation. That’s why, for me, 2015 is so incredibly important, because you have got so many events and they are so disparate and spread geographically and across the year.
“So, it’s about taking that sporting excellence and reputation and transferring the capability, the capacity and the confidence into the cultural arena or the business arena.
“For the world to be looking and saying that ‘Scotland can do this’ and do it at a world-class level.”