PLEA FOR AN ON­LINE REVO­LU­TION

The Herald Business - - TRAVEL AND TOURISM -

DAVID MAGUIRE, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Glas­gow Restau­ra­teurs’ As­so­ci­a­tion, was with­er­ing about the op­por­tu­ni­ties he said Vis­itScot­land has missed over re­cent years, par­tic­u­larly with its web pres­ence. He said: “On­line book­ing is what tourism is all about in the 21st cen­tury and, since day one, the on­line pres­ence of Vis­itScot­land has been cat­a­stroph­i­cally bad. It has been an em­bar­rass­ment to op­er­a­tors and for vis­i­tors who can’t di­rectly book, or are charged a £4 book­ing fee.”

Maguire, owner of the suc­cess­ful res­tau­rant and events book­ing site 5pm.co.uk, said: “It was in­cred­i­bly an­noy­ing as the owner of a com­pany which has won ev­ery mar­ket­ing award – in­clud­ing Vis­itScot­land’s – that we­could not get a de­ci­sion out of them about util­is­ing the ser­vices we­had to of­fer.

“It as­ton­ished me. It made me think that the peo­ple who were mak­ing high level de­ci­sions were ei­ther sim­ply not in­ter­ested or they were very badly in­formed.”

“God knows how many tourist vis­its we’ve lost be­cause the web­site has been so bad. Proper sites such as Last­minute.com and Late Rooms spent count­less tens of mil­lions get­ting it right. We tried to do it on the cheap and re­tain a sig­nif­i­cant mea­sure of con­trol at the same time. It should have been out­sourced, as the Par­lia­men­tary re­ports even­tu­ally rec­om­mended.

“The pace of change in the whole or­gan­i­sa­tion has al­ways been glacial. No, that’s wrong – I’ve lived in Switzer­land and glaciers move at least a lit­tle bit ev­ery year. Along with oth­ers in the in­dus­try, I al­ways got the im­pres­sion that Vis­itScot­land took as long as pos­si­ble to make de­ci­sions and ev­ery­thing was farmed out to com­mit­tees and con­sul­ta­tions.

“In the real world of com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, the web pres­ence would have been sorted out in six months. It still isn’t sorted. I would say to Vis­itScot­land now, un­der its new regime: please don’t get in­volved in any­thing com­mer­cial. Re­strict your­self to mar­ket­ing Scot­land on a global ba­sis and don’t get snarled up in grad­ing B&Bs.”

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