The ar­rival of the world’s me­dia in Glas­gow next year will be a golden op­por­tu­nity for Scot­land,

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective - writes John Mclel­lan

Sell­ing Scot­land to the world is an ex­pen­sive business. The net ex­pen­di­ture of na­tional tourism agency Visitscot­land last year was £48 mil­lion, but that’s set against the es­ti­mated £11 bil­lion the tourism sec­tor was worth to the Scot­tish econ­omy and the 217,000 jobs it sus­tains.

Just one pro­ject – the “Scot­land is Now” cam­paign to at­tract in­ter­na­tional business tourists and funded jointly with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and over­seas business agency Scot­tish De­vel­op­ment In­ter­na­tional – had a com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing bud­get just short of £4m, of which al­most £2.3m went on dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing and so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties to tar­get mar­kets in Lon­don, New York and San Fran­cisco.

Doubt­less the Gov­ern­ment’s part­ner ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies will ar­gue this is money well spent, but next year there is a chance to spread the word about Scot­land for an aw­ful lot less, with the an­nounce­ment this week that the World Association of News­pa­pers is bring­ing its an­nual congress to Glas­gow. The congress will be just one of three events taking place si­mul­ta­ne­ously, along­side the Global Ed­i­tors’ Fo­rum and only the third-ever Women in News sum­mit.

On a very ba­sic level it’s like any other big trade fair, in which the del­e­gates gather in one place for three days to talk about the is­sues and trends af­fect­ing their busi­nesses, spend­ing money in local ho­tels, restau­rants and bars while part­ners and fam­i­lies en­joy the sights. This is not just any trade fair, but a meet­ing of over 800 se­nior news ex­ec­u­tives and ed­i­tors; in other words, global com­mu­ni­ca­tors with au­di­ences of tens of mil­lions who will gather at the SECC in June and hope­fully re­turn home to tell their read­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers what a su­perb place Scot­land is to visit and do business. Rather than the na­tional agen­cies spend­ing mil­lions to reach in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences, next sum­mer the peo­ple who know those au­di­ences best will be spend­ing thou­sands to come here for what prom­ises to be a tremen­dous showcase for all Scot­land has to of­fer.

Full dis­clo­sure, as di­rec­tor of the Scot­tish News­pa­per So­ci­ety I’ve been in­volved in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, but credit where it’s due it would not have hap­pened with­out the ini­tia­tive and sup­port of Visitscot­land and the ex­per­tise of Glas­gow coun­cil’s Con­ven­tion Bureau be­cause the process of at­tract­ing big in­ter­na­tional events is far from sim­ple.

The con­ver­sa­tions can’t even start with­out the con­fi­dence that suit­able fa­cil­i­ties are in place and ac­com­mo­da­tion can be guar­an­teed which, since the de­vel­op­ment of ho­tels along the Broomielaw next to the SECC, is no prob­lem in Glas­gow. So I found my­self in the odd po­si­tion of sup­port­ing the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in Ed­in­burgh coun­cil de­bates while at the same time work­ing on a bid to se­cure a ma­jor event for Cly­de­side.

Feel­ing odd is not the same as feel­ing guilty, and there was never any ques­tion that if an in­ter­na­tional news con­fer­ence was go­ing to come to Scot­land it could only be in Glas­gow, where all but two of the big pub­lish­ers and both ma­jor tele­vi­sion or­gan­i­sa­tions are based. Once again, the eyes of the world will not just be on us but with us.

Tax­ing times for Adam

While Glas­gow pulls out the stops to bring in business, Ed­in­burgh coun­cil’s ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to fo­cus on the neg­a­tives that suc­cess­ful tourism brings, in par­tic­u­lar the de­mand to tax tourists to pay for the im­pact they have on the city, whether it’s the lit­ter they drop or the sup­port needed for the shows they go to see in Au­gust.

Af­ter the rev­e­la­tion this week that Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay had joined his Cabi­net col­league, Cul­ture and Tourism Sec­re­tary Fiona Hys­lop, in at­tack­ing the city coun­cil’s lack of en­gage­ment with the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, coun­cil leader Adam Mcvey was in a bullish mood when he spoke to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment’s cul­ture and tourism com­mit­tee on Thurs­day.

Sev­eral things came out of the meet­ing, firstly that the Con­ven­tion of Scot­tish Local Au­thor­i­ties will co-or­di­nate the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, not Ed­in­burgh coun­cil. Wor­ry­ingly, there is also a view, voiced by SNP MSP Kenny Gib­son that a tourism tax could cre­ate an in­come gap be­tween those au­thor­i­ties with a suc­cess­ful tourism econ­omy and those which don’t and there­fore any scheme should be na­tional and the re­sult­ing rev­enues pooled. So even if the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment fi­nally agrees that the tran­sient vis­i­tor levy is a good idea, what Ed­in­burgh coun­cil wants and what it gets are not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be the same thing.

Then there was the com­plete de­nial by Cllr Mcvey of the Scot­tish Tourism Al­liance’s claim, en­dorsed by the re­cent re­ac­tions of both Mr Mackay and Ms Hys­lop, that there has been no mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion with the in­dus­try. Given Mr Mackay cited the STA in a par­lia­men­tary an­swer only last week, this sug­gests Cllr Mcvey’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his po­lit­i­cal mas­ters is less than ef­fec­tive.

“Lis­ten to the plethora of voices who are in favour,“pleaded Cllr Mcvey, but the plethora was lim­ited to Vir­gin Ho­tels and Airbnb, the com­mit­tee be­ing asked to take the oth­ers on trust as hav­ing been sup­port­ive be­hind closed doors.

But most star­tling of all was the veiled threat to the in­dus­try that it should be get­ting on board with the coun­cil, not the other way around. “Our door has ab­so­lutely been open but this is a two-way process of en­gage­ment,” said Cllr Mcvey.

“This re­quires the in­dus­try to take part and en­gage and where there are peo­ple in the in­dus­try who think they can pre­tend we don’t ex­ist, avoid en­gage­ment and there­fore make all this go away by re­fus­ing to take part in it, [this] is po­ten­tially quite an un­for­tu­nate route,” he said with a smirk. Fight­ing talk in­deed. Given tourism is very much Ms Hys­lop’s re­spon­si­bil­ity, pre­sum­ably Cllr Mcvey’s gun is not be­ing held against her head.

Ed­i­tors will hope­fully tell their read­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers what a su­perb place Scot­land is to visit and do business

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