Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Cairngorms Partnership Workshop

Remember the dread and horror? The sinking feeling in your gut as you walked out to the front of the class to collect your envelope from your primary five school teacher? Knowing that the last spelling test was not as good as it could have been and wondering what the consequences would be when you got home of the "could do better" report card?

Well, there was I, Friday afternoon, already thinking about packing up my laptop to get ready for a couple of weeks holiday when the metaphorical sealed envelope arrived from Mr Rankin, the Cairngorms Partnership "heidie". It said "Don't Open" louder than any virus checker I've ever installed but even knowing the contents and the likely results did I leave it for my return? Did I hell, I opened it of course I did with the same sinking feeling of that walk from desk to Miss Sheridan three decades earlier...

Now we extol the virtues of email marketing - we use ConstantContact for everything from newsletters to event sales and of course now for Customer Feedback - and as we always say to our clients you have to accept the rough with the smooth and build from it. Yeah right but that doesn't stop the eleven year old you taking over does it!

The first time I saw the agenda I thought wonderful; 3pm; item nine (and last) on a  five hour workshop agenda. Could be tricky. Following a speaker on a similar subject to mine who is well known locally. Bit of a challenge. Stick with the PowerPoint and play it safe. Or do something different.

Well the results are out! Something different was the choice the only thing was the something different was just well different! Or "disjointed", "haphazard" "too pacy".  Not quite "West of Scotland Presenter Nil Points" but proof that PowerPoint has a role to play and that online presentations with someone else's laptop should not be attempted no matter how different you think you can be!

Anyway, all self pitying removed, the disappointment when you don't hit the mark with the audience is all the more telling when you are so passionate about the message you wish to get across. But the old Keep It Simple Stupid advice we give out was ignored and the points that could have been better made were an opportunity lost. "The best thing you can do with knowledge is share it" and when you don't share it properly it is mightily frustrating. So in an effort to get more of the theme across...

Lost - The PowerPoint Presentation that Never Was

So in the spirit of redemption here's Plan B. The PowerPoint that was prepared for the day but ditched the evening before - even better than it would have been because it doesn't include a 200 mph commentary over the top and remains on a straight line with no deviation from subject anywhere!

The day was extremely interesting all the way through and whether by accident or by design moved progressively through the concept of partnership and collaboration and profitable joint working from the traditional tour operator distribution channels to social media and online selling.

The presentation would have worked in that context and therefore I thought it was worth publishing in full for the audience as it may trigger some thoughts and collate some of the points from the day turning them into action points for the future.

The PowerPoint looks at the issues of multiple distribution, addresses the issues of scale and tries to highlight just some of the areas hospitality and tourism businesses must address. Sure as was discussed on the day, you can't do everything but you can look at the big picture and ultimately decide what is best for your business and quite brutally at this time in the economic cycle it must surely be built on ROI - Return on Investment of both time and money. As a previous article we wrote a long time ago states ROI is King.

You can run the PowerPoint as a slide show or download a PDF version of it to print out. You can also link directly to the presentation directly.

Useful Links or Downloads
The following articles or PDF Briefings have been designed to assist tourism operators get a better understanding of what they CAN do... your feedback would be appreciated.

Social Media and Online Marketing

Bookassist Online Reservations and Marketing

Scotland's For Me
Scotland's For Me is a pan Scotland free to use "tourism portal" currently undergoing a full overhaul for a scheduled September relaunch. However even in the midst of upgrading it can give your tourism business another free distribution channel to promote your business through. If you write up and send us your news, offers, events we'll publish them for you as quickly as possible across our blogs and Facebook page. You can also have a free entry on the Scotland's For Me website when relaunched. Contact us if you wish more information on your own page.

Scotland's For Me Blog
Scotland's For Me Facebook
Scotland's For Me Website - Accommodation Page

Tourism Matters - Industry Blog

If you have any queries about the presentation or indeed any of the above areas please drop us an email, visit our website or call Plan B on 01292 521404

Friday, June 24, 2011

Make Your Online Marketing Look better

As you start using your online marketing and social media channels more and more there is a need to try and make sure that the visual impact from them hits the mark in the same way that you would through your website. Designing eye catching yet functional headers and banners for your Facebook and Email Marketing newsletters help.

David Mundell at Mundell Music has heavily adopted online channels to promote his live music events and venues and through ConstantContact and Facebook he increases the reach of his message substantially and even secures direct online sales from these activities.

We're delighted therefore to have produced some new graphics for him today to promote his Mundell Music Facebook page and his three Scottish live music venues. We think they're quite a neat presentation tool.

To get a quote call Plan B on 01292 521404 or send an email

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Target Facebook Fans by Language and Location

Bookassist's Senior Social Media Strategist Paul Ferry shows how you can make use of Facebook's location and language features to target more relevant posts to parts of your fanbase.

Facebook provides a useful feature in the Status box on your Facebook wall that allows you to target your fans with by location and/or language. Hotels may not be aware that they can use this to their advantage with their posts.

The targeting feature is extremely useful to hotels on the continent that would like to separately target their native language speaking fans and their English speaking fans from the one hotel Facebook Fan page. It can also be useful for hotels to directly target certain countries or cities where their Facebook Fans are located.

Before we look at how to use Status box feature to target your hotel's varied Facebook Fan base, we will analyse the hotel's Facebook Insights to determine the demographics of the hotel’s Facebook Fans.

1. Analyse Facebook Insights

To analyse your hotel's Facebook Insights simply visit or click the "View Insights" link on the right hand column of your hotel's fan page when logged in. Once you have accessed the Insights section for your page, click the "Users" link in the left hand column of the page.

Figure 1. Facebook Insights, Demographics graphs found in the User section.

From this data we can determine the demographics of your hotel's fan base. In this case, a quick look shows that the majority of fans are located in Ireland but there is a substantial amount of fans located in other European countries. English is the predominant language with an even split of Italian, Spanish and French speaking fans. Considering this information, posting in English will cover the majority of the fan base in most countries but posting in other languages to reach out to everyone would be highly recommended. Another additional observation is the town/cities column. Using this information your hotel can target specialised posts to smaller demographics.

2. Targeting Posts by Location

With Facebook Insights you have a better idea of who you should target with your posts. To activate the post targeting feature simply begin to type in the Status box and a drop-down button appears beside the "Share" button. By default this drop-down is set to "Everyone". Simply click on the drop-down and select "Customise".

Figure 2. Simply click on the “Everyone” drop-down and click the “Customise” option

Choose "Customise" and a pop-up window appears. In the “Location” field of the pop-up begin to type the country or countries you would like to target your hotel’s post. Facebook will automatically generate a list of countries to select from.

Figure 3. Facebook will automatically generate a list of countries

To further target your post to a cities or towns in a particular country, select the country first and then select the radio button "By City". Similar to the country selection field, Facebook automatically generates a list of cities or towns in your selected country so you can enter multiple cities.

Figure 4. Facebook will automatically generate a list of cities or towns

Once finished, click "OK". After you have finished writing your post click “Share” and only the selected fan base will see that post in their newsfeed. (The post will still appear to everyone on your own Facebook page.)

3.Targeting Posts by Language

Targeting posts by languages requires the same steps as targeting by location. Select the "Customise" option from the drop-down beside the "Share" button and the pop-up will appear. In the “Languages” field simply begin to type the language or languages you would like to target.

Figure 5. Facebook will automatically generate a list of languages

4.Targeting by both countries and languages

Follow the steps mentioned in the previous points to combine choices for location and for language.

Figure 6. Both language and location targeting

Different nationalities have different travel habits, and take holidays at different times of the year for example. They also have different interests in terms of what your hotel or location offers. The above steps can help hotels to more strongly target certain demographic groups with special offers or more relevant information rather than always using a “catch all” approach. This can increase interaction with your posts, and hence conversion.

Prestwick Boss Calls For APD Action

According to web statements, the boss of Glasgow Prestwick Airport has claimed that Air Passenger Duty (APD) is “devastating” Scottish inbound tourism because it is putting people off taking domestic flights.
Prestwick Airport’s chief executive, Iain Cochrane, has urged the UK Government to scrap the controversial tax and devolve it to the Scottish Parliament.

Responding to the Westminster Government's consultation on the future of APD, Mr Cochrane said: “The impact of APD is simply devastating. Since the doubling of APD from £5 to £10 in 2008, we estimate the loss of inbound tourists through Glasgow Prestwick to have cost the Scottish economy over £130 million per annum in passenger spend alone.

“We estimate that abolishing APD would secure over 750,000 additional passengers per annum through Glasgow Prestwick Airport and we strongly believe that all other Scottish airports would see a strong growth in passenger services, giving the Scottish economy a very welcome boost.

He added: “We firmly believe that the Scottish Government is best placed to determine the balance between APD and the economic benefits of aviation growth. Prudent judgements can then be made that are specifically pertinent to Scotland, recognising its geographical position depends far more heavily on good air services than most other areas of the UK.”

Whilst it may not be the full picture to blame all the flight losses and reductions in passenger numbers to APD - Ryanair's shift and displacement of flights through Edinburgh being the major contributory factor perhaps - there is no doubt that Prestwick needs support from both local and national politicians and from Ayrshire and the wider business communities across Scotland. Certainly the market will out and if new airlines, charters or scheduled routes cannot be attracted the airport will once again have to reinvent itself all over again as it has done in the past. There seems little desire from the Scottish Government to intervene at Prestwick in the way that they have certainly intervened in other "important" tourism areas and it looks as though it's down to the airport management to pretty much fight their own corner.

The importance and contribution of those new routes in the first decade of the millennium to Ayrshire and indeed Glasgow's hospitality sector cannot be underestimated. Their loss is now being heavily felt by many.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New General Manager for Turnberry Resort

Turnberry Resort, the world’s first golf resort, has announced the appointment of a new General Manager to lead the award winning destination through a new phase in its enviable history.

Mr Jordi Tarrida joins from within Starwood Hotels and Resorts and as the former General Manager of the Arabella Golf & Spa Resort in Mallorca.

With a passion for golf and fine dining, Mr Tarrida is well placed to make his mark on the iconic Ayrshire resort. He commented;

“I’ve long admired Turnberry particularly now it has been renovated to an unbeatable standard. The hotel is simply immaculate and together with its incredible charm, wonderful history and location, I am very much looking forward to working with the team to be the best we can be.

“The newly refurbished Lands of Turnberry apartments and lodges give us a new dimension to our product and have also opened up many new corporate and family visitors to Turnberry to enjoy our many facilities on offer.”

To add to his many golfing credentials, Jordi will now oversee the management of Turnberry’s xx-strong golf team as they prepare to host the 2012 Senior Open Golf Championship. Next year will be the seventh time Turnberry has hosted this event, making it the most popular venue in the history of the tournament.

Jordi will also manage the 800 acre estate and three world-class golf courses: the legendary Championship Ailsa golf course; the Championship Kintyre Course and the Arran Course, as well as the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy and Scotland’s first and only TaylorMade Performance Lab.

The news comes after former General Manager Stewart Selbie accepted a new role within Starwood to join the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers overseeing the property’s multi-million pound refurbishment and ensuring it was ready in time to host the 2009 Open Golf Championship.

Michael Wale, Senior Vice President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts said of the announcement, “We are delighted to welcome Jordi to Turnberry. He brings with him a wealth of experience in the international luxury resort business and I have no doubt that Scotland’s Luxury Collection Resort will benefit immensely from his knowledge and expertise.

“We would also pass our deepest gratitude to Stewart Selbie who leaves Turnberry in excellent condition and we wish him well in new post in Dubai.”

Turnberry Resort may be best known for golf but its food and drink offer has been the subject of recent critical acclaim under the management of new Australian Head Chef, Justin Galea. The resort boasts its award winning signature restaurant 1906, in addition to the elegant Grand Tea Lounge, James Miller Room, Ailsa Bar & Lounge, Duel in the Sun bar, panoramic Tappie Toorie restaurant. For leisure guests, Turnberry is home to the UK’s first ever ESPA spa and has also made many improvements to its on-site outdoor activity centre which offers quad biking, horse riding, fishing, off-road driving and falconry.

For more information about Turnberry, a Luxury Collection Resort in Scotland, visit


German-born Jordi Tarrida began his career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 1980 as a Front Office Clerk at the Macuto Sheraton Caracas in Venezuela, moving to Frankfurt the following year to join the team at the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers where he remained until 1986.

Over the following nine years, Jordi held a succession of sales positions, including Sales Manager in the Sheraton Sales Office in Germany; Director of Sales at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort and Director of Sales at the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers.

In 1995, he was promoted to Area Director of Marketing, Spain and Portugal, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In this position Tarrida was responsible for the marketing strategy of all properties including the Luxury Collection Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian and Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville.

In March 2000, Tarrida was promoted to the role of General Manager of the Westin La Quinta Golf Resort in Marbella, Spain where he managed the opening of the 172-room hotel and the development of the resort’s spa. He then moved to Mallorca in 2006, to take up the position of Area Manager Mallorca where he oversaw the renovation and rebranding of the 133-room St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort.

New Golf Positions in Scotland

Isn't LinkedIn great!

I now know that Lee Derrick is now Sales Director at Castle Stuart Golf Links, Stewart Selbie is GM at The Westin Dubai and Le Maridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Stuart McEwen is Director of Golf at Gleneagles...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Prestwick Lose Stansted Route in Winter Schedule

Regardless of the positive spin within the Prestwick Ryanair press release the loss of the Prestwick Stansted route is yet another major hit on tourism to Ayrshire and business development in South West Scotland in general and even Glasgow's own tourism marketplace. Prestwick has now lost the Swedish, Germand and English marketplaces in the past eighteen months and yet it brings no comment from tourism bodies, no comment from government agencies and little comment from local organisations.

The concept of new route development which is being pursued so heavily through Edinburgh at the moment is quite clearly just causing displacement. A new route from Edinburgh means another lost to Prestwick. Creative solutions for this airport with its unrivalled road and rail connections are now going to be required as the Ryanair gravy train has stopped rolling.

The "all the eggs in one Ryanair basket" market strategy has come to an end. A worrying time for the airport now. Seriously new ideas required to give it a future.

So at what point are we allowed to actually use the words "Prestwick" and "Crisis" in the same sentence without us being categorised as pessimistic and doom mongering as we were four years ago when Prestwick moved their first route through Edinburgh airport. It was a logical process that once there was a single route that more would follow, it is not with hindsight and it didn't at the time require a lot of foresight but there was no fight, there was no strategic response, there was no support (sought) from government nor government agencies.

The loss of access to the south east of England is important; the surprise perhaps is that the Dublin route remains but that is in part perhaps less to do with profitability and passenger numbers but the convenient access from Ryanair Dublin head office to the maintenance facility at Prestwick. Yeah I know how cynical of me.

This is not the fault of Ryanair; who should be surprised that they have no affinity to Prestwick. What is criminal however is that there has been nothing done about trying to counter this. Let's stop wasting public money on new websites, on cross competing festivals and events on spurious and wasteful tourism initiatives and branding exercises and concentrate on the real and threatening demise on our access routes into the area and region.

Ten years ago we helped Ayrshire Hotels Association design a new brochure on a wave of enthusiasm and confidence. "Why Ayrshire?" it asked... "Because You Can..." was the answer. New routes from Stansted, Dublin, Belfast, Donegal, Sweden talked about. Ferry routes on the new Seacat into Troon new routes into Cairnryan and Stranrear of faster ferries. The access however was taken for granted and we reverted to insularity and a lack of "destination marketing" as it is now so handily called.

With many businesses in Ayrshire already being at the margins, increased fuel costs and decreased route access will undoubtedly rationalise the provision further. It may not be a bad thing although not many will agree with that statement. This is not about the loss of just one route, it has been a speedy decline in incoming traffic over the past four years. Economy and nature being compounded by a strategy of pushing more and more flights through Edinburgh. Is it the correct strategy? Who knows but you can't help feel that it hasn't been a fair fight and that in the end we may regret that the underdog was not given a little more support in the early rounds from the referees.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good Luck to Stewart Selbie

We picked up on Google Alerts that Turnberry Resort has appointed a new general manager which in turn meant that Stewart Selbie had moved on. I worked with Stewart on and off for over a decade it must be, sitting on Tourist Boards and working on various projects. Stewart worked with us (with considerable patience!) when we were trying very hard to get the Ayrshire Golf Classic established and also on other key initiatives such as the Open Qualifier Card and his understanding of the importance of Turnberry to the role of Ayrshire's tourism product was clear.

Perhaps the changes of ownership made this more difficult at times to turn into action but Stewart always remained open to ideas and supporting not only Ayrshire but Scottish Golf playing a prominent role in the goings on at Golf Tourism Scotland and playing host on a couple of occasions to the annual awards dinner.

Apparently, Stewart who left Turnberry in May to join the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina as complex general manager and we wish him the very best in his new role. 

In the meantime, The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts has appointed Jordi Tarrida as general manager of the Turnberry Resort, Scotland. Tarrida will report to Starwood Hotels & Resorts senior vice president Michael Wale. His remit will be to manage the 150-room Ayrshire property, which has three golf courses and he joins from the Arabella Golf and Spa Resort in Mallorca.

Welcome to Ayrshire Jordi!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dundonald Games Golf Links Swings into Action

Entries are now being accepted for the inaugural Dundonald Games Links Golf Day. This unique eighteen hole handicap stableford event is open to both ladies and gents and will be played over the magnificent Dundonald Links golf course in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland just 24 hours ahead of the annual Dundonald Games on Friday 5th of August.

A website specifically for the event has been created by joint sponsors Plan B and visitors can book their accommodation online courtesy of Bookasssist.

Entry forms can be downloaded or you can go reserve your fourball online and pay by Cheque or even PayPal.

For those who just want to play great Ayrshire golf you could hardly do better than play 18 holes over the magnificent Kyle Phillips layout at Dundonald. The course is a wonderful challenge but remains a fair test of all golfing abilities with fast, three club greens, some wonderul pot bunkers, an abundance of dunes and some of the best laid out holes in Scotland.

The day is about enjoyment and added to the golf you will have access to the practice area and free range balls as well as Nearest the Pin, Longest Drive and the handicap stableford event - if you don't have an official handicap there are limited spaces available just to enjoy the course.

Entry is currently strictly limited to 60 golfers and it is sure to be subscribed very quickly so don’t hesitate to get your application in. You can reserve a single or a discounted fourball and pay by debit or credit card.


And the Kilted Part?
Well first off it’s not obligatory but we thought that given that it’s an official part of the Annual Dundonald Games week and the day before the games itself we’d add a little bit of fun and offer players the opportunity to compete in their kilt with a special commemorative Targe being presented to the winner of, we believe, Scotland's very first Kilted Golf Classic.

We look forward to welcoming you to both the Links and the Games and perhaps an extended stay in the Ayrshire area.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Warm Welcome to "Groupon Getaways"?

Got back yesterday from an interesting morning of presentations by the Scottish Tourism Forum at Crieff Hydro (more of that later) but one of the continuing themes being reinforced over and over by both Iain Herbert of STF and VisitScotland's Mike Cantley was that Scotland was never going to be a cheap destination but one which must offer value.

The cost of doing business in hospitality in Scotland was flagged up as being increasingly expensive not only with increased fuel costs but also the 20% VAT rate, red tape, lack of capital, passenger duty and others such as the cost of commission through third party bookings. A notional £100 room rate achieved was therefore much eroded by a host of increasing costs.

So when another "Deep Discounting" scheme is flagged up by two of the major operators in the market place you can't help but wondering what the fall out is likely to be for Destination Scotland.

According to Hotel Marketing, "Groupon and Expedia have joined forces to create Groupon Getaways™ with Expedia, an unprecedented offering that will connect consumers with high quality travel offers and give travel suppliers brand exposure among millions of shoppers. Groupon Getaways with Expedia will offer consumers deeply discounted, highly compelling travel deals from among the more than 135,000 hotels worldwide that work with Expedia. Starting in the US and Canada, with plans to expand to other countries, Expedia and Groupon plan to also include package deals, airline tickets, car rentals, cruises and destination activities."

So what do Scottish hoteliers do? Well yes they could multilaterally ignore it and the offer would not feature Scottish properties and it would go away. It would wouldn't it? No of course it wouldn't.

What is more likely is that a number of price lead promotions will filter through from even the most exclusive of properties increasing the downward pressure on everyone else's prices. A downward pressure that it takes some courage to ignore. I recall from days in night club management that pricing or discounting were only to be used very specifically within the overall Marketing Mix - I'm pretty sure that the Four P's have fallen into disrepute since I last studied marketing - but the principal remains solid. Discounting of price must be for strategic purposes, must be time specific, incentivise the purchase to be made now and not erode full prices on the longer term. Price is not the only promotional tool available to the hospitality sector.

You have to question how these basic principles have fared. Rack rate? Does anyone remember that? Whilst not advocating a single fixed rate as being the way things should always be, it is now accepted by the guest that they can and will "find a better rate" either at your property or if not your neighbours.

The Online Travel Agents have only increased the focus of competitiveness and whilst it's admirable for our industry leaders to talk about quality not price much of the the market is currently dictating otherwise - even at the quality end. Five star quality service at a discount will surely appear more attractive than five star quality service at full price.

The reality is that rate parity for a hotel often means more than simply ensuring that the same rates are offered to the multiple distribution channels out there. It can often mean having to compete with a varying degree of "parity" (even if not always matching) with the prices in their area for comparable products and that, in a free market, leads to deeper and deeper discounting of price - and this rate has to be discounted whilst maintaining the quality expected by the guest! It is a vicious circle of reducing (gross) profitability from room revenues combined with spiralling fixed and variable costs.

If you have deep pockets, you can make use of the third party channels to maintain market share, you can increase occupancy with the reduced rates and hope to make more on secondary spends. But yu can also factor in that the couple who have just booked the Groupon deal for the hotel have also just bought a five course meal at a top restaurant outside of your premises on the same Groupon site! Your secondary spend objectives are similarly under threat.

Like Canute the tide cannot be held back. Indeed it was a natural progression from off line deep discounted promotions that they would move online. It's just that the take up of these offers is so much quicker and so much more widely available that the impacts will be felt all the more deeply.

Hotels cannot keep paying 15 and 20% to OTAs forever. They must accept them but not rely on them and therefore a determined strategy of improving direct sales with the associated reduction in cost must be a short, medium and long term focus.

With online price lead promotions it is a case of balancing the discount within your own marketing mix. Use them sparingly, with very tight parameters of date and number of rooms available and look closely at how you can transfer the "discount" concept into your in house distribution strategy using your own channels - website, email marketing, Facebook, mobile and all your off line printed materials.

Best available rate on an accommodation providers website could (and should?) extend to promotional offers and deep discounts with creative use of advance savers, Facebook sign up exclusives, email marketing discount coupons. Online booking engines such as Bookassist already offer their clients many of these options and with the alliance of OTA's with Deep Discounters only going to become more influential it is time to look much more strategically at how your business is going to react.