Wednesday, September 30, 2020


It's hard not to feel a little disturbed at the funding vaccum for those involved in the supply chain of the events industry. I used to rant frequently and without fear. I stopped but the issue with the lack of support for those in genuine need is that its not that there is no support but it's a highly selective support. 

It's hard not to feel that there is something imbalanced about the approach that will support selective important venues over other events suppliers. And god help you if you're a promoter or self employed event worker.

I have no grudge against the venue benefactors - why shouldn't they be advantaged from public funding from the arts - but you can't help but feel an injustice that some level of support is not finding its way to others even more in need. 

I don't have a solution but as ever the question of who benefits most from arts funding is burning at me. In developing a niche music event we have had miniscule support and every penny we received from the public sector in grants was returned to them in venue costs. There was no net revenue from council to promoter in four years. Our approach to Eventscotland for development was rejected in year three because we were deemed to be self supporting and not in need of public support.

Currently we have jumped through the most incredible hoops to try and secure £10k with no sign of whether we'll get it or not.

We are currently seeking an avenue to allow us to produce a weekend of streamed footage of The Story So Far. We have no expectations of support. It may be that there is no elitism in the funding support but it's pretty damned hard to see it when your a provincial independent rock music promoter.

I'm no subsidy junkie; we've risked only our own funds in four years of WinterStorm and hopefully the limited success has trickled down - I believe it has - but there is a genuine argument for support for the very "viable" businesses across the sector.

It may be difficult to find a solution but if a formula can be found for supporting subsidy and grant reliant arts facilities then please don't patronise us by saying there's only support for the viable. 

I've stayed out of this because of I wasn't and am not sure of the solution but I know that one can be found. Not easily and not comfortably but there must be a balance found that recognises that the structure of the industry works from the bottom up as much as from the top down. More in fact. 

So while I don't resent The Gaiety or others in receipt of funds to keep them afloat we should not be foolish enough to believe enough is being done. There's no one in the events sector looking for special treatment; simply parity with other industries who have been supported. Simple fairness is all that's being sought.

Our live events sector is a viable industry if supported equitably. If not the impacts will be felt throughout the hospitality sector for a long time to come.

#WeMakeEvents - all of us!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Making the Most of Deep Links

In simple terms, “deep linking” is the creation of a hyperlink that bypasses your website’s home page and points to a specific landing page or function on your website.

Hospitality business should for sure be making much wider use of deep links in their digital strategy as it not only reduces friction by taking the guest to where you want them to go, it can also, if used properly, increase direct conversion rates quite dramatically.

Deep Links for Offer and Packages

Driving increased direct sales is perhaps the most important issue beyond the COVID crisis and you should be using every trick that the OTA’s use to drive more sales through your booking engine including the regular use of deep links.


Deep linking is all about reducing friction and taking the customer from where they are to where they (or you) want them to be. In booking terms consider your Facebook post for a late summer two-night break – you highlight the break, drop in a nice graphic with the offer on it and link to your website. Enough?

No. You must make it as easy for the customer to book as you possibly can.

Deep linking will take you directly to the offer and reduce the time and effort the user needs to go and find it on your webpage. Even better is that the deep link can take the user directly to the offer in your web booking engine allowing them to book the particular offer immediately with no messing about with room, offer or date selections. 

You should be using deep links for specific room rates and packages which will transport the user from your promotional content directly to the booking page for the packages you are promoting - REDUCING FRICTION and increasing conversion.

Your booking engine deep links should be used to link directly to the package on your booking page: - 

  • From a promotional page within your website
  • From a blog article your Facebook or Twitter pages
  • From your outgoing emails
  • From incoming links on partner sites (attractions, Destiantion marekting partners, golf course partners, theatres and media)

There is simply no questioning that by deep linking the offer it increases conversion – it cuts out clicks through cluttered web content, removes the need to search for room types and packages and drops the potential buyer right into the purchasing process for the package they have been just reading about with no background noise from other types of room rate.

The Process

Once you do it once you simply repeat. Like everything else you need to put some work in but the reward is increased conversion for those promotional packages and reduced OTA costs, so the small amount of marketing activity is more than worth it!

  • Plan the offer
  • Load price and availability
  • Create a landing page for the offer
  • Communicate the offer 
  • Review and adjust

Plan your Offer

At this stage plan out the supply side of your offer. It is critical to plan out all of the elements of your offer and package not only to maximise room sales but rate and generate secondary revenues. Consider your target sales for the offer.

What rooms? What dates? What does it include? Minimum stays? Midweek or weekend? All room types or just some? Room Only, B&B or DBB? Add-ons such as golf or attraction entry? In room extras such as flowers, chocolates or Prosecco? Price? 

Who is the target? Is it going to be a public price (that is available to all through your booking engine) or is it going to be a private promotion restricted only to those you send the deep link to? Who is it aimed at? Local business? New or previous customers?  Social media or direct mailing?

Manage timings for offer – not only the dates available but a start and end date for the promotional price. Expiry dates focus the mind and a very short window can often stimulate immediate purchases through the Fear of Missing Out!

It is an idea to create your own Promotional planner (or request ours – Plan B have an A4 template that you can use to simply map out your promotions) as it builds a stronger planning process and checklist mentality.

Load Price and Availability

Once you have the logistics of your offer in place load it into your PMS or booking engine for each room type you are offering. Create a well written sales pitch for the offer with bullet points of what the offer includes. Include appropriate imagery in the offering and be clear about the price and date restrictions and emphasise the limited availability and short booking period.

Your booking engine should be able now to create a Deep Link that will take you directly to the packages or group of packages that you wish to promote. This deep linked URL is now ready to for linking to your website landing page and all of the distribution channels you wish to place it on.

Create a landing page for your offer on your own website

Whilst you can link directly to booking the offer from all of your channels with the booking engine’s deep link you should also consider whether you wish to create a landing page in your website that outlines the offer in full. For all public offers we would certainly recommend this and create a promotional page for the specific offer or offers. Normal good practice for the page would be followed with strong headline images, headlines, punchy introduction to the offer, more details content and your call to action – in this case your deep link to the booking page. This works on multiple levels but gives you valuable page content and SEO opportunities that can be built on. 

Special Offers Page

Set up a dedicated Special offers page on your website. Firstly this gives your “deal seekers” a place to land on your website and secondly you can then capture their interest in the package and with a single link use Price Groups to take them straight to the booking page for the specific offer. There is no doubt that a Special offers page using direct booking links can greatly increase your site conversion by making it easier for the visitor to find what they are seeking.

In Site Promotion

Through the use of in site promo boxes or Puffs you can direct the guest to the type of reservation they wish to make. For example, if you are offering Special DBB rates link directly to a price group that lists only your DBB; Advance Purchase? Valentines? Festive Packages? Declutter by pushing the site visitor DIRECTLY to the appropriate grouping of packages for their needs. Make it easier for them to BOOK DIRECT every time.

Your accommodation may have different sections or pages for each room type – standard, deluxe or suite – a proactive site will use deep links to direct the visitor to your booking engine by room type. In practice you now have two deep link options to communicate to

  1. The direct link URL to booking the specific package and
  2. The Landing page URL to reading the full detail before then going to booking the package 

Experience will tell you what works best for you but use both to see what levels of click through you get

Communicate the Offer

Now you can start communicating your offer to your target audiences across your selected media. 

(It may sound obvious, but it is not – communicate the offer firstly to your team. Not just your front of house but everyone front to back. Whatever method you are using to communicate with your staff ensure that your offers and promotions are made available to them. If you speak with them through an online social media group ensure you furnish them with the link to encourage their buy in. Their distribution and affinity is a strong tool and makes them feel part of the deal!)

Mailing List

Use your preferred email marketing software (ConstantContact is ours) to create a standard offers mailshot

Create Email Title 

Use images, graphics and titles related to the offer being promoted.

Create short interest piece of a sentence or two maximum.

Create a call to action button with your Deep Link – “Read More” or “Book Now”

Select distribution lists

Send and monitor opens and click throughs to establish which offers work and which don’t.

Your mailing list is still a powerful and important direct marketing tool for B2C promotions as invariably the list consists of either former guests or those who have expressed an interest in you. They are not cold and whilst they may not open every email you send, they are less likely to regard you as junk mail if they think they may visit you again in the future.

Regular exclusive “mailing list only” offers builds loyalty and increases chances of mail being opened and therefore converted. It also helps build your list if the guest feels they are getting preferential communications. 


It is covered in other briefings but do not create a post in Facebook and then link back just to your homepage. If you are talking about your afternoon teas link back to the page on your site detailing afternoon teas and likewise if you are promoting a two night special break offer link back to either the landing page or the direct booking deep links. It works and is worth a few extra seconds of your time to reduce the friction to your customer and increase conversion.

Once you have created your Facebook post you can start the job of sharing the post with your Facebook Groups as that is where you can maximise your reach. Not using Facebook groups to widen your audience? You should be!


Like Facebook you want to share the deep link to your Twitter followers. Create the teaser text and link to your landing page or booking deep link again. Encourage sharing by emphasising limited availability and time driven nature of the offer.

External Partners

Link building has always been one of those smoke and mirrors processes that terrifies people but if understood it has clear benefits for all and sharing you deep links rather than your homepage URL will undoubtedly assist in your drive to improve direct bookings.

Your deep link is not only valuable to your potential direct customers but also to your local tourism industry partners and indeed media. Your social media strategy should be heavily built around promoting appropriate deep links in your groups, pages and posts. 

In addition, share the link with appropriate text to local industry partners who may wish to share the offers to their own clients – golf courses, attractions, travel operators, local press, travel websites and most certainly to destination partners, local marketing initiatives and your business manager at VisitScotland.

Spend the time building a list of shared industry partners and you will undoubtedly reap the benefits of widened distribution of your deep linked offer.

Links and Downloads

For further reading and support visit our training site at  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Events - the sector with no light at the end of the tunnel

We can't change a venue red today but it doesn't mean that we're not involved in this. We are a small independent promoter and at the periphery of the music industry (of that we have no misconceptions) but it doesn't mean we don't feel or see the impacts of the lockdown not only on us but on all of those that make WinterStorm and our South Beach Sessions happen. With no support for so many in the sector there is a sense of abandonment that needs addressed.

As independents, by definition, you get used to being on your own and when you see the big boys in the industry glibly using phrases like "We're all in this together" it sometimes takes every morsel of restraint to bit your tongue.

This crisis is indeed existential for many. We may all make it to 2021 but can we all make it through 2021?

With events rolling over and new tours and festivals being announced there is going to be more competition for the "leisure pound" than ever before. There is no reason to forecast that the public will spend much more on 2021 events than they did in 2019 - they only have so much money and the demands next year for leisure time are going to be as never seen before - holidays, friends and family celebrations, sports, dining out even.

We think that's a logical or at least sensible outlook. If you have twice the number of events or even 150% of 2019 events you cannot expect the same level of ticket sales and spend across such a high supply; it's illogical - it's possible but not certain. There are going to be more tours, more midweek gigs, more music and theatre releases held back til next year, more supply on every level but DEMAND CANNOT follow. It's just impossible.

It's why there needs to be a genuine review of the sector and a three year plan to see how it can re-balance itself through an extraordinary 2020 of no events and a 2021 with a glut.

This is a long term issue for the events, hospitality and music industries and it needs strategic and JOINED UP thinking like never before.


Friday, July 3, 2020

We're Good To Go

I think all of the industry across Scotland will be well aware of the We're Good To Go scheme by now and should have implemented all of the checklist recommendations.

Once that's been done however you need to ensure that you're reassuring your own customers and promoting your levels of care. It is absolutely critical that for the time being at least "We're Ready to Go" sits in importance with your site wide Book Direct messages. Even more so.

 We suggest the following
  • Create a dedicated page on your own website for We're Good To Go and tweak the text to emphasise the personal measures you've undertaken for staff and guest safety
  • Link to the website page from your emails, your social media and share on group pages and discussion forum everywhere.
  • Consider creating a series of digital postcards that use the logo as part of an ongoing "Safe" destination campaign
  • Consider putting the logo on all your web page hero images
We've created sample text from VisitScotland's email for our clients to use as a template for their pages. and used this as a simple guest facing page for The Priory Hotel in Beauly to link to from their welcome back opening offer to their closed mailing list

The text from VisitScotland is show below with links to signing up for the scheme

VisitScotland | We're Good to Go

We've worked with Tourism Northern Ireland, VisitEngland and VisitWales to develop a new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike – as the sector works towards reopening.

The ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard and supporting mark mean businesses across all sectors of the tourism industry in Scotland can demonstrate that they're adhering to the respective government and public health guidance, and have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment to check they have the required processes and protocols in place.

The free scheme complements the guidance already issued by Scottish Government to help tourism businesses plan to reopen.

Scotland’s tourism sector has suffered terribly from the impacts of coronavirus. The Scottish Government has been doing all it can to help the sector through these challenging times and we continue to support tourism businesses as they prepare to open their doors again.

Good to Go is a really positive development, developed jointly by the four Visitor agencies across the UK, that will ensure the sector is as prepared as possible to welcome visitors again. I’m pleased to see the establishment of this UK wide self-certification scheme that will enable businesses to demonstrate that they are ready to reopen and give much needed confidence to visitors and communities that tourism can begin again.

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Tourism Secretary
Together with the new national tourism and sector guidelines, the Good to Go Scheme will help businesses get ready for the indicative start dates in July. A nationwide scheme gives a consistent approach across all of the UK and will give visitors the reassurance they are looking for.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland

To obtain the mark you must complete a self-assessment through an online platform - - including a checklist confirming you have put the necessary processes in place. Once complete, you'll receive certification and access to the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in your premises and online.

Businesses across the UK will be assessed according to their respective national guidance once published, including the physical distancing and cleanliness protocols that must be in place.

In Scotland, businesses will align with the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Visitor Economy Guidelines. An ‘alert’ system ensures that businesses signed up to the standard are notified if there are changes to the official guidance. A call-handling service will provide support and advisors will also carry-out random business support calls to ensure businesses are understanding and adhering to the guidance.

The self-assessment process links to specific guidelines for sectors including accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants and pubs, business conference and events venues, and tour and coach operators, with signposting to further industry and trade association guidance as required. We are aware that a couple of sector groups are not on the tick box when completing the self-certification. Simply continue as if you weren’t a member and answer further questions before completing the process.

We'll continue to update our Get Tourism Ready section of this website with up-to-date national and sector guidelines.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Social Distancing Survey - one metre or two?

Like everyone else in the country (Scotland and the wider UK) you can't have missed the arguments raging about the reduction of the two metre rule and it looks as thought later today (Monday 22nd June) that there may be a relaxation in England.

The call from hospitality businesses to reduce the distancing to one metre has been loud and sustained and it sometimes appears that there is no dissonance amongst operators. 

The troubling aspect from our point of view as event organisers is that everything that's being discussed just now is about supply side economics. It's about being viable at one metre and not at two. The trouble with that scenario is that it doesn't even recognise that the consumer has a say in this. If you haven't asked your customers what their view is on one versus two are you perhaps going to open and fine that you have increased supply for an overestimated demand?

Early doors I picked up a comment from a multi venue operator in central Scotland labelling the rush to open as a a fools errand and that phrase has become embedded in my mind. It is all very well opening up with 80% capacity but what if you only need forty because your customer is more cautious (understandably) than you?

We have a mailing list of three or four thousand of people who have bought tickets for our festival and music events over the past four years so thought we'd send out a very simple questionnaire to see what the thoughts were. No hooks, no catches just three really simple questions... 

Regarding the 2 metre social distancing rule, do you think..?
Number of
It should be kept at 2 metres
It should be reduced to 1 metre
It should be scrapped altogether
Don't know
No Responses
When pubs and restaurants reopen with social distancing are you
Number of
More likely to visit with two metre rule
More likely to visit with one metre rule
Not likely to visit until social distancing is removed
No Responses
What age group are you in? (Not compulsory!)
Number of
18 - 34
35 - 50
50 - 65
Over 65
No Responses
So you can always take stats and make them work for you so you may get what you're looking for out of these.

First off, we thought 400 responses in a 24 hour period was actually indicative of the strength of feeling. Question three reinforced what we knew already regarding the age group of our music events - classic rock and seventies and eighties bands - and is clearly older than the broader pub range. 

(The younger age group is pretty much statistically insignificant but 60% of that age group indicated they wouldn't visit until social distancing was removed)

Things to Consider?
  • Your customer (okay our customer really!) is split down the middle about one vs two metres and you MUST factor that in to your opening scenario. Get it wrong and you may have reputation management issues that make TripAdvisor look like a walk in the park!
  • While 40% of those surveyed said they'd visit a pub and restaurant with a one metre distancing almost 36% said they are not likely to return until social distancing has been lifted. This has major impacts on a) your supply and b) critically your demand.
It's a simple exercise but maybe you should repeat it with your own mailing list? Use it as a positive contact point and see what you get back.

It does however prove yet again that focusing solely on opening up supply is absolutely no guarantee that the hospitality business across the board is going to see the demand follow.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review | Twenty Things to Double Check You're Still Doing

As businesses start looking tentatively towards the future it is essential that the recovery is not handed back to the OTA’s. If one lesson has been learned it is that every business must get back to driving direct business.
It's not easy however and an online strategy has to be so much more than just a nice looking website. The challenge of starting to claw back that lower cost direct business needs a whole lot of wheels turning together.
Review | Renew | Recover 
In all honesty this revised list of Twenty Things to Do has not changed much in five years – what was right and relevant then is perhaps even more prescient now. These may well be basics to many but getting back to basics is never a bad idea! And remember this is not a definitive list of things to do. There are twice as many things that you can and should do to work on those direct bookings but small changes can make a big difference so start with some of these.
In the current times however, anything published is almost instantly out of date so we are taking a novel view to digital support and will be launching our own “Guide to Building a Website” website! Throughout June, we will be updating briefings and publishing them as live webpages in our own mythical “Brigadoon” style Hotel site with examples and downloadable briefings on all of the subjects below and more.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Scotland Direct EPK Launched

Book Scotland Direct is something that we had been planning to roll out in June for our own clients only but it has been suggested that we should consider putting out to a wider distribution should anyone wish to use it.
We have no great expectations that we’re building a viral brand concept here but there is no doubt that the louder and more collectively we all shout about booking direct the more effectively that message reaches the market place and the greater the chance of increasing low cost DIRECT bookings.
Indeed, one of the most telling phrases we have picked up since the lock-down started “Don’t let the OTA’s own your recovery”

For sure, when Scotland re-opens one of the many things that needs to change is Scotland’s unhealthy dependence on third party distribution channels and quite simply put it is critically important that each and every one of us in the accommodation sector clearly express to our customers across the world that it is ALWAYS best to Book Scotland Direct.

Informing the Market

This is not a pitch for business or for your subscription. 

Book Scotland Direct is intended to be a badge for your business to wear digitally expressing to your clients that you want, indeed, need them to consider booking direct every time they look at accommodation in Scotland.

The project will provide ongoing and updated information and advice from the very best across the industry to help you convert your guests form third party bookings to direct bookers.
As part of widening the project out we have already started reaching out to digital marketing and booking engine providers servicing the Scottish accommodation sector seeking their involvement and expertise and best practices with the aim of creating a definitive bank of advice and information for everyone from B&Bs and Self-Catering through to hotels of all sizes.

We have prepared a basic Digital Promotion Kit which will be available on a free of charge licence for anyone who wishes to use the logos and project content on their own website, digital marketing and in-house print if required.

Electronic Promotional Kit

The Resource Library will build to include case studies from digital marketing experts, booking engine providers and hotels outlining to how to continuously build more direct business and reduce the costs of conversion. 

If you are interested in getting involved or wish any more information leave your details on the link below and we’ll send you updates in the coming weeks. 

Find out more about Book Scotland Direct on the Plan B website

Sunday, June 7, 2020

New Development Groups for Scottish Golf Tourism?

Whilst we can't allow for the specifics of global activities that disrupts our sector we can, indeed must, as professional businesses plan for things going wrong before they happen. This may be off the scale in previous measurement charts but the travel and tourism sector has had serious issues to contend with over the past two decades that resulted in radical change, loss of businesses and realignment of the sector.

The problem is that we don't seem to have the ability to learn and not repeat mistakes.

I recall the morning of 9/11 clearly as I was sitting in Edinburgh in a meeting with the new Chief Executive of VisitScotland about golf tourism and representation and growth of the sector. I came out of that meeting with Malcolm Roughead, with no knowledge of what had been happening whilst we talked and the diametric position of everything having changed but the content of the meeting being more relevant than ever.

The outcome eventually led to the creation of Golf Tourism Scotland, an industry wide body that was set up to communicate with and represent the diverse interest of a sector that encompasses courses, accommodation, ground travel, travel agents and tour operators. An industry that had suffered post 9/11 but was moving into a very fast cycle of capital investment in new product at the top end but a sense of crisis was emerging in golf courses at the second level with supply greatly outweighing projected demand.

GTS was about developing new standards, involvement with new technology, raising the profile of the sector. It was involved with working on deals for the sector around the Ryder Cup and intrinsically involved in trying to create a permanent centrally funded public/private golf structure that would be there to develop the sector through good times and (it was very clearly understood and stated) the future bad times.

Roll forward to the planning for a post crisis landscape and what do we have?

We have in a single week, communications from two different newly set up "golf groups" seeking to influence strategic thinking about the way forward for golf tourism in Scotland.

If I wasn't older and wiser it would break my heart.

Good luck to these groups in achieving their aims but the real truth of the matter is that while everything was good for Scottish golf tourism, the industry saw no need to develop a structure for a sector that was performing so well and generating so much revenue for the country and the clubs. Advance tee time bookings were on a rolling basis looking good for "next year and we've got another Open Championship the year after. Why would we spend our time supporting a golf tourism body?" Not a real quote perhaps but a reflective sentiment.

The idea of being ready for future crises was one of the reasons for the conception of GTS; it was mentioned many times that the industry needed a strong and permanent voice to see it through the good and the bad. The industry didn't agree; focus was lost, activity dropped off, membership of the organisation fell away, public sector moved on. It had been allowed to become irrelevant to too many

Golf Tourism Scotland was wound up some three or four years ago and ironically the last board was made up by some, perhaps many, of the very people who are now populating the new groups. I appreciate the vagaries of hindsight but nevertheless the confident assertions that GTS had achieved its objectives seemed hollow even then.

So twenty years on from the meeting of the Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators that identified the clear and immediate need for the development of a wider body and a clearer public private partnership to develop golf tourism we now have three groups all pursuing similar statements of intent.

Who knows what the outcome will be but you'd guess that Malcolm Roughead may have a strong sense of deja vu when he gets a request to meet with a group of businesses asking how we can all work together to improve Scotland's golf tourism sector. Working together is the key and the two new groups should be getting in touch with the (albeit flawed) Golf Steering Group and developing from there. If the real objective is getting golf tourism in Scotland back on track, empowering what is established will be a lot quicker and more effective than starting something new.

The lack of real structure across the whole of Scottish tourism will come under serious scrutiny and perhaps strain over the coming months and years. Golf Tourism Scotland is perhaps but a microcosm of areas, regions and sectors across Scotland. Some may be better prepared than others for the speedy implementation of joint strategies you fear however that too many areas are not.

Joined up thinking is not something as a tourism sector we have yet cracked. We need to rethink not only the published strategy for the next ten years but the structures and communications that are needed to deliver that vision.