Uncertain time for Scots tourism?

By Gilly Mathieson
Reporter, Politics Show Scotland

Image caption,
St Andrews, one of the most famous golf courses, is hosting the 2010 Open

Scotland is staging a second year of Homecoming in 2014, to coincide with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, as well as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

The new came as it emerged last year's Homecoming beat its financial targets - but are we maximising Scotland's tourist potential?

One thing Scots can't guarantee the tourist is the weather. Jamie Gardner organises golf holidays for clients from as near as England and as far away as the USA.

For him, last year was the worst since he started his business 20 years ago.

"As a company we lost approximately 50% from our normal levels of business and at the moment it's a question of building that business up again and trying to recover it," he said.

Mr Gardner says Scotland has been too complacent about selling itself abroad, adding: "The Irish have, for several years, been very successful in talking up the product.

"They've been very good at talking up Ireland as a destination. They're not shy about doing that. Possibly in Scotland, we've been a little a little bit more guarded about doing that."

Mr Gardner is one of almost 10% of working Scots who make their living out of tourism, an industry which generates £4bn a year for the economy.

But he lost business during the volcanic ash cloud disruption and the community hopes it won't impact on the open set to take place in July.

Travelling to play golf at St Andrews is seen as a Mecca of the sport and Alan McGregor, chief executive of the St Andrews Links Trust, is hoping for a similar outcome.

"Clearly, when the skies did close a few weeks ago, it caused us severe problems in that people could not get here who had at times had pre-booked into our courses, so we're hoping it's not going to happen," he said.

"If it does happen in the open championship, obviously the Royal and Ancient Golf Club will have a challenge but the Open will go on whatever."

Businesses like the Annandale Guest House in St Andrews pay tourism marketing agency Visit Scotland a fee for bookings made on its website.

Global recession

But owner Paul McDonald is not convinced the body is delivering enough.

"Visit Scotland is probably responsible for at least 10%," he said, adding: "There's 90% I'm sure outwith UK haven't heard of Visit Scotland and certainly the emerging markets, the Chinese the Russians, the far east in particular, there's a big market there, we can offer golf, whisky, the history and I don't see these guys coming through and I think, it's a massive market to tap into."

Visit Scotland said, despite the global recession, the number of visitors to Scotland has held - but says there must be a quick reaction to world events with new forms of marketing.

Blythswood Square Hotel, in Glasgow, is a new five-star establishment hoping to attract visitors from across the world.

The hotel's Peter Taylor said: "We've worked very hard to source Scottish products. We've used Harris Tweed in a major way throughout the hotel. The biggest order since the QE2 was built."

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