A six-month inquiry into Scottish tourism has concluded that VisitScotland‘s “current business model is patently flawed and obsolete” and consumer website requires an entirely new focus.
The Scottish Parliament’s ‘Economy, Energy and Tourism Report’ took as its starting point the issue of whether Scotland can deliver its previously announced target of increasing tourism revenues by 50% by 2015, using 2005 as the base.
“Tourism is increasingly about technology,” the report said. ‘It is the booking medium and the favoured information channel. It is immediate, comparative and unforgiving.”
Specifically, the committee felt that visitscotland.com would operate more effectively as an information portal.
“We want to see a move towards a top-quality, national, web-based portal that provides all the necessary information and advice on Scotland.
“This website should then contain a full listing of quality-assured businesses with a link to a means of contact (electronic if possible).
“Such businesses should then be offered free software and training to enable them to design their own websites, provide online booking etc.”
Currently, small-scale accommodation providers can take live bookings on the site via its web-in-a-box tool, for which hotels pay a one-off £50 fee and £10 a year thereafter. VisitScotland also pockets 8% commission on all bookings.
Web-in-a-box was launched in May 2007. So far, 450 businesses have signed up.
Other mechanisms are available for larger hotel chains.
VisitScotland.com is the trading name of eTourism Ltd, a private limited company set up by a public private partnership in 2002. eTourism Ltd is in turn owned by owned by VisitScotland, Tiscover, Partnerships UK Ltd, and Atos Origin.
Education, training and skills, transport and connectivity and the relationship between the public and private sectors were also analysed in detail.
The report also pointed out that since the 50% increase in revenue target was set in 2005, “the economic circumstances facing the tourism industry have changed markedly and the operating environment has toughened significantly….contributing to the difficulties of attracting visitors to Scotland in the first place, let alone the challenge of increasing the revenue take.”
Scottish tourism generated £4.1bn in 2006, a 2% decline on 2005. 2007 figures are yet to be published.