VISITSCOTLAND, the body responsible for tourism, spent £7.4 million developing its website but failed to buy up one of the most popular web versions of its name - visitscotland.co.uk
Internet experts and politicians described the lapse as "astounding" and "an oversight", warning that the domain name visitscotland.co.uk could easily be bought up by a rival tourist body or an individual business, which could then direct Scottish Tourist Board customers to other sites.
Anyone who types visitscotland.co.uk into an internet browser is told that the website is for sale, but VisitScotland has never bothered to buy it. It uses the address visitscotland.com
A spokesman for VisitScotland said the company did not view the sale of the domain name as a threat and had no intention of bidding for it.
This is the latest in a series of problems to hit the VisitScotland website. Last year, visitscotland.com announced losses of 1.4 million in its first ten months of operation. It had already come under fire from hoteliers and politicians for failing to translate worldwide interest in Scotland into a significant increase in bookings.
Costing about 2 million a year to run, visitscotland.com is the website and internet-booking company set up by VisitScotland in 2002.
The company takes 10 per cent of each booking made through it, so it needs about 20 million worth of bookings each year to break even.
The site was set up using a loan of 7.4 million from the Scottish Executive, but none was used to buy the domain name visitscotland.co.uk, despite its similarity to the other name.
David Stirling, the director of Sunsol, a leading website agency based in Edinburgh, said he was surprised by VisitScotland’s failure to buy up all the relevant domain names when it had the chance, describing it as "an oversight".
Mr Stirling said: "Whether you are a public body or a business, you should be looking to buy as many of the names that are related to your business as you can. You want to cover yourself, to prevent anyone else from taking advantage."
Fergus Ewing, an SNP MSP and a consistent critic of VisitScotland, said: "This is absolutely astounding news. VisitScotland should have bought up all the possible variants of its name.
"Its refusal must leave open the possibility that one of Scotland’s competitors, such as Ireland or even the auld enemy itself, could buy the ‘co.uk’ name and direct all those who go to it to their own countries."
A spokesman for VisitScotland said: "At the time of the formation of visitscotland.com, they did look at all sites that contained the terms visit and Scotland. They were well aware of this site, but there was no content on this site and it was not deemed a threat in any way.
"At the moment, there is no content on it. If someone was to buy it, it could be seen as something very similar to our own. If so, it could be seen as ‘passing off’ and then we would take the appropriate legal steps with the full force of the law."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east