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MICHAEL O’Leary, the boss of the budget airline Ryanair, is an unlikely saviour of Scottish tourism. The ebullient Irishman with more front than Ardrossan does not come across as one of life’s altruists. But there are some in the industry who hope that the brash new breed of airline entrepreneur can thrust Scotland’s tourism business into the 21st century.
SMALL luxury hotels with individual character are beating the big chains and becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourist industry.
TOURIST businesses disaffected with VisitScotland are relinquishing membership of the state agency to sign up to a new co-operative in a bid to boost trade. Up to 3,000 tourist operators in southern Scotland are understood to have expressed interest in joining the new co-operative, VisitSouthernScotland (VSS).
WHEN Anne Mulhern took over the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, created by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Miss Kate Cranston at the turn of the 20th century, she faced a number of challenges which looked difficult to overcome.
AS A seedbed of revolution, Arran lacks the most basic credentials. The island, 14 miles off the Ayrshire coast, is as peaceful as a Wordsworth poem.
THERE is no shortage of people who can point to the problems of our tourist industry. Providing solutions is another matter. The Scotsman asked Dr Terry Stevens, of Stevens & Associates, a specialist leisure and tourism consultancy, to advise what Scotland needs to do to regain a competitive edge. Here is his seven-point plan:
IF BONHOMIE was a pre- requisite for Scotland’s tourism minister, then the industry could not have landed a more apt character than Frank McAveety, who took over the job in May. As his advisers tap their watches, Mr McAveety chats cheerily about the Edinburgh Festival and the Duke of Buccleuch’s stolen da Vinci.
Dagmar Mühle, manager of the Caledonian Hilton, Edinburgh
TWO years ago, my family visited Austria at New Year for a skiing holiday. We booked the skiing late, then looked around for accommodation. My wife found a bed and breakfast in a small town about the size of Auchterarder. That was all there was available.
IF TOURISM is Scotland’s most important industry, we are all shareholders. The government commits an annual £90 million-plus of our money to tourism-related agencies. VisitScotland says revenue from the industry was £4.5 billion last year. But are we getting value for money?
THERE isn’t much to North Queensland apart from wilderness. In a tiny six-seater plane, a group of British journalists and I circled the Great Barrier Reef and the salt-friendly mangrove swamps which fringe much of the coast, before flying over swathes of dense rainforest, across a range of mountains, through the centre of a circular rainbow and into the low scrubland of the outback.
PETER IRVINE, Unique Events and author of Scotland The Best
MOST overseas visitors to Scotland remember the defining aspects of their holiday for years; the fabulous scenery, the friendliness of the people - and the rip-off prices.
ONE of Scotland’s leading chefs has described the food on offer in the country as "dire".
ANDREW Fairlie has reason to be cheerful.
ONE of the terms most frequently banded about in the tourism industry is "quality". Everyone agrees we need more of it but nobody is entirely sure what it is or how we get it. We all recognise the lack of it in sticky lino, bobbly sheets and tired looking bread rolls. But defining quality, particularly in the middle market, is like eliciting a promise from a government minister; it’s very hard to pin down.
TWENTY million tourists visited Scotland, up 5 per cent on 2001 but still below 2000. They spent £4.5 billion and supported about 9 per cent of all employment. Just under 200,000 people are employed in tourism-related industries.
BY 2020, tourists will have conquered every part of the globe, 1.6 billion of us will be international travellers and competition for pounds, euros, yen, and dollars will be intense.