The first Tourism Business Game Changer programme, developed in partnership by private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) and Scottish Enterprise, has been hailed a success with all 12 participating companies developing ambitious plans for growth.
The successful development of the North East of Scotland’s tourism sector is essential to achieving the shared ambition of growing visitor spend in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to £1 billion per year by 2023.
The programme, which attracted more than 20 applications following its launch late last year, was developed to support executives, managers and owners of tourism businesses in north east Scotland to capitalise on ongoing investment in major infrastructure and evolving consumer trends by identifying new markets and refining their business proposition.
Starting at the end of January 2019, the intensive programme was delivered over five months, and introduced participants to the Business Model Canvas – a useful template for developing new and existing businesses – plus one-to-one support and a best practice learning day at Mary King’s Close and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Plans are now underway to run a second programme, expected to launch in September 2019.
With strong links between the food, drink and tourism industry one of the strengths of the region, a number of the businesses who participated in the programme are now actively developing new products or experiences based around our signature food and drink offering. Businesses represented a range of visitor attractions, privately owned hotels, exclusive use venues and self-catering accommodation, including:
- Aberdeenshire Highland Beef
- Dalriada Luxury Lodges
- Dunnottar Castle
- Meldrum House Hotel
- National Trust for Scotland
- Portsoy Community Enterprise
- Raemoir House
- Saplinbrae Hotel and Lodges
- Tor-na -Coille Hotel
Jennifer Craw, ONE Chief Executive, said: “Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire already boast so many of the experiences that attract visitors from around the world. Our first cohort of Tourism Business Game Changer companies have successfully developed plans to grow and innovate their businesses, build on our strengths as a region and provide a sustainable contribution to North East Scotland’s economy.
“This is an exciting time for our tourism sector. Our range of outdoor activities, the opening of infrastructure projects like the AWPR, investment in Aberdeen International Airport and expansion at Aberdeen Harbour, and our cultural offerings including P&J Live and Aberdeen Art Gallery, are an opportunity to change perceptions and put Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire on the map.”
Elaine Booth, tourism sector project manager at Scottish Enterprise, added: “It was great to work with such a diverse group of inspiring businesses and to see them really embrace the game changer programme. We are proud to partner with ONE and VisitAberdeenshire to help local tourism businesses maximise their potential, giving them the right tools for future growth and delivering economic benefits for the region.”
Joanna Gall, director of Saplinbrae Hotel and Lodges, who participated, said: “We joined the Tourism Business Game Changer programme to focus on the accommodation element of our business, specifically to grow our market share and attract new customers to increase occupancy. Through one-to-one sessions, we identified how we can utilise the data that we currently hold on our booking system to develop customer profiles and apply that to market our venue internationally.
Jennifer Craw, ONE Chief Executive, Joanna Gall, Saplinbrae Hotel & Lodges and Elaine Booth, tourism sector project manager at Scottish Enteprise.
“We already work closely with a number of local businesses but we have since expanded that network which has already resulted in new bookings from upcoming events in the area like the Portsoy Boat Festival. After more than three years managing Saplinbrae Hotel & Lodges, we have built up a reputation for our food and drink offering with strong links to local suppliers. Through the programme, we became increasingly aware of the growing emphasis on food tourism in the region and we are now developing the idea for a ‘foodie’s weekend’ tour which would allow us to collaborate with other local businesses who are equally committed to provenance and build our combined sense of shared ambition for what we can achieve.”
ONE’s activity to strengthen and diversify the regional economy includes direct financial support to VisitAberdeenshire of £795,000 with co-funders Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council to grow visitor numbers and tourism revenues in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Those interested in future Tourism Business Game Changer programmes should contact Elaine Booth at Scottish Enterprise (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.