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Strathclyde Business School

Presenting a picture postcard vision for Scottish tourism and hospitality

By Alan Wilson - Posted on 20 September 2013

As Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight draws to a close, Professor Alan Wilson, Head of Marketing at Strathclyde Business School, considers the task facing the sector ahead of its golden opportunity to shine on the world stage…

In case you hadn’t noticed Scotland at the moment is very much ‘in-vogue’ with its hospitality sector about to experience high demand from an international audience. Even though the latest tourism figures showed only a modest increase in visitor numbers (0.2% in the year to March 2013) there does seem to be an underlying confidence in the sector. For example, Historic Scotland recently revealed that it had enjoyed a ‘record breaking’ summer in 2013 with nearly 1.7m visitors recorded at its 78 attractions – up by almost 15% on the previous year.

In addition, Visit Scotland are launching a new campaign focused on next year’s Ryder Cup and The Open Championship to make Scotland the world's leading golf destination. The Driving Forward Scotland strategy aims to increase revenue by £80m to £300m by 2020.

Scottish Food and Drink fortnight has been taking place these last two weeks. Confidence is high with recent Bank of Scotland research suggesting the sector could create a staggering 5,600 jobs in the next five years with turnover expected to significantly exceed £12.5bn by 2017. This is supported by a renewed focus on quality.

This focus on quality food and drink should also have major benefits for Scotland’s hospitality industry. The Scottish Government and VisitScotland have launched a new quality assurance scheme to boost sales for Scottish food and drinks businesses. The £900k Taste Our Best scheme is designed to promote local produce with a range of businesses including hotels, restaurants and cafes being encouraged to get involved. Estimates are hopeful that this approach could increase sales by as much as 20%. If you consider these efforts coupled with the expected benefits of the Commonwealth Games and the year of Homecoming, then the next 18 months could be viewed as a pivotal time for the hospitality sector. But looking to the longer term, our experience tells us that there’s an acknowledged lack of leadership skills within the sector with many graduates seeing hospitality as second rate careers which don’t offer desirable training and promotion prospects.

To counter this, the sector is becoming increasingly aware of the role played by continuous staff training. This is an area that Strathclyde Business School is already involved with. Now in its third year the International Leadership School’s Executive Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Leadership aims to equip senior level managers with the skills they need to take a positive next step in their careers. It is through a focus on training, development, and staff retention that the food & drink sector will be able to look ahead with confidence and respond to modern demands.

By identifying the best talent and moulding promising candidates into future leaders we stand the best chance of developing a sustainable hospitality sector which responds to changing tastes and allows Scotland to continue to be seen a premier destination, long after the gloss of next year’s showcase events has lost its sheen.

What do you think about the Scottish hospitality sector? Does it provide a good service or does it not compare favourably with your experience in other countries? Let us know in the comments below…

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