visitscotland.com

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2003.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative 2:30 pm, 12th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it is satisfied with the effectiveness of visitscotland.com. (S2O-134)

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

Operational matters are obviously the responsibility of visitscotland.com. However, we believe that that organisation's role is to play a significant role in developing the Scottish tourism market to ensure that all businesses within the Scottish tourism sector get maximum opportunity through the development of the strategy that we have put forward through visitscotland.com.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

Will the minister undertake to take up with VisitScotland and the operators of visitscotland.com the concerns of small tourism operators about the barriers that they perceive are being put in place to tourists being able to contact them directly through the visitscotland.com website? At the moment, there are many barriers to accessing a number of accommodation providers directly and tourists have to go through the call centre.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I have already paid a visit to visitscotland.com this week, and I raised that question with the organisation. It is willing to deal with providers and all within the sector to try to address those concerns. The opportunity of a visit is also being extended to David Mundell, if he wishes to take the offer up. I hope that he gets the e-mail, if he has not already received the three that I understand he has already received.

On the broader issue, we want to work with those in the industry to ensure that we maximise the opportunity for profiling the opportunities that exist in Scottish tourism. If we grow it together, everyone can be a beneficiary. If practical issues need to be overcome, we will endeavour to do that.

I hope that Mr Mundell will be able to take up the kind offer.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

Does the minister acknowledge that disenchantment with visitscotland.com increases rather than decreases as the months go by? Is one of the problems not that it has two conflicting objectives: to sell Scotland to the world and to make money for SchlumbergerSema? Is that not exemplified by the fact that a 10 per cent per day booking charge is levied on all guesthouse and hotel owners? Is that charge not excessive?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The charge is the best that is available in the United Kingdom, if not Europe. In fact, at a basic minimum, market competitors operate at 15 per cent commission. Some, such as lastminute.com, operate at between 25 per cent and 30 per cent commission. Therefore, it is not necessarily excessive.

The industry has engaged in partnership and, by focusing on the joint strategy of improving opportunities and investment in Scottish tourism, so that we gain a growing market share in world tourism, we can make a genuine difference. If one of the partners benefits from that, that is a by-product, but the central issue is to ensure that we increase the range and quality of products in Scottish tourism, so that we can market them internationally. Areas such as the South of Scotland, which Alasdair Morgan represents, as well as other parts of Scotland, will benefit from that growth agenda.