Businesses from across Skye were represented at the SkyeConnect Autumn conference held at the Sligachan Hotel yesterday (Monday November 18th).
More than 60 representatives attended a series of talks and workshops looking at everything from business inspiration to social media management.
Dave Till, who chairs SkyeConnect, told of the group’s progress and impact over the past three years…and called for more businesses to join up to strengthen its impact.
Professor John Lennon and Marina Martinolli of the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University provided insights int their research for the Skye Visitor Centre which is due to be published next year…and pointed out that the Moffat Centre uses its profits to help fund tourism and hospitality related education opportunities for less well-off students.
Mathew Quinn, local representative from the online booking organisation Expedia, highlighted the trends in visitor numbers and habits which they could detect.
John White from the outdoor centre Whitewave, based on Trotternish, gave an inspirational account of how to develop a tourism-related business over 30 years, pointing out the essential need to interact fully with customers before they arrived as well as during their experience, in order to understand and manage their expectations.
The need for added value and interaction – as well as the key benefits of developing an all-year-round business – was further emphasised by John Coghill, a Director of Sligachan Hotel and Skye Connect, who spoke of the growing value of experiential tourism, where the visitor is deliberately involved in the experience of the place in which they are staying or visiting.
This was echoed by John McGale, of the Carron Restaurant in Strathcarron, who explained how himself and his wife Clare has managed to develop the seasonal business into a year-round enterprise by developing an additional whisky experience and information service.
Sarah Sutton, of SkyeAdventure, explained how they managed to provide coasteering as a year-round service – and by adjusting their locations to suit the weather, had only had to cancel an event on two occasions over more than six years.
Other outside speakers included A Lady in London blogger Julie Falconer; Chris Taylor, the regional director of VisitScotland; and Carron Tobin of the West Coast Waters initiative for 2020. Speaking via video was VisitScotland Insight manager Chris Greenwood who emphasised the need for tourism businesses to feed information and data into their ‘business barometer’ service, which – in turn – would mean more accurate information for making business decisions.