Scotland faces tough and growing competition in the international country sports tourism market. The recent launch of Eagle Review, a new internet tool that helps sportsmen pick their ideal shooting or fishing destination, a type of TripAdvisor for country sports, shows that visitor competition is fierce: There is pan-industry recognition that proactive initiatives need to be implemented across the product, business development, customer service, marketing, research, skills training and innovation if the challenges faced by this sector are to be met.
Every tourism business is different; be they country sports providers or a business which can support providers as part of their activities. What each business can do to engage with the country sports visitor will also be different. However, every tourism business will benefit from understanding the market, utilising digital media, and better collaboration with other tourism business. Speaking to your customers and understanding what they want and how they find you will help identify how you might expand your current business model to attract new visitors, prolong your season or diversify your business to generate new revenue streams.
Visitors check location reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor and Google, check prices on comparison sites such as lastminute.com and Expedia, and tell the world about their own experience using Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, to name just a few. Most of these websites offer businesses an opportunity to join the conversation; so make time to visit each site to ensure you are in control of your business listing and get involved in the conversation.
It is no longer an option for country sport businesses not to have a digital presence. The biggest challenge facing the sector lies in the issues around digital access experienced by rural areas, however, the introduction of super-fast broadband will soon aid connectivity, and lack of mobile phone coverage is also being tackled.
Understanding the visitor’s motivations, attitudes, needs and expectations in more detail will enable the industry to better develop the country sports product offer to ensure that Scotland outperforms its global competitors.
Each tourism business should understand their customers’ journey – how they researched their business, booked them, experienced them and then reviewed them. Asking customers what they think is missing from the experience, will help to identify the gaps in the product, pricing, service, or location.
Quality Assurance for your customers
Around 70% of all tourism operators in Scotland take part in VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance schemes. Independent research shows that investment as a result of being part of the schemes generated an increase in annual revenue in Scottish tourism of at least £38 million.
The star grading is a testimonial to the rigorously assessed service that you provide. In addition, by participating in the scheme you will receive face-to-face advice from an experienced Quality & Tourism Advisor who will be able to highlight ways to maximise your customers’ satisfaction.
Once completed, a plaque highlighting your quality grading is provided which can be displayed outside your premises to demonstrate your official award from VisitScotland.
Customers want to know about their food - not just the recipe, or the ingredients but their provenance. Showcasing quality assurance standards is just one way to do that. The Scottish Quality Wild Venison Ltd exists to maintain, develop and promote Scotland’s high quality venison industry.
The Taste Our Best food quality assurance scheme is a high profile Scottish food tourism initiative designed to recognise quality and excellence in all types of eating establishments.
All serviced accommodation and visitor attraction businesses that serve food, will have a Taste Our Best food quality assessment done as part of their Quality Assurance scheme participation, at no additional cost. Out with this, venues, from accommodation providers to bars, pubs and restaurants, can contact VisitScotland for an assessment.
Country sports businesses, or those who could collaborate with them, have a real opportunity to capitalise on our visitors’ love of Scottish produce.
Scotland’s Natural Larder, an initiative by Scottish Natural Heritage, aims to promote local and natural produce that has been harvested or hunted. It also encourages best practice and responsible use of natural food resources to venue owners. The site offers tips and advice on game, venison, fish and wildfowl to encourage its use on Scottish menus.
The free VisitScotland Anglers Welcome Scheme recognises the special efforts made by businesses to provide for anglers, and to help them choose suitable accommodation. The Field Sports Welcome Scheme is also available from VisitScotland. These schemes distinguish those businesses that have the knowledge and facilities to cater for their market, and provide a professional, consistent and sustainable country sport tourism experience. Our web portal also welcomes accommodation providers who meet a recognised set of criteria, indicating they are ‘sport friendly’.
Signpost the way
As many of the country sports visitors arrive by their own transport, help them find you more easily by applying for a brown tourist sign. These signs can be obtained via your relevant local authority (for local roads), or via Transport Scotland (for signs on trunk roads). To help secure a sign, your business needs to meet the qualification criteria and be accredited in a relevant VisitScotland Quality Assurance scheme.
There are a wide number of industry bodies that are all working together under the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group, which may be able to offer your business more detailed support and advice. Our fantastic consumer website is for anyone interested in Scottish country sports. The website enables visitors to search through over 200 sporting providers and outlines opportunities to participate in all the sports, at a range of budgets.
Ensure that your business is listed and consider following our Twitter account and Facebook that promote all things to do with Scottish country sports. Our YouTube channel uses videos to bring to life the excitement of the various country sports available in Scotland.