This year is a golden year for VisitScotland as we turn 50 on 25 July 2019 - the date when the Scottish Tourist Board was created.
We’re celebrating 50 years of Scottish tourism and its rise to one of Scotland’s most important industries using our anniversary as an opportunity to look fondly at the past while fixing our gaze toward the future.
Whilst this is VisitScotland’s own milestone, it’s very much an anniversary to be shared with our industry colleagues and partners. We spoke to Margo Paterson, Chief Executive of Hostelling Scotland about the changes the sector has seen over the past 50 years.
Do you have any interesting stories you can tell of your time in tourism?
I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people over my 18 years in tourism – from colleagues to our members and guests with their passion for hostelling and love of Scotland.
Last year we were proud to actively participate in the Year of Young People. As part of the celebrations we created the Explorer Fund, supporting over 600 young people, children, carers and leaders to explore Scotland.
One of the applications we received came from a nursery school. We’d never funded a nursery before. We had lots of experience in supporting schools and youth groups, but this was something new. We wondered how we could make it work and decided the best approach was to work in partnership with the nursery leader to design a pilot project – and so ‘Mini Explorers’ was born.
The children, their families and leaders had the time of their lives paddling in the water, having sing songs, boat trips, picnics and more at our Rowardennan Youth Hostel on the banks of Loch Lomond.
What are the main changes within the hostelling sector over the last 50 years?
Hostelling has seen a lot of change over the last 50 years! There’s more choice than ever before and along with shared accommodation, we now offer private and ensuite rooms - you can even book an entire hostel as an exclusive private rental. The majority of our hostels are now licensed and offer guests a range of food and drink, while the ability to self- cater remains popular with those travelling on a tight budget.
The most significant change over the last 50 years is the increased use of technology. Travel plans are now researched and booked online, and online travel agents are the first stop for many bookers.
Free WIFI and USB charging points top guest wish lists and a mobile friendly website and booking platform is a must for any business operating in our sector.
Guest expectations are increasing, and reviews are posted instantly. Words and pictures shared on social media can inspire and influence future bookings.
I’m looking forward to the future, evolving to meet the changing needs of our guests and remaining true to our core values by providing affordable, flexible accommodation and a warm welcome for anyone wishing to explore and discover the real Scotland.
And finally, what do you think lies ahead?
It’s an exciting time for Hostelling, with visitors looking for more authentic travel experiences. With a number of coastal hostels in our network we’re looking forward to celebrating the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.
From cultural explorers to youth groups, thrill seekers and the growing number of people wanting to escape the day to day, seeking the personal wellbeing associated with spending quality time in the great outdoors. Every hostel offers something different and each has its own unique character.
The last 50 years has seen a significant change in hostelling and the speed of this change is only likely to increase, with hotel chains rapidly developing hostel-type products to tap into our sector.
Last year we re-opened our Glen Nevis Youth Hostel after a £2.2 million refurbishment, having already completed projects in Oban, Lochranza and Aberdeen. With further projects in the pipeline we are progressing a programme of modernisation across our network, creating a new generation of hostels for a new generation of hosteller.
#Go hostelling! Our place is yours.