We launched a new feature last year so that you can get to know our team a little better! We’re asking members of staff from across VisitScotland to tell us a bit about themselves and their roles, as well as some of their favourite places to visit in our beautiful country. In the next of the series hear from Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Industry Manager (Development).
Tell us a bit about yourself...
"Born in the Republic of Ireland, more years ago than I want to admit, I came to Scotland straight after completing my degree in Hotel & Catering Management. The very first hotel I worked at was The Stakis City Mills Hotel in Perth, as a very raw trainee manager. The hotel is now known as the Mercure and is directly opposite our old VisitScotland offices (life is always about full circles).
"I ended up in Glasgow for a big chunk of my working life managing a small hospitality group and then running a chain of coffee shops and bakeries, fruit / vegetable and deli chain, delivering SQA Hospitality Modern Apprenticeships and finally the job of dreams. I joined the Dumfries & Galloway Tourist Board as the Industry Development Manager just after foot and mouth disease had decimated the area.
"In 2005, my wife and I moved back to Perthshire when I took up the Area Director role at Angus & Dundee Tourist Board. It has always felt right to be back here, and Karen and I spend our time walking (with our two dogs), cycling and jogging through this lovely countryside."
What is your role at VisitScotland and what are your main responsibilities?
"The title is the same as when I joined Dumfries & Galloway but the role has evolved a lot since then and even more so in recent years. As a team, our focus is on building and delivering growth advice for tourism businesses across all the sectors. I also account manage the three industry associations – Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) and the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) – and more recently I work in partnership with Business Gateway and Digital Boost to deliver workshops specifically for tourism businesses.
"The single biggest change has been the massive acceleration of digital adoption by our visitors in planning and booking their travel and the need for businesses to understand and optimise how best to reach those visitors when they search. The team works to support industry to make incremental foundational changes to their digital practises such as online booking, making targeted use of online travel agents, or claiming and optimising their Google My Business listing.
"These changes can make a significant difference to their visibility and, ultimately, getting decent volumes of bookings. We do this by developing the content for Digital Skills on VisitScotland.org, creating and supporting the delivery of digital reviews by our Industry Relationship Managers for tourism businesses, and delivering workshops on digital fundamentals to groups of tourism businesses, as well as managing the relationships with online travel agents and web booking engines to support their efforts to get tourism businesses bookable and get quality Scottish products on their visitor platforms."
It’s not been business as usual at VisitScotland over the last year. How has your role changed during these unprecedented times?
"Industry has and continues to be battered with the consequences of COVID-19. We spent the initial weeks of lockdown trying to work out how and what we might do to support industry. What became evident, once businesses had come to terms with the shock of closure, was an appetite from industry to use their time to improve their capability and capacity to recover when travel was possible.
"To help re-opening, a programme of online webinars launched in May, providing marketing and digital advice using our inhouse expertise, branded Moment for Change and had over 3,000 attendees. Previously for us to reach that many tourism businesses would have meant massive amounts of travel, expense, resources and time. This time we did it from our homes using GoToWebinar.
"In this current lockdown a partnership with Digital Boost to deliver a program of 10 webinars specifically for tourism businesses is being developed. The first three webinars have had nearly 1,000 attendees – our Digital Fundamentals session had just short of 400 attendees alone. If you missed them, you can watch them on our recorded webinars and online training page. Our next session on 25 February is about helping the experience sector (visitor attractions, tours and activities) understand the benefits, features and hidden productivity of adopting a booking system – book your place.
"Our online content on VisitScotland.org continues to develop with an article on how and why experiences should procure an online booking system, particularly with new processes and procedures required to operate safely when re-opened, including a procurement checklist and case studies which showcase some of the many benefits of adopting an online booking system."
At the moment we’re unable to travel within Scotland. When restrictions are lifted, do you have a favourite place that you can’t wait to visit again or is there anywhere new that you’re desperate to see?
"We live in a beautiful part of Scotland and when there is any scope to get out, we’ve been out and about. The last few years we have been exploring the north east of Scotland, which has some great coastal walks and you must have Cullen skink in Cullen. It’s very hard to beat the west coast – any part will do. Plockton for its scenery, walks and a couple of cosy pubs. Ah, dreaming of a long walk followed by a pint and a proper Aberdeen Angus burger and chips!"