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 Zeinab Ma, Insight Manager.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
“Born and brought up in west China, I came to Scotland in 2010 to study for my master’s degree at the University of Glasgow. Initially, it was planned as a one-year study course, and I never thought that later I would work and live here, and then marry someone from Scotland. Now I’m working with a fantastic crew of professionals selling this beautiful country to visitors from all over the world.
“I’ve always loved numbers as well as storytelling ever since I was a little girl, and a career that combines them both always attracted me. So, while at university, I completed two degrees – one was in economics and the other was in marketing. Before joining VisitScotland in 2016, I worked for digital media agencies and research firms in London and Shanghai for over seven years and was very fortunate to work with global brands such as Burberry and BMW. Currently, I’m also a fellow member of Toastmasters International Edinburgh as I’m interested in public speaking.
“I'd sum myself up as a researcher, marketeer, foodie and a yogi, and also a firm believer in the power of data and the power of women.”
What is your role at VisitScotland and what are your main responsibilities?
“I’m the Insight Manager in our research team within the Insight department. My team is responsible for carrying out primary research to provide information for VisitScotland and our stakeholders to assist with insights-driven decision making.
“For example, we conduct consumer research in the UK and international markets to understand holidaymakers’ perceptions, travel propensity, and barriers to Scotland so that our marketing team can use the insights on branding and campaign targeting. I work very closely with my Marketing and Digital colleagues on campaign effectiveness measurement every year – this is an exciting and hugely important part of my work, as analysis of marketing conversion allows us to better understand the impact of our activity and drives our marketing investment priorities to ensure a greater return.
“We support the Events and Industry and Destination Development directorates on our large events and business schemes evaluations (such as VisitScotland Expo and our Quality Assurance Scheme) to ensure the team can deliver the best services and support to the industry. Another important part of my role is to assist our Economist on net economic impact assessments to support jobs and incomes in the tourism industry, as part of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy.”
It’s not been business as usual at VisitScotland over the last year. How has your role changed during these unprecedented times?
“I’ve been incredibly proud of my team, who immediately pivoted last March to place their attention squarely on providing timely COVID-related information and insights to the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG), our internal teams at VisitScotland, and the wider industry. Monitoring and reviewing the impact that COVID-19 is having on the tourism industry and how consumer behaviour has been changing is vital to respond to the fast-moving circumstances proactively in a global pandemic. Our work includes tracking consumer sentiment, confidence, travel intentions, and the reassurance needed so that tourism businesses can be better informed and prepared for recovery.
“We’ve undertaken a series of industry surveys within the tourism and hospitality sectors across Scotland since March 2020, to determine the scale and impact of the ongoing crisis; and we closely listen to residents’ voices to understand their sentiment to work with local communities during this unprecedented period. Our work is published on VisitScotland.org to ensure the industry can access the data and insights they need.
“My colleagues are brilliant, and we’ve pulled together to get each other through a tough year when working from home. I can’t wait to see them in person again!”
We’re so glad that we can travel around Scotland again. Do you have a favourite place that you can’t wait to go back to or is there anywhere new that you’re desperate to visit?
“I’m a thalassophile (a person who loves the sea and oceans) and an advocate for the #WaterWellness and #SupportLocal campaigns. I live near Newhaven harbour in Edinburgh, so fortunately I’ve been able to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Firth of Forth every day on my doorstep. Its beautiful sunsets and fresh sea breezes have brought so much joy to me. The water can change its colour from turquoise to azure, or from cerulean to silver, depending on the sunlight.
"A walk from home to the lighthouse was my daily dose of ‘vitamin SEA’ during the first lockdown, and now I love sitting on the bench in the harbour on a sunny summer day with my book, then touring around the local fishmongers to get inspiration for dinner, or sometimes getting a home delivery from the amazing seafood restaurants on a lazy Sunday. You can always find so many options of fresh Scottish sea products! Feel free to give me a shout when you visit Newhaven next time, and I’m more than happy to be your local tour guide.
“Since lockdown was lifted further in late April, I have also visited seaside towns nearby – Dunbar and North Berwick – which only need half an hour to get to by public transport from Edinburgh city centre. I love the sweeping sand dunes and silver beaches, and rich history of traditional seaside communities of Edinburgh and the Lothians, and you can’t miss the ice cream shops in the high streets!”
Belhaven Bay, Dunbar
More in the series
Want to find out more about some of the other members of our team? Get to know:
- Chris McCoy-Lavery – Equality, Diversity & Wellbeing Specialist
- Lesley Macleod – Assistant iCentre Manager
- Patrick O'Shaughnessy – Industry Manager (Development)
- Sarah Henderson – Corporate Communications Graduate
- Yvonne Carr – Senior Retail Manager
- David Martin – Events Manager
- Lyn Donnelly – Senior Partnerships Manager and Responsible Tourism lead