Tuesday, March 08, 2011

UK - Lack of next-generation broadband is a threat to the development of tourism in Scotland

[the herald] Lack of next-generation broadband capacity and accessibility in Scotland presents the most significant threat to the development of tourism, the head of the industry group has said.

Speaking at the end of last week’s Scottish Tourism Week, Iain Herbert, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum, said inadequacies of internet speed and mobile connectivity had emerged as the major theme.

“There was a lot of conversation about broadband and the fact that Scotland is lagging behind,” he said. “It’s a real concern that we are slipping down the international league table.”

Herbert added his voice to widespread industry approval of VisitScotland.com’s new “open platform” website, plans for which have ended a long-running source of tension between the national tourism agency and the industry grass roots.

The revamped site, to be rolled out over the next 18 months, has been devised by Robbie Parish, VS’s head of digital and media. VS is now seeking a new technology partner to operate the website, and a tender document for a four-year, £800,000-£900,000 contract was launched in the Official Journal of the European Community (OJEU) last month.

VS chief executive Malcolm Roughead said that the site, developed in conjunction with a 17-person industry expert group, is geared towards connecting Scotland’s “fragmented” tourism agency and engage with the one million internet users worldwide who use the existing site every month. It will give Scotland’s 26,000 tourism businesses direct and ready access to their own data, and allow operators to gather more data from businesses and make it more accessible to consumers.

“It has been a long journey and a learning journey, not just for this organisation,” Roughead said. “The whole world has been surprised by the exponential growth in [IT and mobile web technology] and you have to change the way you look at the opportunities.” Intended improvements include making content accessible via mobile apps, optimising content for searches, and boosting the “conversion” of browsers into buyers.

B&B operator Alan Keith, formerly of the Association of Dumfries & Galloway Accommodation Providers, said: “Robbie Parish’s proposals [for the site] are entirely in line with what the industry has been asking for. VisitScotland appears to have genuinely recognised what’s needed.”

Tourism boss makes broadband appeal as VisitScotland site welcomed

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