VisitScotland's Chief Executive, Malcolm Roughead, recently caught up with three innovative businesses, each making a unique impact on Scotland's visitor economy.
Everything has to start somewhere. Seems like an obvious statement to make, but when we switch on the TV, flush our toilets or pull our raincoats on - it’s rare we wonder about how it was invented, we just know that without it life would just be that little bit more unappealing!
Of course these particular creations I’ve mentioned were all concocted by Scottish inventors – Baird, Harrington, and Macintosh.
In tourism, where Uber, Airbnb and TripAdvisor are the companies of today, innovating for the future – I’m interested in the businesses of tomorrow – and there’s no doubt that tourism is the breeding ground for those new ideas and experiences.
I’m halfway through a Listening Tour in which I’m meeting with the entrepreneurs of OUR age – those who are dreaming up daring ideas to take the tourism industry well into the next decade and beyond, making sure we carry on being the innovating, forward-thinking country that our ancestors pioneered.
From brewers leading the way in the craft beer movement to camping fanatics trying to create the ultimate glamping experience in the wild and rugged Scottish landscapes – every single product and brand I’ve come across on my journey is unique, inspired and different – but there is something they all have in common and that is an unlimited passion, drive and enthusiasm.
Of all the innovators I’ve met to date, I wanted to share my time in Glasgow, where I caught up with three very different businesses, each making a tangible difference.
OBrand Communication comprises three young men (from Poland, Latvia and Belgium) who met in Glasgow, became inspired by their city, and decided to take the visitor experience there to an interactive new level. By deploying Beacon Technology they hope to deliver information about the city’s landmarks and attractions direct to visitor’s mobile devices, communicating interesting historical and cultural facts alongside useful information about places to eat and drink. It’s an interesting concept, and one that could extend across other areas of Scotland and other sectors – perhaps even to the golf course, and I could find out which notable figures managed to eagle the 17th at St Andrews before me!
Trakke's digital promotion of their bags show Scotland’s land and cityscapes.
Next up was a trip to Finnieston to meet Alec Farmer at Trakke – an innovative company specialising in high-end rucksacks, made from UK materials.
As I travelled from central Glasgow to see the Trakke workshop I was struck by the regeneration taking place in Finnieston. The boom in bars and restaurants is as a direct result of the Hydro Arena, built for the Commonwealth Games and now a catalyst for local and city-wide regeneration, with visitors spending in the night time economy.
It would be fair to say that the Trakke brand is a perfect fit in the area and the digital promotion of their bags show Scotland’s land and cityscapes and will make customers at home and abroad want to get out and explore our country.
Last in my Glasgow venture was the Liquid Academy. The Academy is the brainchild of Scott Gemmell and - working with The Prince’s Trust - he is helping a range of young people learn new skills, build confidence and approach alcohol in a responsible way through training in mixology.
Cocktail making at the Liquid Academy.
The Academy works closely with hotels, bars and restaurants, including Cromlix House, owned by Scots tennis ace, Andy Murray and this autumn Scott hopes to raise the bar in mixology innovation and inspiration with the Caledonian Bartenders Cup, celebrating the very best of this part of the hospitality trade.
As you can see, these three businesses are very different in their approach and product but all have one thing in common – that one idea, that spark, that lightbulb moment, which brings new light and life into our industry and economy.
Are you an entrepreneur or do you simply have one great idea that could make a difference to the tourism industry? Let me know!