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Haggis, neeps and chatty - Sorry to bang on about the weather again, but…

Blog post   •   Feb 18, 2015 09:45 GMT

Sorry to bang on about the weather again, but…

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Whistler, Canada ( FYI - I do mostly holiday in Scotland before you think I’m using a blog to promote an entirely different country!) where it rained pretty much from when I got there to when I left. Ordinarily this wouldn’t bother me as I’m a big believer in the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’. However, I was there for skiing and anyone who does winter sports knows that skiing in the rain is rather depressing.

We did have a couple of blue sky days that were great and certainly helped back up British Columbia’s bold marketing slogan of ‘The best place on Earth’ - which at that time I had equal parts admiration and consternation for.

Our waiter on the last night of the holiday told us it had been the worst season he’d seen for 35 years. To add salt to the wounds, upon looking at social media, all I could see from friends back home were images of them skiing and boarding across Scotland’s winter resorts in pristine snow and beautifully clear conditions! Hindsight is a wonderful thing…

So…as soon as I got back, I was straight up to CairnGorm Mountain to see what I’d been missing! 

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(this isn't me...)

I haven’t been to CairnGorm in a while as I usually ski at Glencoe or Glenshee, with an occasional trip to Nevis when there’s deep powder. It was very pleasing to see the new owners, Natural Retreats, have introduced electronic ticketing and the staff, as always, were all incredibly helpful. I was even more excited to see on my return that our Business, Energy and Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP had announced a £5.5 million investment into Scottish ski resorts.

One thing the good folks of British Columbia do well is their focus on customer service. Everyone I met was genuinely interested to know how I was enjoying my trip, where I was from, if there was anything they could do to help and, of course, they were very apologetic about the lack of snow!

An acquaintance of ours who works there told us about daily meetings the staff at the mountain would have to increase positivity amongst the workers and this definitely spread throughout the visitors during the day.

Similarly, at the recent Caledonian MacBrayne Travel and Tourism conference in November in Oban which I attended, we heard from Neil Rodgers, a tourism consultant, who talked about how to improve customer service.

He showed this short video about the small town of Oakridge, Oregon, USA which came up with a very simple yet inspiring scheme to break down initial communication barriers and get locals talking about what they love about their home. It’s a great watch and perhaps something we can all learn from.

After the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games last summer I heard repeated compliments from friends and family about how friendly everyone was and how helpful ordinary residents of the city were to the hundreds of thousands of visitors. This is in part due to the VisitScotland supported Glasgow Welcomes scheme which helped train the Clydesiders, City Hosts and thousands of frontline industry staff but also due to how much people cared about having the opportunity to host a world-class event.

Let’s not let the enthusiasm slide in 2015. With five world and European sporting events across the country, the Turner Prize in Glasgow and major golf tournaments like The Open this year alone, we have the opportunity to further enhance our world-wide reputation for outstanding customer service.

The Glasgow Welcomes scheme has been so popular that other local authorities are now taking the formula and adapting it to feature their own local content such as BeLanarkshire and Ayrshire Smiles. More schemes are on their way too, but for now why not learn more about other tourism businesses around your area and what better way to put a smile on your own face than a great day in the Scottish mountains?!

Again, feel free to email me (leo.plaster@visitscotland.com) with any comments or questions but if you get my out of office it’s probably because I’ve gone skiing… 

Leo