Talk has to be straight, though, says local tourism chair

COLIN McGrath, chairman of the Borders Tourist Board (BTB), met Dr Mike Cantlay shortly after his appointment to head up Visit Scotland.

Mr McGrath told TheSouthern, that when asked by Dr Cantlay how he would improve Visit Scotland, he gave him three examples.

These involved scrapping the grading scheme, as websites such as Trip Advisor were now used by most tourists for their information. Mr McGrath claims Dr Cantlay confirmed that Trip Advisor would be used by Visit Scotland as its major indicator of standards – contradicting what Dr Cantlay told TheSouthern.

Secondly, Mr McGrath said independent organisations like the BTB, managed by providers on a no-cost-to-the-state basis, were the way forward, so there would be little or no need for paid staff.

Thirdly, the £20million-plus per annum given to Visit Scotland by the state, of which more than 80 per cent went on wages, could cease as it should be promoting Scotland as a whole, leaving individual areas to manage themselves.

Mr McGrath says his views have not changed since that first meeting.

“Dr Cantley’s comments do not give a true reflection,” said Mr McGrath. “The BTB, which is the largest tourism organisation in the Borders as an alternative to Visit Scotland, has been the only representative of the Borders at Expo [the international shop window to promote Scotland as a tourist destination] for the last three years.

“That saw us speaking with and promoting the Borders to tourist organisations from around the world at no cost to the state or local authority. “Other parts of Scotland had a substantial presence from their local authorities and tourism partnership groups, but there was no support from either for the Borders.

“Visit Scotland campaigns such as Staycation, guerrilla and Surprise Yourself, were all a surprise to Borders Tourist Board members and their visitors who have never heard of them.

“Also, members of the BTB would like to know where Visit Scotland’s figures of about a six per cent increase in visitor numbers for last year [2010] came from – as their numbers do not support this – and for this year, numbers are down.”