PERTH AND KINROSS COUNCIL. Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee 30 March 2011 VISITSCOTLAND PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT 2011/12

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PERTH AND KINROSS COUNCIL

Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee – 30 March 2011 VISITSCOTLAND PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT 2011/12

Report by the Executive Director (Environment)

This report outlines the basis for the 2011/12 Partnership Agreement between VisitScotland and Perth and Kinross Council and the tourism information related services which will be undertaken with the Council’s financial support.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Committee is asked to:

(i) Approve the basis for the 2011/12 Partnership Agreement with VisitScotland and to provide funding of £165,000, subject to budget, in support of the tourism information services described in this report.

(ii) Agree that the Tourist Information Consultative Group continues to engage with VisitScotland in order to review the management of the information centre network and jointly develop the strategy in respect of services for visitors in Perth and Kinross.

(iii) Agree that a report on recommendations in respect of the strategic direction for visitor information services is brought back to a future meeting of the Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee.

BACKGROUND

1. Since 2008/09 the Partnership Agreement between VisitScotland and Perth and Kinross Council has seen the Council’s core financial contribution going towards the operation of the network of six Visitor Information Centres (VICs) in Perth and Kinross, with the Council contribution representing approximately 50% of the net operating costs of the offices. In addition, there has been a contribution to the running costs of secondary visitor information channels including the operation of unstaffed information points at Kinross, Kenmore and Blackford (Baxter’s) and the www.perthshire.co.uk website. In 2010/11 the Council provided funding of £170,000 towards these services; £165,000 towards the VIC estate and management of information points and £5,000 towards the hosting, updating and search engine optimisation of the website.

VISITSCOTLAND – TOURIST INFORMATION PERFORMANCE

2. The visitor footfall at VICs for the period April 2010 to January 2011 is shown in the following table together with a comparison with the equivalent period in the preceding two years.

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Visitor Information Centre Footfall April 2010 – January 2011 April 2009 – January 2010 April 2008 – January 2009 Aberfeldy 29,833 38,300 37,268 Blairgowrie 13,602 17,504 16,550 Crieff 17,179 21,378 25,350 Dunkeld 22,177 22,054 23,236 Perth 22,829 26,388 35,839 Pitlochry 78,500 89,463 77,370 Total 184,120 215,087 215,613

3. The following table highlights the number of accommodation bookings made by each VIC and the related number of bed nights that these bookings generated. Once again, the figures for the period April 2010 to January 2011 have been compared with the preceding two years.

Visitor Information Centre Accommodation Bookings and Bed Nights

Bookings Bed Nights

Bookings Bed Nights

Bookings Bed Nights

Apr 2010 – Jan 2011 Apr 2010 – Jan 2011 Apr 2009 – Jan 2010 Apr 2009 – Jan 2010 Apr 2008 – Jan 2009 Apr 2008 – Jan 2009 Aberfeldy 219 765 280 902 219 995 Blairgowrie 228 737 175 523 179 620 Crieff 138 480 159 468 91 278 Dunkeld 200 588 165 494 170 504 Perth 655 2,319 663 2,303 566 1,698 Pitlochry 1,173 3,709 1,374 4,011 1,250 3,898 Total 2,613 8,598 2,816 8,701 2,475 7,993

4. The overall picture highlights a downward trend in visitor footfall. However, with regard to the accommodation bookings made by each office the trend is more level with the figures showing a small decrease on 2009/10 but an increase on 2008/09 in both bookings and the bed nights that they generated. 5. The downturn in visitor numbers locally of approximately 14% is in line with

the longer term trend in visitor usage of VICs nationally where a 17% decline in footfall has been recorded between 2008 and 2010. This is an area where the internet and technology is having an impact in respect of how the visitor seeks information pre and post arrival in a destination with less reliance on VICs in a locality for services such as route planning and information on attractions. As a consequence VisitScotland has been developing other communications and information channels including “outreach” activities aimed at visitors once they are in the area which has included a mobile promotional presence at major events in Perth and Kinross such as T in the Park and the Rally of Scotland. In respect of modernising the VIC estate, VisitScotland has been rolling out a programme of office refurbishments and rebranding across Scotland and in 2010 the Pitlochry office was the subject of a £60,000 redesign and refurbishment. This followed on from improvements made to the Aberfeldy and Dunkeld premises in 2009.

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6. Notwithstanding the trend in the footfall at VICs, they do remain a resource that is valued by visitors and local business communities alike. In relation to the impacts of VICs, VisitScotland undertook a survey of visitors to VICs in Scotland in 2010 which attempted to identify the total additional visitor expenditure that occurred as a result of visiting the VIC i.e. local expenditure which wouldn’t have happened unless the visitor had used a VIC. The majority of extra expenditure was on local attractions, activities and food and drink, and the research exercise took into account that some visitors made savings as a result of using a VIC for late availability accommodation deals. This study suggested that the total additional visitor expenditure generated by visits to VICs in Perth and Kinross was £1,746,000. In addition, the study reported a 97% visitor satisfaction level with the experience of VICs.

PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT 2010/11

7. It is recommended that the Partnership Agreement for 2011/12 continues to focus on the delivery of information services through the operation of Visitor Information Centres year round in Aberfeldy, Blairgowrie, Crieff, Dunkeld, Perth and Pitlochry and management of information points at Kinross, Kenmore and Blackford.

8. It is proposed that the core funding allocation from the Council to VisitScotland is £165,000 for 2011/12, being 50% of the total net operating deficit of the six offices, and that this forms the basis of the Partnership Agreement. VisitScotland will report to the Council on the following performance indicators: visitor footfall; accommodation bookings; bed nights generated; economic impact and return on investment. In addition, VisitScotland is further developing methodologies to report on visitor satisfaction and visitor profiles through comprehensive studies. Developments in respect of the approach to the delivery of information services through VICs and partnership information points in businesses and attractions will be shared with the Area Tourism Partnership and it is proposed that the Tourist Information Consultative Group comprising VisitScotland and Council officers, and the elected members that represent the Council on Area Tourism Partnership continues to review operations and oversee the development of future strategy in respect of visitor information services as they relate to Perth and Kinross. It is envisaged that the scope of such a strategy will include policy in respect of the promotional opportunities for local businesses within VICs, merchandising, and property matters including possible opportunities for local partnerships and co-locations in the delivery of information services. Recommendations from this strategic review would be reported to both the Economic Partnership and the Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee later in the year.

9. In respect of the www.perthshire.co.uk website VisitScotland is presently revising its digital marketing strategy including the redevelopment of the national visitscotland.com platform and area websites. VisitScotland will work very closely with local authorities in relation to content for area websites and it planned that processes are put in place to allow local authorities to provide content (editorial, images, video etc) to the relevant local site. The current

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web addresses will continue to be used so visitors will be able to access area content either via visitscotland.com or through the existing domain e.g. Perthshire.co.uk. VisitScotland will continue to report to the Council on website activity including traffic to the site. For the period April to January 2011 the Perthshire.co.uk website received 160,547 unique visitors. (This compares to 175,959 for the period April 2009 to March 2010). The internet is an area where too there has been a changing trend in how visitors are using a range of sources for information and recommendation particularly with the growth of informal on-line resources including social network media and tourism feedback sites such as Tripadvisor. In light of the ongoing developments in this area VisitScotland is not seeking financial support from Perth and Kinross Council in 2011/12 for website management.

10. In addition to the activities covered by the Partnership Agreement VisitScotland will present a range of marketing opportunities on a “menu” basis for each local authority which will include the opportunity to “up weight” national seasonal and niche campaigns with additional Perth and Kinross specific information and special offers from accommodation and activity providers, and attractions e.g. the Autumn Moments in Perthshire direct mail campaign.

CONSULTATION

11. The Head of Legal Services, the Head of Democratic Services and the Head of Finance have been consulted in the preparation of this report.

RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS

12. Subject to budget, the funding for services provided through the Partnership Agreement would be contained within the Planning and Regeneration 2011/12 revenue budget.

COUNCIL CORPORATE PLAN OBJECTIVES 2009-2012

13. The Council’s Corporate Plan 2009-2012 lays out five Objectives which provide clear strategic direction, inform decisions at a corporate and service level and shape resources allocation. This report impacts on the following: (i) A Safe, Secure and Welcoming Environment

(ii) A Prosperous, Sustainable and Inclusive Economy

EQUALITIES IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EqIA)

14. The function, policy, procedure or strategy presented in this report was considered under the Corporate Equalities Assessment Framework and assessed in relation to the Race/Disability/Gender Equalities Assessment. It is recognised that the Visitor Information Centre network offers opportunities for equalities groups to access services and tourism information. The Equalities Impact Assessment identified the following points for action:

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• Ensure that VisitScotland continues to implement improvements to the Visitor Information Centre estate, including the training of its frontline staff, to facilitate access to information and visitor services for equality protected characteristic groups.

STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

15. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a legal requirement under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 that applies to all plans, programmes and strategies, including policies (PPS).

16. The PPS presented in this report was considered under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 and the determination was made the items summarised in this report do not require further action as they do not qualify as a plan, programme or strategy as defined by the Act.

CONCLUSION

17. This report outlines the basis for the 2011/12 Partnership Agreement with VisitScotland for support for the operation of Visitor Information Centres (VICs) and information points in Perth and Kinross as well as statistics in respect of visitor usage of these offices in 2010/11. It is proposed that Perth and Kinross Council contributes £165,000 towards the operating costs of the six VICs in Perth and Kinross and related information services in the financial year 2011/12 (the same level as in 2010/11) with VisitScotland to report to the Council on an ongoing basis in respect of visitor usage, return on investment and visitor satisfaction. Notwithstanding the trend in visitor patterns the VIC network remains a resource which is valued by visitors and local communities. It is therefore proposed that further review of operational matters and the strategic direction in respect of the VIC network and other information services is undertaken in consultation with a consultative group of officers and elected members which is drawn from the Area Tourism Partnership.

J F IRONS

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (ENVIRONMENT)

NOTE

No background papers as defined by Section 50D of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (other than any containing confidential or exempt information) were relied on to any material extent in preparing the above Report.

The following background papers, as defined by Section 50D of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (and not containing confidential or exempt information) were relied on to a material extent in preparing the above Report; (list papers concerned)

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Contact Officer: Alan Graham, Ext No 77951 AGraham@pkc.gov.uk

Address of Service: Pullar House, 35 Kinnoull Street, Perth, PH1 5GD

Date of Report 23 March 2011

If you or someone you know would like a copy of this document in another language or format, (On occasion only, a summary of the document

will be provided in translation), this can be arranged by contacting

Alma Murray, Equalities Assistant on

01738 476558 or TESEqualities@pkc.gov.uk

Council Text Phone Number 01738 442573

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