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IWD22 – Meet Vanessa Wegstein

Vanessa Wegstein

In the third in our #IWD2022 spotlight on our members, we’re delighted to introduce you to Vanessa Wegstein.  Vanessa is the Marketing Manager at the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, and delivers a key role in promoting the destination to visitors from home and abroad.

What inspires you to work within Scottish tourism?

The stories I get to discover and share with our audiences near and far every day. My first job in the industry was with Rabbie’s, and I learned a lot about Scotland aboard their tour buses. The storytelling and enthusiasm from guides and business owners really stuck with me. And ever since I started working in the South of Scotland – home to some of our greatest writers and poets – that has been something that inspires me again and again. From the landscapes to the people – you can always be sure there’s a fascinating story waiting to be told.

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

Like most businesses, we initially limited our activities, trying to assess how the situation would develop. But we quickly discovered that there was still an appetite for content and we actively shared inspiration from across the destination to inspire armchair travel. We also worked a lot harder on B2B engagement, networking, as well as making plans with local tourism groups. It’s been incredibly busy since we started bringing further consumer activities back into the mix. Since November, we have been delivering a recovery marketing campaign while also working on our plans for 2022.

What are your hopes for you, your company and the industry this year?

For SSDA, I hope to engage more with businesses on the ground (as opposed to Zoom) and involve them in our marketing plans and activities. Many plans and ideas I had for 2020 and 2021 had to be put on hold, so hopefully 2022 is the year I can make them a reality. One project to look out for that’s already in development is a local ambassador series of videos, but I also want to work on greater representation of our creative and cultural industries in the South and put sustainable and responsible travel at the heart of the content we create.

Which female leader do you admire most, and why?

Over the past years I’ve been able to follow a variety of amazing women who lead the shift in the industry towards destination stewardship, sustainability and innovative marketing, and DMO work spans all of these aspects. Because of this I really admire Geerte Udo, the Director of Amsterdam&Partners. She was one of the driving forces behind the iAmsterdam campaign and is now championing a locals-first approach for the destination.

Is there a woman within the tourism industry you recognise as doing great things at the moment?

More than one. There’s actually a whole host of amazing projects and developments taking place in the South that are being led by women, not to mention the businesses I get to work with every day and my amazing colleagues at SSDA. Also, through Edinburgh Napier’s Destination Leadership Programme, I’ve been meeting women who are achieving amazing things in the industry every month.

Just recently I had the pleasure of working with Liza Cole from In Our Nature, who offers wildlife tours, cruises and walks on the Berwickshire Coast. Liza is not only a font of knowledge but also immensely passionate about the area, its landscapes, wildlife, people and businesses.

Over near Jedburgh, Jasmine Jackson started virtual farm tours during lockdown that drew viewers from around the world. She’s since expanded the business to offer different farm experiences for all ages and interests – meeting lambs, cows and more. I’d say she’s one of the best voices for agritourism in Scotland.

One of my favourite places to explore in D&G is the Machars, so I have to mention Julia Muir-Watt at the Whithorn Trust. For years Julia has been championing Whithorn and the surrounding area, and there’s currently a new project underway to promote the Whithorn Way to new audiences.

And finally – even though I’m not a big cyclist – Esther Tacke from Galloway Cycling Holidays has also been doing great things: Through her business, she flies the flag for D&G pretty much every day, showing how easy it is to explore on two wheels. But since last year, she has also been one of the driving forces behind a new gravel biking event that’s coming to the region – Raiders Gravel Galloway.