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Women in Tourism WIT Wednesday December: Event Recap

Women in Tourism Cheers 2020

Over 70 participants from the Women in Tourism community joined from across Scotland on Wednesday 2 December to  celebrate the 2020 WIT Top 100, hear thoughts from some of the WIT Top 100 themselves, and look ahead to 2021 with guest speakers from VisitScotland and Brand Scotland in our last virtual WIT Wednesday of the year.

Celebrating the 2020 WIT Top 100 & Looking Ahead to 2021


After an introduction and welcome from Women in Tourism Chair, Susan Russell, the WIT Board were delighted to welcome Helen Campbell, Head of Global Brand, VisitScotland, and Cat Leaver, Head of Brand Scotland, themselves both on the WIT Top 100 2020 list.

Helen and Cat provided lots of really valuable information and useful insights on global markets, emerging visitor trends, strategic communications objectives and future plans – which prompted great questions from our audience. The questions we didn’t manage to get through in the event are answered below. Thank you again to both Helen and Cat for sharing the slides – download via the link below.


Helen Campbell, Head of Global Brand, VisitScotland

Global Marketing Insight and Plans

From a global tourism perspective, Helen reflected on how the challenges of 2020 had impacted on Scotland’s tourism markets and shared insights and trends in a fascinating look ahead to 2021. This included looking at core visitor markets and exploring emerging visitor trends to focus on next year.  Visitor trends included connectivity to nature and outdoors, buying less and doing more, transformative travel – to be able to give something back – and the importance of wellness, which is likely to see a big push next year. The importance of technology in supporting tourism recovery was also underlined, and the desperate need for people to reconnect with people, and travel for a purpose. It was clear that consumers also needed reassurance that Scotland as a destination was safe and secure for visitors, hence the importance of clear, consistent messaging.

Cat Leaver, Director, Brand Scotland

Strategic Approach to Recovery

Insights into the strategic objectives of messaging were shared by our second speaker, Cat Leaver, Director of Brand Scotland, who revealed key communications objectives and insights into a range of campaigns; highlighting the work which goes in to keeping Scotland front in mind for consumers: Scotland must be discoverable 365 days a year. Looking ahead, Cat talked us through the strategic objectives for responsible tourism, task force tourism recovery recommendations and shared with us the building blocks for sustainable tourism recovery, prompting more questions from our highly engaged audience.

Industry Q&A – 2020 WIT Top 100 Tourism Leaders


We then enjoyed a Q&A Panel, chaired by WIT Vice-Chair Professor Jane Ali-Knight, with three more WIT Top 100 industry professionals:

Emma Miller, Chair, Shetland Tourism Association

Martina Preece, Chair, Discover Glencoe

Ashleigh Pink, Front of House Manager, Crieff Hydro

The first question for all three was, “How do you feel you can use your WIT Top 100 Nomination” – in particular, in relation to supporting others in the industry, especially other women in tourism:

Emma Miller, Chair, Shetland Tourism Association: It’s a way to show my commitment to the industry and can help me to encourage and support more members into the Shetland Tourism Association, it can show them how hard we are all working to support the tourism industry here, hopefully it can help support new people into the industry.

Ashleigh Pink, Front of House Manager, Crieff Hydro: The list is a great way to inspire more women in tourism, the nomination is important to help me keep inspiring others about the possibilities for development in our industry, and to ensure that tourism and hospitality is valued as a real career of choice.

Martina Preece, Chair, Discover GlencoeThe nomination is a great way of encouraging others to get involved in the industry, to say, you can make a difference in our industry, to help to encourage support, help young people and young women be recognised in our industry for what they do.

It was inspiring to hear from three of our WIT Top 100 and get their views and perspectives from different parts of Scotland, and different kinds of tourism and hospitality activities. A big thank you again to Martina, Ashleigh and Emma.

Our event ended with a virtual toast to our WIT community, the Women in Tourism Top 100, many of whom were in the audience, and to all of our hard-working industry colleagues who have contributed to the ongoing resilience and commitment to help sustain our industry in such challenging times.

WIT Top 100 Q&A: Key Take-aways

The importance of community

We heard often about how tourism communities had been supporting each other during the year, and more groups were talking to each other, getting to know each other, collaborating, sharing information which had been really positive. Many communities, particularly rural and island communities had naturally been afraid because of the virus and what tourism visitors could bring in, such as cruise tourism etc –  clearly there will be challenges in how organisations work with partners and authorities to communicate to the public that tourism is safe.

Collaboration and staying connected

Collaboration and staying engaged and connected with colleagues, with the industry, with your respective community – this was seen as fundamental, and hugely beneficial this year and beyond.

Being prepared to embrace change

Being prepared to embrace change was a recurring theme, examples including using and learning to use technology to support rapid change due to Covid-19, learning to do things differently in day to day working practices, adapting ways of doing things such as messaging, communications for customers and visitors, and to be able to provide much-needed reassurance to customers, locals and visitors that tourism businesses, services and venues in Scotland are safe and secure to visit.

Guest Speaker Responses to Additional Questions

Our guest speakers Helen Campbell, VisitScotland and Cat Leaver, Brand Scotland, kindly answered the following questions which we didn’t manage to get to during the event:

Question: “I’m wondering how we can handle the gap between visitor numbers and average spend – it’s great that more people from Scotland and the UK stay in Scotland for their holidays – presumably this will continue next year – but they spend significantly less and many businesses are dependent on overseas visitors. How can small businesses cope, especially if they have an offer that simply doesn’t speak to domestic visitors?”

Answer: “Whilst in the short-term we will continue to see greater domestic visitors than international, there is promising data suggesting interest from some key overseas markets as outlined within our slides. We are seeing international traffic to our website, for example, grow and pent-up demand in line with vaccine news. We are keenly aware of the need for international visitors to support the industry and are working to build demand for next year assuming travel is possible, focusing on the peak visitation period of April through September. As we see interest grow again, we will work with the industry to continue to share key trends that may influence product diversification and allow for businesses to match experiences to user needs, i.e. active travel, slow responsible travel, free independent travel, luxury tourism, etc.” 

Question: “As we move forward towards a vaccine, do you have any intel or data regarding how UK based visitors feel about travelling to attend large indoor events once it is safe again to do so? Insight into the level of comfort UK tourism & arts consumers feel regarding coming back to arenas and theatres -indoor spaces-, etc, and what it will take for them to feel comfortable and when?”

Answer:There are a number of studies our colleagues are working on right now and we will pick this up with our Business Tourism and Events teams to see what insight they might and forward on to you where relevant.”

Question:And any intel regarding how their spending levels for tourism & arts industries will change upon the sectors full reopening?”

Answer: “We have nothing further robust to share at this point but would be happy to keep you informed as and when we do.”

Question:It would be interesting to see if working from homes becomes more flexible working for those on tight annual leave -that also brings opportunities and threats of the ‘variable’ broadband across Scotland.”

Answer:We are seeing businesses across sectors and industries introducing greater agility and flexible working already and so it is likely (although again this is based on instinct rather than fact) that we will see more remote working in the future. The Scottish Government is working to increase broadband coverage and reliability thus removing the digital access gap – The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme (DSSB) achieved its initial target of delivering access to fibre broadband to 85% of premises in Scotland by March 2016 and achieved 95% fibre broadband coverage by the end of 2017. Over 750,000 homes and businesses across Scotland now have access to fibre broadband as a result of the programme. And there is more work underway to get to 100% coverage in 2021.”

Women in Tourism – Looking Ahead

That wraps up our WIT Wednesdays for 2020. A huge thank you to all of our speakers and to who all who took the time to join us on Wednesday 2 December. We are very much looking forward to continuing our online events in 2021 and to collaborating with women in tourism across Scotland.

The Women in Tourism Board would like to thank our WIT Top 100 (both years so far!), our growing community, and all industry colleagues and partners for their continuing support in one of the most challenging of years for our sector.

We look forward to working and collaborating with you in 2021.

If you have ideas or suggestions for an event in 2021, contact Karen Jacques or any of the WIT Board.