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Boost for Scottish tourism with destination leaders programme

We must stand out from competition’ says Scottish Enterprise tourism chief

Future leaders of Scotland’s tourism destinations are benefitting from a unique programme which has been piloted in urban and rural locations.
The Destination Leaders Programme (DLP) supports industry professionals, helping them to undertake leadership roles within their destinations. The programme is a first in Europe and by May 2015 thirty eight individuals will have graduated. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are currently working with industry across Scotland to identify future demand for the programme.

It is anticipated that following the completion of the two-year pilot scheme delivered by partnership with Edinburgh Napier University in three locations – Edinburgh, St Andrews and Argyll and the Isles – that the programme will be extended to more Scottish destinations. The programme underpins the successful delivery of the national tourism strategy, Tourism Scotland 2020, which highlights that strong, effective leadership is essential if the sector is to meet its ambitious growth targets.   

Programme participants learn from visiting international experts in destination development including the Head of Vienna Tourism, the Chief Executive of Destination Melbourne and Professor Brian King Associate Dean of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (and Visiting Professor, Edinburgh Napier University), alongside exemplars of best practice from closer to home such as Franck Arnold, GM of Edinburgh’s iconic Balmoral hotel.  

Scottish Enterprise Sector Director, Tourism – Danny Cusick said: “Tourism is vital to our economy, supporting more than 200,000 jobs across the country and attracting over 15 million overnight trips worth more than £4.6bn annually to Scotland.  

“Tourism is a highly dynamic industry and as consumers and visitors become increasingly sophisticated in their tastes, to perform on a global stage and deliver long lasting economic, cultural and social benefit to Scotland, we need to invest in developing our industry leaders. The DLP focuses on making sure that these key individuals have the knowledge, skills sets, networks and confidence to make big decisions which will create long lasting benefit.”  

“A powerful aspect of the programme is the creation of a strong alumni group of ‘Destination Leaders’ within the destinations who will help drive forward strategy at a local level.”  

The six month long DLP programme encourages students to step outside of their own business to develop additional skillsets centred on destination development best practice and to make a wider contribution to tourism in their area.  

Incorporating five days of workshops exploring areas such as destination development, marketing and promotion, the customer journey, sustainability, influencing policy agendas and the digital economy, and three residential weekends focused on individual, business and destination leadership – equating to one hundred hours of contact between the participants and Edinburgh Napier University – programme participants also complete a group project addressing a current challenge or opportunity for their destination. Programme participants graduate with an Executive Certificate in Destination Leadership.   

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport and one of the first graduates of the programme, said: “The course opened up a tremendous new network to me. I’ve worked in airport operations for over 20 years and my focus was on passenger experience within the airport.  

“Through the DLP programme I came to realise Edinburgh airport is the gateway to the city and to value the connection between our work and that of the tour operators, hotels and attractions which complete the visitor experience.  

“It has also given me valuable insight into the power of collaboration. I have established the ‘Inspiring Visitors Group’, a consultative group of representatives from various industries engaged in the development of Edinburgh as a destination.”  

Cathy Craig, Commercial Director, Calmac Ferries and one of the first graduates of the programme, said: “The Destination Leaders Programme delivers a mixture of opportunities to analyse your own leadership style, hear best practice destination development from around the world and to work with tourism colleagues to improve your own destination perception and ultimately visitor numbers.    

“I've had the opportunity to hear, see and apply examples of how different experts have developed their destination. Through the application of different themes I have understood how I can improve my positioning and success of my destinations. For example; the importance of the customer journey to drive repeat visitors, how leadership style can compel businesses and stakeholders to get involved with developing the destination and how innovation can be used throughout the destination development.    

“Anyone serious about delivering Scotland’s 2020 tourism vision should apply for this course."  

The DLP pilot programme was developed in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and delivered by the Edinburgh Institute – the commercial arm of Edinburgh Napier University’s Business School – in partnership with Scottish Enterprise.  

Graham Birse, Director of the Edinburgh Institute, said: "Almost 40 industry leaders from Edinburgh, St Andrews and Argyll have completed or are about to complete the Destination Leadership programme.   

“Two consistent and valuable themes emerge from their feedback, firstly, the strong sense of community and partnership that the programme engenders; and secondly the insights into leadership provided by the quality of speakers from other destinations or sectors.  

"There is no doubt in my mind that continued investment in DLP will underpin continuous improvement in the quality of the visitor experience across Scotland."

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