Thursday, August 27, 2009

Visit Nairn statement delivered to Ward Forum last night

VN Update and report as delivered by Iain Fairweather

'We did wonder if this would be a good year for tourism and it does seem that for many it has been an excellent year - and I'm told on a par with the mid-90s.

As a group VisitNairn continues to pursue issues of importance to the town and to our visitors.
1) We have campaigned for changes to the tourist information signage. The major problem was that the requests for new signage had be made by VisitScotland to BEAR - and that all took time. It is now better but not perfect. We have sought to bring a number of other issues to public attention and have succeeded quite well with articles and letters in the Nairnshire and Courier.

2) We were grateful for Council support in the full page adverts placed in two brochures. 10,000 extra copies of the Nairn Leisure Guide were distributed elsewhere in Scotland and the 120,000 Inverness and Loch Ness Guide gave Nairn additional exposure. We also had a full page in Highland Life to compensate for an omission in the Leisure Guide. It would be nice to think that the town was busy because of this additional marketing.

3) Our partnership with VisitScotland and the Community Centre is working very well. It was reported to us by guests that the courtesy and help offered by Sam and her team was by far the best out of all the TIC’s they visited on their trip to Scotland. The Centre has worked hard to find accommodation and we have done what we could to advise them of known vacancies during the busy periods. There is more we need to do as a tourism group to encourage more businesses to join us and thus have better information to hand. But alongside the Community Centre, our own network with B&Bs and hotels has worked well. We have struggled to identify vacancies on a particular night. For that reason, now has an availability and online booking engine so the potential is there, but sadly, few have signed up for that. We'll be doing all we can to get people use this facility as it is frustrating for us and for our visitors when we get to the point of not knowing who to phone next.

4) VN members have actively promoted local businesses and restaurants but we'd like to see more of them joining our Association. We would also welcome greater input from retail as the combined partnership with accommodation is important. Only when we know each other's product can we market effectively.

5) VisitScotland has always advocated participation the Quality Assurance Scheme but an increasing number of providers are withdrawing from that. We only have 5 VisitScotland registered B&Bs in Nairn. VS are now pushing very strongly the use of Trip Advisor believing that one the best judges of service are actual customers. Nairn now has its own Travel Advisor site where visitors can add their own reviews - Whether a business is doing everything right or could do better, we now have a good way of getting the feedback we need.

6) We have formed close links with the Nairn Ceilidh Group and have given practical help and support in the work they do. A large number of tourists make up the audience on Thursday evenings and with our input the venue and decor has been improved and they are just about to install new sound equipment to improve the visitor experience. We are keen to support any group that has vision for a better and more beautiful Nairn. We support the explorations into a new centre in the town to compliment what others are doing. Such a centre has the potential to benefit tourism and the town - and maybe even increase tourism into the winter months by enabling us to provide facilities for business tourism and educational tourism. The economic benefit to the town would be keenly felt if the shoulder months were filled more effectively.

7) Survey - A number of B&Bs have been using a survey form as one means of trying to assess people's view of what we offer. We also had a online survey form. People are generally very positive but there were lots of comments about the shabby appearance of the town. We need to do more to publicise what we have. Visitors and locals do not know about the Tourist Information point; it seems they struggle to locate restaurants; they hate the traffic and complain about the number of traffic lights. But people are generally impressed with what we offer in terms of the beach and the views. However, responsibility for the townscape is down to us.

8) The big issue we have to deal with is the Regal and associated areas. Our visitor survey clearly identifies that the Regal is a blight on our town. Many see beyond the obvious - but a good number do not – and first impressions count. We did meet with Danny Alexander with a view to getting a meeting with the Co-op. Via Danny we did get a Land Registry report on ownership of land but as yet we have had no meeting with the Co-op.
As you may be aware, others are pursuing alternative ideas for the use of the area around Somerfield. For those concerned about the image of the town, the matter of the Regal and town centre development is the most pressing issue. A number of ideas are coming forward - BUT - we are quite frustrated that no one in authority appears to have made any effort to address the visual impact of that building. We simply don't accept that nothing can be done - and worryingly - it could be 5 years before the Co-op do anything. Nairn cannot afford to wait that long. We therefore challenge those who have the power to influence change make an effort to get this onto the agenda. There are some in this room who could make a difference and perhaps we need some new party-political stickers delivered to every home advocating - "A New Town Centre for Nairn". '

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