Gurnites can see the Highland Council press release that was published in advance of today’s ward forum here. Liz is quoted: “This is an open invitation for all to attend the Tourism Forum. As we look at the success of Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism businesses voting to create the first Tourism Business Improvement District (T BID) in the UK – this is an exciting opportunity for people in Nairn to have their say on how we can improve our future tourism economy.”
This observer had heard grumbles beforehand that having a ward forum meeting at 3 in the afternoon instead of the traditional evening event would exclude many people who would be working. One shopkeeper even told the meeting that she had had to pay someone else to look after her shop so she could attend. This observer arrived late so missed most of a Council powerpoint presentation and one from Rosemary Young too but arrived just as she delivered her punch line: “It’s not so much destination marketing we need but destination improvement!” She attributed that phrase to Visit Nairn.com webmaster Iain Fairweather. Rosemary concluded:
“We don’t really want a pot of gold to get this right, we need perseverance and dedication and just keep doing what we are doing because we are actually doing quite a good job.”
There followed a powerpoint presentation by the high heid yin of the Cairngorm Partnership which gave a good explanation of how they market their tourist product; the way customers access information on line these days featured – could the days of the conventional desktop webpage be numbered as more and more people turn to phones and tablets to research their holidays? It was fascinating stuff but Alan Rankin, Chief Executive of the Cairngorm Business Partnership, pointed to uncertainties on the funding horizon that would affect his organisation soon.
There was then a lengthy conversation with contributions from the public benches. Some wished to air grievances gently, others were more forceful.
Michael Green was a proponent of the BID option at the meeting but there were dire warnings from Sheena Baker of how a similar set up in Elgin was faring , although she admitted that the Inverness one was doing very well. There were questions of how the mechanics of a BID would work and how businesses would pay and how much. It was quite complicated stuff at times and there was resistance in the air to a possible BID attempt. What could be done instead to galvanise the tourism and business community to effectively market Nairn was left hanging really despite a Council mannie having given a list of options earlier.
The meeting seemed to be ending in genteel disarray. Liz had mentioned the possibility of restarting the Nairnshire Partnership and trying to get marketing funding via that mechanism. If it was to be the outcome it didn’t seem to be clear as some of those present started to leave. It was left to River CC’s Stephanie Whittaker to articulate what was probably the essence of the room's communal ether, she said:
“We need to take something forward away from this meeting otherwise we have wasted 2 hours sitting here.”
Liz referred to a Nairnshire Partnership meeting again. There were calls for a more general meeting and Stephanie Whitaker asked Michael Green if he would take on setting up a meeting and he replied positively. Could it be that this meeting had parallel outcomes? It will be interesting to see the official minutes.