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Conference VenueASSC

Annual Conference

Tuesday 10th November 2015
Hilton, Glasgow


The ASSC Annual Conference and Exhibition is the only major event aimed directly at the people and businesses providing self-catering accommodation in Scotland. In 2014 year we focused on the changing tourism market:  What do visitors to Scotland expect now and will they demand in the future? How do those offering ‘traditional’ accommodation respond to the needs of new visitors? What are the new, successful providers offering and why? What new trends will emerge or take hold in 2015?

The event included high-profile speakers such as Simon Reeve, TV Presenter, New York Times bestselling author and British Travel Press Awards winner in 2013, Paul Easto of Wilderness Scotland, Niki Christian Nutsch, Director, Booking Staff Ltd, and Patrick O’Shaughnessy Industry Manager Development for VisitScotland.

Watch this space for details of the 2015 conference speakers and theme. And don’t forget to pre-register for the conference to secure your place.

Hear what people were talking about at the Conference

Click image to view video

Simon Reeve, Broadcaster Paul Easto, Wilderness Scotland Niki Nutsch, Booking Staff

And how it was for Industry Participants

David Smythe, ASSC Chairman Sarah Scarlett, Baincraig Lodge Joel Lumsden, Attacat

Insights from Industry Experts: Takeaways from the 2014 Conference

If you run self-catering accommodation or missed this year’s Conference here are some of the insights, tips and advice shared by leading tourism experts on the changing self-catering industry and what you can do to meet visitor expectations.

Simon Reeve: Experience is Key

First up was BBC presenter, adventurer and author Simon Reeve, whose session began with a short video montage and discussion of his travel experiences, before moving on to the changing traveller and ways to engage visitors.  The recurrent theme in Simon’s session was the importance of creating memorable, unique experiences.  (And yes, he is every bit the enthusiastic, genuinely nice chap he appears on TV).

Emma and Simon

Key takeaways:

  • Memorable experiences are key, you are the ‘curators and guides’ of this.  The best travel experiences are, inevitably, those that stand out so make sure you offer them something special.
  • Build on the familiar. If people want to buy into the ‘tartan and castles’ image of Scotland (as he does), let them.   The classic tourism images of Scotland are very appealing.  You’re selling memories and experiences and perhaps the clichés as well.
  • Share your local knowledge – people don’t have time to do a lot of research in advance, but what they really want is a local guide.

Paul Easto: Reaching the Adventurer Traveller

Co-founder of Wilderness Scotland, the UK’s leading wilderness specialist, Paul Easto took to the stage next for his session on the adventure traveller market.  Paul reiterated Simon’s comments on unique experiences and detailed ways to reach potential customers.

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Key takeaways:

  • Content is key – quality content pulls people into the product and services you are selling.  But the content is only half of it; the distribution of the content is the other half.  Think about how you can get your story out there.
  • Adventure travellers are seeking out authentic and local experiences.
  • Serving the adventure travellers – they’re looking for storage facilities, bike wash and drying facilities.  Perhaps offer free use of bikes or have maps available in properties.
  • There are more mobiles in the world than toothbrushes – make sure your site is mobile-friendly
  • Online videos are key throughout the travel funnel – travel videos are viewed through every stage from thinking about a trip to deciding which website to book through.  Use videos to tell your story; showcase the things people might be doing when they’re staying with you.
  • Think about tapping in to a particular market segment i.e mountain biking accommodation Scotland.
  • Client reviews – another way to sell the experience, leading us on nicely to the next speaker…

Niki Christian Nutsch: What Are They Saying About You?

Director of Booking Staff Ltd Niki Christian Nutsch opened the afternoon session with a presentation on the importance of online reviews, including the impact of online guest reviews on travellers’ booking decisions and how accommodation owners can generate more positive reviews.

7  Niki Nutsch 00_00_28_03 Still001 (3)

Key takeaways:

  • Trust in advertising – 92% of people trust recommendations from people they know, 70% trust reviews posted online.  Travellers are turning to each other for unbiased reviews.
  • Travellers are looking for experiences not just accommodation.
  • 93% of travellers worldwide say online reviews have an impact on their booking decisions.
  • Top 3 determining factors for booking decisions – photos, price, online reviews.
  • How travellers interpret reviewsthe truth lies somewhere in the middle.  They look specifically at negative reviews to see if someone has replied.
  • Have a regular stream of fresh reviews that mention recent stays in your holiday home.
  • Get good, honest reviews and always reply to negative reviews.
  • Ensure you’re setting the right expectations and attracting the right guests.
  • Communicate with guests and give them the opportunity to raise complaints during their stay.
  • Top two reasons people leave an accommodation website – they can’t find the reviews or the map

Patrick O’Shaugnessy: Your Digital Presence

VisitScotland’s Industry Manager Patrick O’Shaugnessy concluded the sessions with a presentation on the digital presence of self-catering businesses and practical digital tips.

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Key takeaways:

  • Check your analytics – organic traffic should be around 50/60%.
  • Check your referral sites and ask yourself: ‘Should I be on this site?  Do I have the best possible presence on this site?’
  • Do you have a mobile-enabled site?  Check your bounce rate on mobile traffic – if you have a bounce rate higher than 30% you need a mobile or responsive website (see toothbrush v mobile quote above).
  • Social media is great for raising awareness, link to your website in around 20% of your social media activity.
  • Digital reviews are available free to those with VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance.

The general theme of the day: you have to sell unique experiences.   As ASSC Chairman David Smythe summed up in reference to the changing tourism market: ‘Visitors expect more, and a whole experience rather than just a bed or a cottage.  We need to be ready to sell them that and talk about what is going on locally while they are staying.’  And this year’s ASSC Conference certainly drove that point home.

Emma Gibb, ASSC Marketing & Communications

2014 Exhibitors

ASSC Conference 2014ASSC Conference 2014


supercontrolcottages4you Booking.comRoute Energy

Conference management by Crescent Events.
Conference and exhibition videos by GloCast.