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ASSC 2016 Conference: Collaboration & Connectivity

Hilton Hotel Glasgow, 8th November 2016

The ASSC 2016 Conference & Trade Exhibition was our biggest conference to date; another motivational, engaging and a thoroughly inspiring event that we hope was enjoyed by all.

Thank you to all those who attended: 213 delegates, our inspiring speakers, 30 exhibitors and of course our fabulous host, Willie Cameron.  A huge thank you to our sponsors Abellio Scotrail, Cumberland Business, SuperControl, MyRentals and Scottish Cottages, as well as the 2016 Conference supporters.

Here are some notes from the presentations and you can also take a look at these 10 tips for marketing your holiday rental.

Lord John Thurso: Welcome Address

  • Lord John Thurso focussed on three things in his Welcome Address: the tourism climate; what VisitScotland is doing at the moment; and how we can work together.
  • The self-catering industry is extremely important to Scotland, many hospitality businesses rely on self-catering and guest houses.  Many communities, particularly in the north, depend on the spend of visitors in the local shops.
  • Tourism climate – it’s been a good year, most visitors coming and the spend is going up.  The average for occupancy for self-catering is 81% to the end of August, 1% up on last year and 6% up on 2014.
  • The challenges include an uncertain future with Brexit etc.  It was noted that there is a perception amongst some of our biggest markets in Europe that the welcome of Britain is not as strong as it was, however the welcome of Scotland is perceived to be as strong as ever.
  • VisitScotland is looking at their strategy going forward, what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.
  • “More visitors, spending more money, in more places, more often throughout Scotland” – Lord John Thurso’s vision for Scottish tourism.
  • Core activities: marketing (guardians of the brand ‘Scotland’); looking at the product (North Coast 500 – an example of using a ‘hook’); information provision (providing customer-focussed information).
  • What VisitScotland must do – they must protect the brand and market as much of Scotland as possible.  Cannot be the local sales force for every area/business.  They can be the enabler using their technology and information to make it possible for people to get the best information locally.
  • Listen to Lord John Thurso’s Welcome Address in full on our Facebook page.

Marc Crothall: Leadership, Collaboration, The Key to Connecting & Delivering TS2020

  • Marc reminded delegates of the headline policy areas of STA focus and the work the STA has been doing in respect of leadership and representation to the Scottish and UK governments on current national issues including Brexit.
  • Vision of STA – to make Scotland a destination of first choice for a high quality, value for money and memorable customer experience, delivered by skilled and passionate people.
  • Update on the national strategy (TS2020) mid-term review 4 key priorities: influence investment; leadership; quality of visitor experience; and digital.
  • The importance of collaboration and connectivity with national bodies (such as STA and ASSC) and local DMOs.  Why not get on board with your local destination group?
  • The STA will continue to get feedback on Brexit.  Marc emphasised that whilst there are challenges we mustn’t forget that there is opportunity.
  • Importance of digital – “digital is the holy grail”.  We have to be more connected, we have to use the digital framework to tell our story.
  • Marc encouraged delegates to visit the new STA site – 5 Big Questions to get you thinking and support and advice to help you.
  • Scottish Tourism Week is 15th-22nd March 2017.
  • Download Marc’s presentation here…

Chris McCoy and Moira Henderson: Inclusive Tourism

  • Chris McCoy MBE presented the Business Case for Accessible Tourism.  VisitScotland’s strategy is to improve the quality of information, provide training tips on customer service, and assist businesses to meet their obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
  • The inclusive tourism market is a massive, global market and the most loyal in the world.
  • It’s about being inclusive, not just accessible.
  • Disabled people still have difficulty finding businesses to cater for their access requirements – there are 11.6 million disabled people in the UK but only 2 million take a holiday.
  • It’s about making reasonable adjustments – what’s reasonable for you?
  • We need to involve the disabled and listen to them.  If in doubt, ask.  Actually talk to your guests and ask what you can do.
  • Businesses need to change to attract the ‘Grey’ Pound (which accounts for almost 50% of consumer spending).
  • Take a look at Euan’s Guide for useful info – the site features disabled access reviews by disabled people and their families and friends. You can also list your property: https://www.euansguide.com/.
  • Euan’s Guide Access Survey of disabled people and their friends and family – 73% had a trip ruined by inaccurate accessibility information.
  • The new VisitScotland Accessibility Guide will be available at the end of November 2016.  A guide will be created for you based on your answers to the questions.
  • Moira Henderson shared her personal experience and the journey of her self-catering accommodation The Rings, which offers holidays for all.
  • Look at what you currently offer and think about what you can do for guests with disabilities.
  • Some ideas for how you can make your holiday rental more accessible: grab rails, colour contrast decoration, create space under the sink for those who need to sit down to wash dishes, rise and fall tables.
  • Download Chris’ and Moira’s presentations here…

Robin Worsnop: Connecting People

  • Robin gave an overview of the business, with its vision of enabling people to share memorable experiences and develop rich, lasting connections with other people, local places and their cultures.
  • Customers are at the centre of their business model: “the customer is at the heart of what we do”.
  • Robin talked about the importance of customer feedback – use customer ideas to drive innovation in your business, let your customers help shape the future of your business.
  • Think about digital detox – a huge market.
  • Download Robin’s presentation here…

Nick Chapman: The Business Rates 2017 Revaluation – What you need to know

  • Nick provided an overview of business rating and an insight into how Self Catering Units are valued with reference to the Assessors website.
  • 4 Assessors cover the 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland.  Assessors are responsible for your property’s valuation (Rateable Value or RV).
  • Statutory Revaluations are normally every 5 years.
  • Current valuations will cease on 31st March 2017.
  • All business premises will be revalued for Rating purposes from 1st April 2017.
  • The Director of Finance for each Local Authority is responsible for billing, business rates liability and the administration of reliefs (contact details will be on your payment invoice).
  • The Scottish Government set the rate poundage and relief schemes including the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS).
  • Payments calculated by multiplying the RV x Rate Poundage less relief(s).
  • Scottish Government have announced that the Small Business Bonus Scheme will continue from 1st April 2017.
  • Scottish Government Budget announcement for the Local Government Finance Settlement – expected 15th December 2016.
  • Rate poundage from 1st April 2017 & SBBS thresholds (Nick’s expectation – shortly after 15/12/16).
  • Draft Valuation Rolls with payment calculator (Nick’s expectation – shortly after 15/12/16).
  • ASSC has representation on the Scottish Ratepayers Forum.

Steve Torbet Workplace Pensions: What’s It All About? 

  • The government’s workplace pension legislation forces every employer in the UK to set up a pension scheme for its staff.
  • Steve explained the background, employers’ responsibilities and how you can best deal with the challenges it presents.
  • Don’t ignore the workplace pension, if you have 2 or more staff you have to sign up to it.
  • If you don’t know your staging date, check it out soon!
  • A good payroll solution will make a big difference.
  • Don’t imagine everyone will opt out.
  • Don’t encourage staff to opt out.
  • Download Steve’s presentation here…

Graeme Davidson: Tax Changes for Holiday Rental Businesses

  • Graeme’s session looked at the definition of Furnished Holiday Accommodation and then discussed Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax and other taxes.
  • Download Graeme’s presentation here…

Martin Sansone: Get off the Road!

  • All types of businesses in communities need to be connected with accommodation providers – a symbiotic relationship.
  • You are selling an experience.
  • Become a self-publisher and create fresh content to try to compete with the big players.
  • Collaboration is key.
  • Martin presented a new (free) business platform to be launched in January 2017 called Dual 9, which matches customer intentions to your customer profiles.
  • The idea behind the platform is to get people off the A9 and experience what is around them.
  • You can offer customers an incentive to come to you instead of going somewhere else but you’d need a subscription to the app for this.

Robert Kennedy: The Benefits of Booking Portals

  • Robert discussed the benefits of channel management – managing property listings all over the internet from one place.
  • Choosing the right channel – use Google Analytics and Keyword Planner to understand searches.  The ‘Big Ones’ are the likes of Airbnb, HomeAway and Booking.com; ‘Local Influencers’ (don’t forget about these) include VisitScotland and EmbraceScotland; and there are also ‘Niche Specialist Sites’ such as Hoseasons and Premier Cottages.
  • Ensure the titles and descriptions are attractive, informative and well-written. Include key messages in the first few lines and use all the space available.
  • Photos are very important; add as many high-quality images as possible. Include a floor plan in one of the photo slots, people love to look at floor plans.
  • Guests are increasingly using filters to narrow their search, around 70% of AirBnB properties were filtered by amenities.
  • Show precisely where your property is located using a map.
  • Reviews are a major factor in conversion.
  • Book Now is the ultimate call to action.
  • Make sure you track your booking sources.
  • Download Robert’s presentation here…

Rick BondConnecting with Customers & Guests: How to Influence Guests Without Their Knowing

  • Rick shared a psychological approach to pleasing guests.
  • Four things to include on your website to capture potential guests’ attention: not just good but great photographs; reviews (you could include photographs of handwritten guest book comments); floor plans (especially for properties with four or more bedrooms); ability to book online.
  • Send personalised emails such as a pet-friendly email to the family pet, describing the nearby pet-friendly attractions, good walks etc.  Or an email to the children in a family booked for a Christmas holiday from one of Santa’s elves saying not to worry, Santa knows they will be on holiday over Christmas.
  • Create anticipation – email information before their arrival.  “It’s almost time for you to gather at … Cottage.  Here’s a little bedtime reading for you to make your stay more enjoyable”.  Directions.
  • Make a visual impact on arrival.  If guests are arriving at night why not make sure the house is lit for their arrival.
  • Little touches are important (what Rick referred to as ‘Moments of Awww’) – a brand new pack of cards (said to increase repeat bookings by 15/20%), fridge magnets arranged in a welcome message, sudocream for guests with babies.
  • If you would like to read Rick’s guide on preparing a cottage for photo shoot email rick@myfavouritecottages.co.uk.

Stephen Whitelaw: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) But Were Too Afraid To Ask

  • Google has the largest share of the market in the UK and US,  the top 3 tier 1 search engines are Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • The typical online journey (dreaming – researching – booking – experiencing – sharing) usually starts with Google and social media is used all the way through.
  • It is unthinkable for some not to have WiFi on holiday – but if you could also tap into the huge market for digital detox (disconnect to reconnect).
  • There are many ways people might deliberately or accidentally find your business in the digital world – how they browse and progress thereafter is different for many businesses.
  • European High Court Ruling 2014 – the right to be forgotten. Remove from search results if the content is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.
  • Fresh, relevant content gives you authority.  Backlinks give you trust. (Never buy backlinks).
  • Three key things you can do: create great content, have a Google+ page and tweet.  (Twitter can be indexed by Google, Facebook can’t).
  • Difference between the web (www.) and the Internet, e.g. IM, Messenger, Skype, chat, Snapchat,  Xbox360, Netflix, Iphone.
  • Importance of search friendly URLs.
  • You need to understand what your customers are looking for – to be found for ‘self catering glasgow’, ‘self catering glasgow’ must appear on your site.
  • YouTube videos need to be kept to under 1 minute.
  • Twitter is a wonderful listening tool.
  • Think about getting a Google Business Photos Trusted Photographer for an inside view of property (like Street View).
  • Make connections secure for online payments.
  • Importance of social media monitoring – take a look at Stephen’s powerpoint presentation for a list of social media monitoring tools.
  • Download Stephen’s presentation here…
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