Monday 8 December 2014

Kingsbarns Golf Links Receives Plaudits

We are not particularly into printing press releases from PR companies just for the sake of it but at least they do put the business back into your mind and so it was over the weekend with the bog standard stuff about a golf course receiving a new award and being placed higher on some golf course listing or another. We have become cynical about tourism awards in general as you can't move for yet another version of hotel/attraction/course of the year for here there and everywhere.

World banqueting business would drop by about 20% if it wasn't for the number of Annual Tourism Awards Ceremonies the industry holds!

Anyhow according to the release Kingsbarns Golf Links has finished the 2014 season on a high with special recognition at Scotland’s golf Oscars and a prominent showing in the latest edition of one of the UK’s most respected course rankings. The Fife course rounded off the year by picking up the top award at the Scottish Golf Tourism Awards and climbing up Golf Monthly’s top 100 UK & Ireland golf courses list for 2015/16.

Located near St Andrews, the links course has been one of the most discussed venues in Scottish golf tourism terms for more than a decade and for many was responsible for shifting some of the more dated service attitudes of the older Open Championship courses. It has benefited most certainly from being the close neighbour of The Old Course and world wide media and celebrity endorsement after co-hosting the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for more than ten years. It is now scheduled to host the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2017.

Discarding the awards for a second, the course really does deserve a mention. We haven't been operating as golf tour operators for some time but when we hosted our series of Drambuie Golf Classics around Scotland, Kingsbarns invariably came out with the best feedback.

The course got the mix right way back at the start and the management team recognised that the quality of the course could be complemented with quiet efficiency rather than out and out ostentatiousness. The welcome was always informal and very Scottish; the clubhouse surroundings comfortable and relaxing with no unnecessary formality; the staff local and lacking pretension.

Okay this was a couple of years back and we worry a little that the course now has a Chief Executive rather than a simple manager but what's in a title! The cost has risen quite substantially over the years but we are sure that it is still in safe hands under the watchful eye of Art Dunkley, director of Kingsbarns Golf Links whom I had the good fortune to meet during one of our events.

He was delighted with the award. “We have been extremely fortunate to receive so many compliments about our course and facilities,” he said. “This latest honour at the Scottish Golf Tourism Awards is especially important as it reflects our focus on creating the best possible links experience which includes more than just an enjoyable round of golf. Exceptional customer satisfaction is a large part of our total golf experience and I am extremely proud that the dedicated Kingsbarns team has been recognised for their constant focus on our customers.”

If you're planning a golf trip to Scotland Kingsbarns should be one for your list. Not cheap but rewarding.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Scotland's For Me Retro Postcard Campaign

We've been having great fun around the office in the last week rolling out a host of wee ideas to help promote our business partners around Scotland through our Scotland's For Me! brand.

One of the things we've had on our Must Do list for about a decade was the development of our Real People; Authentic Experiences campaign. Part customer review, part VisitScotland Brilliant Moments but driven from the ground up at all times and with the specific aim of generating direct business back to the the hotel or attraction, restaurant or golf course.

So just signing off on part of that overall campaign with some nice wee 1980's Retro style postcards that will be printing up and distributing through our hotel partners over the next few weeks.

Our branding has harked back to Scottish Tourist Board 1984 and we all love it! Generations X and Y will love it too! So here's the first postcard design - first 50,000 going to print soon.

Tell us why Scotland's For You on Facebook or the SFM blog or tweet us #thatswhyscotlandsforme

Seve Must Have Thought "That's Why Scotland's For Me!"

We're just putting some new touches to our Retro Scotland's For Me toolkit for 2014/15 based on the 1984 Scottish Tourist Board campaign from that period and started looking at what was taking place in 1984 in Scotland.

Well going through the archives Scotland won the old Five Nations Grand Slam and Jock Stein took the footie team to a European Championships and  it looks like Edinburgh were thinking about introducing trams

The single stand out item that placed that year for me was Severiano Ballesteros at the eighteenth on The Old Course punching the air with sheer delight chanting "That's Why Scotland's For Me. That's Why Scotland's For Me" (albeit in Spanish!)

Great memory of a great man thirty years on. Share your love of Scotland #thatswhyscotlandsforme

Monday 31 March 2014

Commonwealth Baton Stars Across Scotland

Why is the Blog called That's Why Scotland's For Me we are often asked....

Well, here's a wee personal one from me.

About a decade ago I walked into Powerleague in Kilmarnock with a four year old son and a daughter a year older and asked about signing them up for the Saturday morning club for young supporters of Kilmarnock Football Club. They were already season ticket holders by that time but I'd heard great things about what the group were doing.

For the next five or or six years my son continued to go to the training on Saturdays only stopping when he started playing competitive matches for Kilmaurs then Troon Thistle. If it wasn't for the fun, the support and the professional coaching received on those Saturday mornings, he'd never have played football week in week out. I never foresaw him still playing at under sixteens that was for sure! It was down to the team at Young Killie (now Young Kilmarnock but that's another story) for encouraging him.

Now I say it's a personal tale but it's one that could be repeated verbatim by hundreds of Killie parents and guardians. No maybe thousands. The group and its organisers and coaches have through the years given freely of their time and often have suffered very badly at the hands of some who should have had more respect. But even through the challenging times, they remained focussed on one thing and one thing only - the youngsters lining up in increasing numbers every week.

My main contact has always been Susan Russell and we've tried to help out a little where we can.

So it was with absolute delight that I saw that Susan - above pictured after she had won the League Cup for Killie against Celtic!- was today named as one of the baton carriers for The Commonwealth Games.

I hadn't grasped the enthusiasm yet personally for the Games but what this did succeed in doing was make me realise once again what it should be about. It should be about recognising the people like Susan who just don't know how to stop giving; it should be about looking in the mirror and asking maybe whether there's just a little more we could all do.

So there's the answer to the first paragraph's question.

People like Susan Russell...THAT's why Scotland's for Me!

Oh yeah and you can still sign up for Young Kilmarnock this Saturday!

P&O Ferry Returns to Troon

It's great to sit at the computer and watch the fast ferry from Larne sail back into Troon for the new 2014 season. 

The P&O Express fastcraft takes only two hours to speed you across the sea to Troon from Norther ireland and has long been popular for golfers and short breakers alike and 2014 offers some wonderful reasons for visiting the Ayrshire coast again.

The 2-hour Larne to Troon service operates between March and October, and with Troon only 35 minutes from Glasgow and Edinburgh not much further, whether you take the high road or the low road you can be certain to be at your destination, 'afore the rest'!

Travellers can simply ease back as soon as they step on board. Upgrades are available to Club Lounge where there is a further touch of luxury. New delights for 2014 delights include trolley service that means you won’t even need to leave your seat. Alternatively enjoy a delicious meal with a refreshed menu of locally sourced food, including Irish stew. Costa are new on board to offer you their finest coffee or for something with more kick there will be a new-look bar for a drink and snack. 

So if you're planning your travel why not simply sail straight into the heart of Ayrshire and take advantage of some great hotels and attractions this year.

Booking your Ferry is easy online. A few clicks and you're confirmation will be on its way. (For some reason the timetable is not yet available online yet but as soon as it is we'll publish it here.)

And for the Travel Trade?

And for hotels, attractions and golf courses? Well why not make it easy for your visitors to get to you? Publicise the routes, link to the bookings page, promote P&O Irish Sea offers and publish the timetable on your website. Make sure your staff know the route and the frequency of sailings. Get them on the boat of possible. A destination only succeeds when it has access to it and it is important that accommodation providers work with the inbound transport operators to promote routes and develop packages.

Chocolate from Ayrshire

Newsletters are great for reminding of what you could and should have bought for Mother's Day if you had been organised enough or checked your email at the right time! My in box revealed that again this morning and whilst it may be too late for my mum I now have some great ideas for Chocolate hamper gifts and prizes with Chocolati in Ayrshire.

Using the finest ingredients, Ayr based Chocolati are passionate about what they do using chocolate containing only the finest cocoa butter, together with their uniquely special recipes to create handmade chocolates of the highest quality. They are luxuriously smooth and creamy, with flavours that just burst in your mouth! Guaranteed to give maximum pleasure to real chocolate lovers.

Dark, Milk or White? Whatever you preference, most of their handmade chocolates come to suit your tastes and their round presentation boxes are designed to give the “WOW” factor once opened with each box carefully filled with a mouth-watering range of Luxury Dark, Milk and White chocolates, filled with soft centres, tangy fruit creams, ganaches, pralines and amazing truffles.

You can follow what Chocolati are up to on their Facebook page

2014; The biggest ever year for disabled golf in Scotland

This year, Scottish Disability Golf is celebrating its tenth year of operation and organising golf, golf training and competition for its members.  With over nine hundred members in Scotland and other disabled golfing nations across the world, the SDGP has organised its most comprehensive fixture list of clinics and games.

Starting in April with a two day event in Edinburgh and concluding in early October with a three day competition in St Andrews, throughout the season, the charity will stage The Disabled Open Championship, plus three Team Scotland Ryder Cup's and, many single day games, and is the outlet to over thirty other international events and competitions.

Peter Osborne, the SDGP Chair and a blind golfer, said, "We have taken our time in expanding the golfing opportunities for our members.  There is no point in throwing all our efforts at one project or one fund-raising target, what we have done is built on the fantastic good will that Scottish Golf Club's and Governing Bodies have offered and introduced people gradually to the game.  Also, what is quite unique to the SDGP is that any profit or sponsorship goes directly to all players or beginners to the game and we subsidise entry fees2.

The SDGP is governed and operated by disabled people and is the only group in Scotland which actively encourages and involves anyone of any age, with a disability, who wishes to learn about or play golf and includes people with physical, sensory and/or intellectual disabilities.

Jim Gales, the SDGP Secretary said, "Our members will travel extensively during 2014 and have been invited to play in over two dozen Open and team events across Europe, the US and Asia, but one of the highlights of the 2014 season will be the Phoenix Cup event in the US.  This is a Ryder Cup format game between the Rest of the World squad taking on the North Americans.  The North American Disability Golf Partnership was created just last year, by the SDGP and is already expanding across the continent to bring together both established disabled golfers and beginners to the game".

The 2014 golfing season begins in Edinburgh with a 2-day event at the Pumpherston and Swanston Golf Clubs, on 9&10 April and will conclude after some forty days of organised golf, in October, with a 3-day event at St Andrews, with the SDGP's third Open of the year and conclusion to its Order of Merit Championship, being played on the fallowed turf at the 'Home of Golf'.

You can click here to view a full list of the SDGP's 2014 fixtures