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Portfolio Business


Tourism Scotland revisited


Will Peakin Business Correspondent


The industry needs to be bold and seize a generational opportunity


Mike Cantlay’s view is simple. Scotland


invented tourism and – 200 years on from Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, and the first tourists that followed – it still leads the world in offering a collection of unrivalled experiences; nothing less. Tis view shapes his approach to the


chairmanship of VisitScotland. Cantlay has a long track record in the industry, in both the private and public sectors. But his accession to head the national tourism agency was not


60 Holyrood 13 June 2011


without controversy. Last spring, it emerged that Philip Riddle,


VisitScotland’s chief executive since 2001, had been asked by the board to stand down. It coincided with Cantlay’s return to the organisation after a five-year spell as deputy chairman at the beginning of the decade. But the development came in a leak to a newspaper, not in the ordered announcement Cantlay would have preferred, and unleashed a series of stories about a power struggle at the top of the agency. With Scotland clinging to the hope that


the sector would mitigate the worst effects of the recession, Liberal Democrat MSP Iain Smith told Parliament: “Now, more than ever, Scotland’s tourism industry needs clear leadership. But what does it get? “Chaos at the heart of VisitScotland and


confusion at the heart of Government. At a time when ‘steady as she goes’ might have been a wise approach, we see instead the chair


of VisitScotland grabbing the helm from the captain and steering the organisation on what is yet an unknown course.” Te controversy came after a steady


withdrawal of funding for VisitScotland from local authorities amid murmurings of discontent at the agency’s effectiveness in promoting the country as a place to visit. “Te truth is,” said Cantlay in an interview


with Holyrood earlier this month, “when I arrived back in the organisation there was a lot of friction in the industry about the role of VisitScotland and the board felt that it was time to listen to that, to be bolder and to deliver for the industry. “I see just extraordinary potential for


Scottish tourism and to be frank, although we had these ambitions for the growth of the industry, there was no clarity on where that was going to come from and the reality was that there was precious little growth during those years.


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