2010 has been a real roller coaster of emotions and unexpected twists. I’ve taken a few moments to gather my thoughts on a tough year and used the lesson learnt to look to the future…

I’m sure many of you reading this would agree that 2010 was a turbulent and unpredictable year for business travel, particularly incentive travel.  Many of the larger groups that book 2-3 years in advance had chosen not to do so when the recession of 2008 hit, so the knock on effect was felt in 2010.

Yet for Hello, we still managed to bring 84 groups to Scotland – a figure not to be sniffed at, but the size of group, budget and turnover had dropped dramatically from the previous years. As many of you will know, it takes the same amount of time and effort to plan an incentive for 20 as it does for 200!

Industry wide I’ve seen a trend of recent years gather pace in 2010; where agents / clients are bypassing DMCs and travel organizers and going straight to hotels to make bookings, perhaps even as much as 15% more than usual. The reason? Most probably stricter budgets and a squeeze for better value for money.

This has been a fundamental issue for DMCs and is something that makes it more important to prove that DMCs can add real intangible benefit to their clients – not just the services of booking hotels, venues and activities, but something extra that inspires clients, gives them confidence and support, and leaves them passionate about Scotland.

Over the last 15 years of Hello’s history (we’re celebrating our 15th Birthday this year!) we’ve always tried to add this ‘extra special’ value, and in the last 18 months I’ve seen the need for added value, and equally as important, the need to communicate your added value, grow tremendously.

How have we adapted? By taking a gamble…

For those of you reading this who know me, you’ll know I’m the ‘salesman’ of Hello, and if I’m brutally honest, marketing wasn’t something I regarded as one of our priority business operations, other that ensuring we had everything adequately branded and had adverts in what we thought were the right places!

At the beginning of last year, in an unpredictable marketplace, it was a tough decision for me to take a gamble and invest in marketing & communications especially when we’d never truly developed this area of our operations before.

But we took the risk and now I’ve seen the ‘marketing’ light! I believe that a focus on our marketing and communication played a big part of our survival in 2010 and has been the catalyst for what looks to be a great 2011.

My high points of 2010…

I finally saw the realization of an incentive program we’d been working on for almost 2 years – ‘Taking the Hill’.  Having been at the centre of the project from conception through to the elation of the final evening, it was amazing to have the opportunity to get my teeth into a really great creative project!

On a personal note, I took time off not long after this project to devote some time to one of the sports I’m most passionate about – Kite Surfing. I spend a week in Egypt kite surfing and relaxing; the ideal way for me to get revitalized!

Low Point of 2010…

In May last year regrettably we lost 2 members of staff due to some unfortunate circumstance. This was a real blow to Hello and to me on a personal level. It was a shaky time, but thankfully we managed to keep looking to the future and have recovered well, embracing new structures and focus.

Aspirations for 2011

Looking forward to 2011, I’m excited about the rejuvenation of corporate and incentive travel to Scotland, and the stability and growth opportunities it is presenting.

I’m encouraged by signs of different market sectors from different geographical locations sampling Scotland as a destination, and by the reemerging confidence & spending (even if it’s slower and a bit more cautious than before) where there was none this time last year.

As a team we’re gathering our pace to strive further to added more of that essential value, and to deliver even more innovative and cutting edge programs to ensure we stay ahead of the game!

We’re also excited to be celebrating our 15th year – or our Crystal Anniversary! Plans are underway of how we’re going to celebrate and we’ll keep you informed about what this could mean for you too!

What I’m looking forward to the most…

After reigniting my passion for being on-site at projects last year, I’m looking forward to being at the centre of some fantastic projects, including one in particular where we’ll be taking 6 ribs out onto Loch Ness, to hunt for Nessy!

Until next time...