Trade must grasp 2014 opportunities

Licensees have the chance to showcase their pubs and bars and create a lasting legacy, writes SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson

• Next year is the Scottish trade’s chance to shine, says Paul Waterson.
• Next year is the Scottish trade’s chance to shine, says Paul Waterson.

IT’S nearly here – 2014; Scotland’s year; our year; the year when the eyes of the world will be upon us.

Not only because we will decide the political destiny of our country, but because many years of hard work by a number of agencies to bring various world class events to Scotland will come to fruition.
Massive Hogmanay celebrations across the country will welcome in the Year of Homecoming; the 700th anniversary celebrations of The Battle of Bannockburn come to Stirling in June; the Commonwealth Games takes place in July and August; Gleneagles hosts The Ryder Cup at the end of September; and The Hydro in Glasgow welcomes the MTV Awards in November.
The Scottish licensed trade will never have a better chance to showcase all that is good in our premises and, through that, create a lasting, positive legacy for the future.
Some outlets, because of their location or amenities, are naturally bonded to the tourist market. Others are starting to realise that they have the potential to attract tourists as well as their core customers.
However, a significant number in the Scottish on-trade have yet to realise that these major events give them an opportunity to increase footfall in their premises too.
We should all get involved.
The on-trade in Scotland has a vital role to play in the delivery, success and legacy of this special year – no matter where you are or what you provide.
And this is serious stuff.
Research by Deloittes last month showed that the visitor economy is worth £11.6 billion, which is 10.3% of Scotland’s GDP. The tourism industry employs 10.9% of the population, which equates to 292,000 jobs.
But what role does our side of the trade play in this success story?
We all know that pubs and bars play a huge part in delivering the visitor experience, reinforcing perceptions of the destination, the people, our values and our positioning in the world against other destinations.
What better place to go and meet people and find out what’s happening locally than speaking to customers or employees in our pubs and bars? We really are the original visitor centres.
And people like what we in the trade have to offer.

The on-trade has a vital role to play in the success and legacy of 2014.

According to VisitBritain, 67% of all visitors to Scotland go to our pubs and bars. And VisitScotland figures show that 58% of all visitors eat in pubs and bars, rising to 71% for foreign visitors.
Our premises, therefore, are key to 2014 success.
If we get it right and take advantage of this global exposure, there is no reason why the visitor economy cannot go from strength to strength. 2014 must be seen as a catalyst for future growth in our business and not as an end in itself.
That’s why the SLTA, together with Diageo, Tennent’s and VisitScotland, has set up a new initiative called ‘Scotland’s Pubs and Bars – A Story to Tell’, which will allow all of the on-trade in Scotland to become involved in 2014.
The idea is simple.
Pub and bar operators tell us their venue’s unique, interesting story and we use these to show how diverse and attractive our premises are. Each venue will also put forward a member of staff as their resident ‘storyteller’, who can regale customers with tales of the establishment.
The stories we have already focus on premises where historical figures have met and poets and authors have written; and bars with prize-winning interiors or award-winning food. We have entries from pubs that have featured in a book or film, and venues where famous musicians and bands were discovered.
VisitScotland, Diageo and Tennent’s, through substantial investment of £120,000, are showing great faith in our trade and we want 100 pubs to be our standard-bearers as we go forward into 2014.
It’s now up to you.
Visit the SLTA website and tell us your story before December 20 to get involved.
As I have said before, we should be very proud of our trade – a trade that brings harmless pleasure to many, many people every day of the year. We are the heart of Scotland’s social scene and a real selling point for tourism.
Let’s show the world how proud we are.