The team behind Mull, Iona and Ulva’s MI BID is willing and keen to be part of any public meeting they can make, where the different views on the BID are presented to business voters at the same time, in the same place and in full hearing of all concerned.
This sort of meeting is hugely enabling for voters as issues raised from one perspective can be addressed by the other immediately.
This situation is clarifying, enjoyable and consciousness raising for all participants, whether they are speaking, listening, questioning or – yes – moderating.
What appears to have gone wrong in terms of tonight’s meeting [1st March] is a mix of some genuine unavailability with a rushed organisation whose enthusiasm for the event led to a disregard for the niceties. The meeting was publicised, with the headline of dual participation, a couple of hours after the BID team received their emailed invitation and before they’d had time to reply.
In our experience, community organisation, born from the oral culture of small traditional communities, too often tends to work this way. People make assumptions without checking, row back as events often dictate, carry on trucking – and something or other happens. It seems to be the way things are – although, as admitted nerds, we admit to not getting it.
Just as the invitation and the publicising of the event became a bit cart-before-horse , it would have been better had the BID team been able just to go along with it – because it would have saved time in scheduling another meeting in the near future. The voting period is about half way through now.
The important thing in all of this is that it is the issue that counts – with business voters getting enough perspectives to come to a personal shakedown of how best they feel Mull should go forwards.
There is no need for this to be seen as or made into an embattled contest with ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. It’s Mull that must win – whatever way the vote goes.
Our own objective analysis is that the BID formula is not a good fit with the diversity and dispersal of this all-island/s community – and we hold to that.
But the united will of a community can make anything work – and this is the real challenge for Mull, however the ballots add up after 5.00pm on 21st March.
As the Dunoon PA23 BID team has said today, after a 60% -40% majority in favour of its proposal – ‘There are no hangers on.’
It’s the same thing with the independence referendum. We are on the record as, on evidences we cite, having come to the conclusion that flying solo from the UK would simply be daft – horrifically expensive, endlessly duplicating, disruptive and a confounded nuisance.
But if Scotland votes for independence we’ll be in there, doing everything we can to make it work – and we will all need to take that view, however we vote.
In this case, if Mull votes YES, it has to be an all-in effort to make it work. If Mull votes NO, the same thing is true – other and different approaches need to be found for an appropriate raising of the island’s game.
Many are not money-based. Any business community has a spectrum of free inventory – services they can provide free to regeneration initiatives that are in their interests as well as the general interest; and goods they can provide at cost to the same efforts. It’s all about the will to be the best.
A few basics
Here’s a cost free start to how Mull can increase its visitor appeal.
We had been hoping to get over for the meeting tonight, before one commitment proved unshiftable. Before we hit that obstacle, we were searching Holiday Mull for somewhere to stay the night.
What we found is that much of Mull is not, to use the cliche, ‘open for business’ at this time – but no accommodation website we found made its own situation clear.
We spent two hours plus making phone calls no one answered [although one kind person did ring us back later] and exploring the nooks and crannies of a range of accommodation websites.
One simply kept telling us that every type of room we checked for availability , had no rooms of that type free at the moment. Scenting what this might mean, we tried every type of room on the list – and got the same message at each.
After those two hours of wasted time, we felt frustrated and really disenchanted with Mull as a whole. This is not the response Mull would wish to generate.
Forget marketing plans and PR campaigns and get the basics right first. Service industries are there to serve.
All we needed was for each website to list the periods of the year when the premises are closed. Otherwise we and others like us are being fed misinformation – because the websites appear to offer accommodation that is available any time – where clearly it is not.
Beyond individual accommodation providers being clear with would-be customers on their own websites, it would be good for Mull and for Holiday Mull to develop a weekly calendar for the off season months, which would show, for each week, what accommodation was open for custom.
One other issue which is necessary for the higher end of the accommodation sector to get its head around is wifi.
There are many today who will not consider staying anywhere which does not provide free wifi, Some are, like ourselves, professionals who cannot do their job without 24 hour access to the internet. Others are ipad addicts who download videos, play games, follow sport or keep on tip of the FTSE.
This is today.
Failing to recognise that is to lose a market percentage that is worth having.
And to make the point as clearly as we can make it, free wifi means free wifi in bedrooms, not just in a reception or lounge area. Some people catch up with news, send emails and use BBC iplayer to keep in touch with their favourite soaps in bed before they go to sleep. Idiots like us often have to work online most of the night – and the best place to do that is in one’s own room.
The good news was how good it was to see that most of the accommodation providers on Holiday Mull have got the message that website photographs are a must.
No one today will choose to stay in a place they cannot see when the competition has online photo galleries.
Photographs do three very important things:
- they give you the visual facts of a place;
- they carry its ambience;
- they make it feel familiar before you get there – which is a pleasant and very reassuring feeling, where strangeness is awkward.
So much real improvement in service, in facilities – and in the overall offer made – costs nothing or very little – but is powerful and generates great word-of-mouth chinese whispers. After that, you’ve actually got something to market and stories to relate to the public.