In an energetic innovation, Scotland’s award-winning ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne [CalMac] is running a series of roadshows at 15 busy locations in west Central Scotland and Edinburgh over the summer to galvanise more people into visiting Scotland’s west coast islands.
The ‘Senses of Summer’ tour will see the company showcase and evangelise for all of Scotland’s best known west coast islands served by its ferries.
Staff will be providing information on routes, things to do, timetables and fares and trailing carrots of competitions to win a host of prizes including free ferry tickets, holiday accommodation, and produce from the islands.
The ‘Senses of Summer’ roadshow venues include the Buchanan Galleries, Silverburn and St Enoch Centre in Glasgow, and Visit Scotland Visitor Information centres in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, Central Station Glasgow and Prestwick Airport.
Why not Braehead – the biggest multiplex shopping venue of the lot – and just up the Clyde?
They roadshows will run from now – June – until the end of September, herding visitors westwards this year and seeding urges to visit in 2014.
The roadshow will also visit the award-winning Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which is planning an exhibit in July to highlight the historical and social importance of Clyde Summer ferry services.
Cathy Craig, Head of Marketing and eCommerce at CalMac, says: ‘The roadshows are just one part of a campaign which aims to promote the islands and ferry services. Our message is that Scotland’s west coast islands and peninsulas, are nearer and more accessible than many people may think.
‘We are also running a TV advert in the STV Glasgow region which was first aired during the final of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and this is being complemented by digital advertising in the Buchanan St, St Enoch and Hillhead Glasgow Underground stations and online.
‘The adverts focus on the ease with which people in west Central Scotland can reach many islands with the tag line: “…. the best short breaks in the world start with a CalMac ferry.” ‘
An online campaign is also underway with CalMac’s popular ‘Hopscotch tickets’ . These enable holidaymakers to visit a number of islands as part of a pre-planned itinerary and at overall discounts.
Speaking from experience, as well as the incentive to explore more widely at a lower cost, we have found the existence of the Hopscotch clusters a fun challenge to the imagination in working out how to get the best out of the explorations we had in mind.
Cathy Craig says: ‘The variety of islands and things to do and see can often be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors. The ‘Hopscotch’ tickets can provide an easy way to plan a trip by joining up islands and ferry routes to provide a helpful holiday schedule.’
The roadshows are being run in association with VisitScotland and a number of local island marketing groups.
The latest partnership between VisitScotland and the ferry operator provided 10,000 free ferry tickets in support of what is referred to as VisitScotland’s ‘sell-out ‘ Big April Adventures promotion.
Scratching the head brings no answer to quite how a successful free ticket promotion can be called a ‘sell out’. If you couldn’t even shift free ferry tickets, marketing Scotland really would be an uphill push.
This CalMac-VisitScotland partnership promotion has formed a key part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013. It was followed by the recent announcement that the Scotland-wide network of 84 VisitScotland Information Centres (VICs) – which welcome around 3.5 million visitors per year – will, for the first time, sell ferry tickets and take bookings for CalMac sailings.
All of this is starting to get close to a much better customer-focused service and augurs well.
But the gutsy energy of taking to the road and doing pop-up promotions where travellers and visitors are to be found in substantial numbers, is the sort of spirited attitude we love to see.
If they hit the work on the ground at the roadshows with the same verve, they can make things happen.