Myself and colleague Cain Scrimgeour arrived at the venue for the 10.30 start and were warmly welcomed by Wild Scotland representatives. We had a look around the stalls before heading into the conference hall for the morning session.
An introduction to the event was given by the newly designated WS chairman Ben Mardall. He encouraged all the guests to interact and engage with each other and be very proactive, as we need to be in the wildlife/adventure industries we are all involved in. He gave an example of an excellent wildlife tourism operator based in Scotland showing the high levels that the country provides along with the level that other operators can aspire towards.
Richard Whitcomb (Associate Director of Ekosgen) was the first guest speaker and he gave an informative talk before giving delegates the opportunity to discuss and contribute to The National Adventure Tourism Research Study by working together and sharing ideas in small groups.
The next guest speaker was Gert Nieuwboer who set up an adventure walking holiday company in Holland called SNP Nature Travel which has grown to become the leading brand in the country. He discussed the benefits of researching every fine detail within your business which could reap huge rewards. He gave an example of researching the different age categories of his customers and what they wanted to gain from the experience. He discovered that the age group 16-25 was a lot lower than the other age groups and another discovery was that those customers in the 16-25 age category were regarding 'meeting new people' as one of the major factors of going on a trip. With all this collated data SNP Nature Travel created a tailor-made trip with criteria suited just to that specific customer. A highly informative talk by Gert showing the importance of going through every statistic in a business and leaving nothing to chance.
After the lunch break myself and Cain attended a couple of workshops with the first one being Market Data run by Mike Dennison and Katherine Taylor and the second one Industry-led Training by Sally Dowden. Excellent talks and engaging with other delegates was beneficial again in sharing ideas and business techniques in group discussions.
The final guest speaker was Karen Darke who is the 2012 Paralympic silver medallist, 2012 Paratriathlon world champion and a ground breaking adventurer. Karen became paralysed from the waist down, in a rock climbing accident in 1992 and she discussed how she overcame her challenges in life and achieved some seemingly impossible feats. She used words like commitment, belief, motivation and inspiration and her 40 minute talk inspired me and I am sure many others in the room. She quoted that inspiration is an energy which comes in many shapes and forms. I am going to use her inspirations to help fuel my career aspirations in the future.
Ben Mardall's closing remarks were spoken with real care, passion and determination encouraging us to digest all that we experienced on the day and to work harder and commit to our business to make it succeed.
A highly beneficial experience and special thanks to Ben, Gillian and all at WS for their hard work in making the day happen and also for my opportunity to be a guest blogger for the organisation. I hope to see you all at the conference next year!