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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK

UK: Scotland

Tourism told: 'Get wired'

The Cairngorms: A major tourist draw

Scotland's tourism industry is being urged to embrace the Internet and to tap into worldwide markets.

The call came from key speakers at a conference in Glasgow called "Small Country - Big Challenge" at which the Scottish Tourist Board announced an extra £2m for a campaign next spring aimed at UK holidaymakers.

Tom Buncle: "Industry can't stand still"
STB Chief Executive Tom Buncle said: "More and more air tickets and holidays are being booked by customers directly on the Internet.

"I remain concerned about the number of tourism businesses who say they see no value in purchasing a computer.

'Marketing opportunity'

"I urge anyone who is not yet online to get wired up before they become invisible to their customers."

The Royal Bank of Scotland's Managing Director of Retail Banking Benny Higgins told delegates: "The growing use and sophistication of the World Wide Web presents a tremendous marketing opportunity."

Tourism sustains 177,000 jobs in Scotland and contributed almost £2.5bn to the Scottish economy last year.

[ image: Ben Nevis: Famous worldwide]
Ben Nevis: Famous worldwide
STB Chairman Lord Gordon of Strathblane said 550 responses had been submitted as part of consultations on the new tourism strategy due to be published in at the turn of the year.

Announcing the additional £2m for the spring promotion, Lord Gordon said the industry should increase its support for the campaign or use independent efforts to attract UK tourists.

Enterprise Minister Henry McLeish told the conference: "Tourism is at the heart of this government's economic policies.

"It is a crucial part of my department's agenda to improve competitiveness and I am giving priority to the development of a new strategy for tourism."

'Enormous' challenges

The day-long conference - which will be attended by more than 400 tourism professionals - will also hear from Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Henry McLeish MSP, the Royal Bank of Scotland's Alistair Colquhoun and Ian McMahon from Scottish Airports.

The conference's keynote speaker, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, says the challenges facing all tourism destinations in the modern age are enormous.

But he believes Scotland is well placed to meet them as the country is one of Europe's last great wildernesses - "outstandingly beautiful, yet accessible".

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