INTERVIEW: Danny Cusick, Scottish Enterprise
‘Tourist operators need to accept that consumers are more demanding’
Tourism and technology may be two of Scotland’s current success stories though they are not natural bedfellows.
As Danny Cusick of Scottish Enterprise’s tourism division explains: “Even in today’s joined up, tech savvy world 40% of accommodation providers in Scotland still cannot take bookings online.”
Cusick is an engineer by trade and his big task as one of the drivers of the Scottish Government’s new digital tourism strategy is to get the cogs moving so that businesses are brought up to speed with the online world.
Almost 200 delegates from the tourism and digital industries gathered at the EICC to hear about new ways of working together and why it is important for them to do so. Cusick has another statistic to underline the tourism industry’s shortcomings
“Thirty per cent of accommodation providers on the VisitScotland website do not even have a photo,” he says.
“They have to realise that consumers are now demanding much more. They want information and and the ability to book and they want to do it online and quickly.”
He throws in the recent growth of bookings companies such Airbnb and Uber which have no physical assets but are making waves in the industry.
“Tourist businesses have to be aware of these developments and how they fit in,” he says.
He points to yet more data showing how, in spite of its success, particularly in the last year, tourism is also lagging behind other sectors in terms of productivity. Its GVA is £18,500 per employee against a Scottish average of £47,000.
The stats spell out the challenge behind a three year programme backed by £1.2 million of government support to close these gaps and improve the performance of the industry by making it more digitally ready.
There will be workshops, seminars and other events across Scotland to bring the message to businesses small and large.
Cusick acknowledges the specific challenges that characterise the tourism industry. It is made up of some 17,000 businesses, including two or three person operations. Some thrive on not being part of the technology-driven world, and promote themselves on offering a break from it.
“I accept that some see personal service and dealing directly with people as a key part of their appeal. But the two can work together. Technology can be an enabler to make the visit more enjoyable.”
Cusick returned to Scotland last year following a six-year stint with Scottish Development International in Boston where he was responsible for the organisation’s operations in North and South America. He opened offices in Toronto, Calgary and Rio.
He arrived back in Scotland last year just in time for the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup and took on the role of director of food & drink, tourism and textiles.
Economic development was a big change to his earlier career in engineering. He spent 10 years in the oil industry and worked for a time on the fated Piper Alpha platform. Its explosion in 1988 had an immediate and lasting impact on him.
“I decided that was it. I just finished and put myself through an MBA course for a year.”
He joined a European funded organisation called Scottish Innovation before making the move to Scottish Enterprise in 1994.
The Digital Tourism Scotland programme, also backed by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Skills Development Scotland, VisitScotland, Business Gateway and the Scottish Government, has caught his imagination and he believes it will be good for the industry.
“It can be difficult getting people to change and it would be nice to move that productivity dial up a few notches,” he says.
Educated: Strathclyde University (mechanical engineering and post-grad in offshore engineering)
Career Highlights: Orca (oil industry), Scottish Innovation, Scottish Enterprise
Do you have a business philosophy?
Do the right thing for the right reasons
What do you find frustrating?
Bosses need to make the most of the talent at their disposal and too many don’t do that.