Murdo Fraser MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife used his time during a Scottish Parliament Chamber debate on business tourism to praise the efforts of Perthshire businesses in attracting conferences and other events to the area.
In his speech Murdo Fraser MSP outlined the contribution of Perth’s Concert Hall to the Perthshire economy, contributing £1.3 million in 2008 (latest available figures). He also praised the ability of Perthshire as a whole to attract top class events such as the G8 summit in 2005.
However he also raised problems with Perthshire’s transport and technology infrastructure that prevent the region from fully benefitting from business tourism.
Speaking in the Chamber Murdo Fraser MSP said:
“I will make some references to my local area, and in particular Perth and Kinross, where we have some great assets. Gleneagles hotel is a conference venue where the G7 was held and, with Stephen Leckie in the gallery, I cannot fail to mention Crieff Hydro. I would be surprised if there was a single member in the chamber who had not at some point been to a conference at that wonderful establishment. Elsewhere, we have Pitlochry Festival theatre, which is an excellent conference venue that is well served by local hotels.
“In the city of Perth—Scotland’s newest city—we have the marvellous facility that is the concert hall, which opened in 2005. In the 2010-11 year, 19,000 conference delegates attended events at the concert hall over 54 days. Conferences have been held there by the Conservatives, the SNP, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Educational Institute of Scotland and many others. In 2008, which is the last year for which we have figures, the economic benefit was worth £1.3 million annually, and I am sure that it is much greater today. The feedback from those who have attended conferences there is extremely positive.
“There are, however, challenges for the city. First, although we have some very good-quality hotels in Perth, there is a need for a high-quality—perhaps four star—large hotel close to the city centre to serve the conference market. I know that Perth and Kinross officials are working on trying to attract such an operator.
“Secondly, good conference destinations need to be underpinned by an academic and research community. In Perth, we have Perth College, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands that contains the excellent centre for mountain studies, which helped to attract the global change and the world’s mountains conference in 2010. It would be good for that centre to be expanded if possible, so that we can attract yet more conferences.
“There is a challenge around connectivity. For example, we need better transport links. I am always banging on about the rail link between Perth and Edinburgh and how it can be improved. Stephen Leckie would not forgive me if I did not mention broadband, because people who attend conferences at the Crieff Hydro expect to have high-quality access to fast broadband, and the connection is not good enough at present. That should also mean access to 3G and 4G, as it is being rolled out, so that we do not leave rural areas behind.
“We need high-quality skills in hospitality, which is an issue that members of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee have touched on a great many times in the past year. Perhaps business tourism throughout the year can help to tackle the seasonality issue, which is key to driving up standards in hospitality and to upskilling the workforce.”