Friday, 5 October 2018

Tightfisted hotels blight Scotlands tourism industry, but the future looks bright.

A panoramic picture of a Sunrise over the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
Sunrise over the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

The negative perception of quality and poor value for money in Scottish tourism is real and persistent.

When selling Scotland to overseas tour operators this is a constant refrain. So where does this reputation come from?

Well, to take an example from my personal experience about five years ago I was on a site visit with a French tour operator.

The hotels we visited went from poor to terrible the further north we travelled from Edinburgh.

I remember visiting a hotel on Skye where we were gagging when we were shown a filthy bathroom in a two-star hotel.

We then visited another hotel a few miles along the road which was in the midst of renovating. They had a courtyard in the middle of the hotel and had decided that would be a good place to store all the toilets they were ripping out of the rooms. They had produced a ten-foot high pile of toilets like some grotesque modern sculpture. This was what half the rooms looked out on. I took it up with the manager who was surprised I thought it unacceptable.

Another hotel in Oban had an area of waste ground which for years we had complaints about. I spoke to the hotel about it and they told me the council owned the site and asked if I could complain to them directly which I did. I heard back from that they would look into it but a year later we were still receiving complaints.

These standards were so poor it was embarrassing.

I know one UKinbound member used to hand clients letters of apologises on arrival at the airport blaming the famous Scottish trait of tightfistedness on the standards of hotels.

These issues go back to the legacy of the terrible saga of Swallow hotels which still blights the industry. (Swallow hotels purchased a lot of hotels throughout the UK and then collapsed leaving the hotels in administration and without investment for years).

The problem is the reputation of Scotland was really tarnished by these hotels and overshadow the excellent work being done by the majority of our professional hoteliers and suppliers.

However on a more positive note, I am pleased to say that the standards have improved markedly over the last few years and we don’t have these horror stories anymore.

There in now an increasing number of excellent restaurants, visitor attractions and greatly improved infrastructure all of which improves the quality of the visitors experience of Scotland.

Further, a combination of government support and private sector investment has raised standards throughout the industry

More work needs to be done training frontline staff in customer service but overall the picture is very positive.

I am happy to be a proud ambassador of Scotland once again.

James Aitken
Managing Director

Monday, 11 September 2017

Archeology themed incentives

A view of Skara Brae, a stone-built Neolithic settlement on the Bay of Skaill
Skara Brae, a stone-built Neolithic settlement on the Bay of Skaill, Mainland Orkney.

Scotland has a plethora of ways to theme events, Clans, Whisky, Movies and in the last couple of years we are being asked more and more frequently to devise programmes based on the incredible archaeology the country has to offer.

Orkney is now becoming one of Scotlands most popular visits with tourist numbers up from 36,000 to over 120,000 last year. They go to see Skara Brae a perfectly preserved village from 3000 years ago along with Maes Howe a pre-historic burial mound, the Ring of Brodgar and the standing stones of Stenness.
All of it makes up the neolithic landscape of Orkney which is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Norwegians, in particular, are interested in Orkney given the shared Viking heritage.

In addition to the archaeology, there are whisky distilleries to visit and amazing hotels to stay including Balfour Castle an exclusive use property, perfect for small groups.

For archaeology incentive themes closer to Edinburgh there is the National Museum of Scotland where you can have drinks and a gala dinner surrounded by the amazing finds that have been made over the years.

Picture of the Archaeologist Neil Oliver standing by a yacht called Tiger II
Neil Oliver

Scotlands most famous archaeologist Neil Oliver from the BBC programme Coast and A History of Scotland can be arranged as a guest after dinner speaker.

Another option is to travel in time on a visit to the beautiful Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, visit the harbour, lighthouse, beacon, wartime remains, the bathhouse and St Adrian’s Priory. You will be met by an expert who excavated some of the archaeology on the island and will give his insight and experience too much of the island 4000+ year history. On top of all that, the wonderful birdlife and seals will be all around.

Or what about lunch on an Iron age lake dwelling with demonstrations of the life and food our ancestors lived.

For more incentive information:


Friday, 8 September 2017

Cashel Travel invests in major destination management presence in London (Press Release)

A picture of the Millennium Dome (The O2) on the River Thames in Greenwich, London
The O2. Just one of the many incredible venues on offer in London.

Cashel Travel, the specialist UK Destination Management Company (DMC) and luxury incoming tour operator with offices in Edinburgh and Manchester has announced it is significantly bolstering it’s presence in London, with a specialist events team based in the Capital.

James Aitken, Founder and Managing Director of Cashel Travel said: “We view at least the short to mid term as a time of unrivalled opportunity for London. Despite Brexit, or perhaps as an indirect result of the current favourable exchange rates against the Euro, the US Dollar and other key currencies, the future for increased tourism business for the entire UK and especially London looks extremely bright. With Cashel’s recent appointment as the euromic member for the UK, we have the
opportunity to attract even more business and leisure tourism visitors to London as a direct result of our proven creativity and knowledge and our wealth of experience; this is an opportunity we intend to take”.

A recent Tourism Vision for London survey supported by the Mayor of London projects:
  • Tourism numbers in London are set to rise sharply, with more than 40 million people expected to visit the city by 2025, an increase of 30 per cent on the 31.2 million visitors who came to the capital in 2016
  • Visitor spending to grow by almost 50 per cent to £22 billion a year, up from £14.9 billion (2016).
  • Some of the fastest growing markets for visitors to London by 2025 are China (103 per cent growth), India (90 per cent growth), the USA (43 per cent) and the UAE (43 per cent)

Gerry Manser, who has more than 30 years experience in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) tourism sector is consulting on the London specialist team at Cashel Travel, who will provide major event support services for companies, organisations and associations across all sectors.

Manser added:  “Our team are passionate advocates and experts when it comes to events.  From conferences to exhibitions, incentives to experiential marketing – we know the business of events, we know the best venues and have the right contacts in London.  We are looking forward to delivering our skills at the highest level to both existing clients, and those who recognise the difference we make and the value that we can deliver for their event in London”.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Great British Trips become part of the Cashel Travel family.

Cashel Travel DMC UK & Ireland - Great British Trips Logos
Cashel Travel DMC UK & Ireland - Great British Trips

Cashel Travel this week purchased the Manchester based Great British Trips.

Great British Trips specialise in self-guided holidays and independent travel in the UK and in Ireland under Great Irish Trips. They are a family run, privately owned tour operator just like Cashel Travel. Founded by Ruth and Andrew Lancey in 2010, Great British Trips is a highly innovative tour operator specialising in the B2C market as well as offering services for FIT’s and ad hoc group tours for tour operators.

Since the purchase of Great British Trips it has been operating under the Cashel Travel banner and will continue to trade as normal. The addition of highly experienced staff in Manchester strengthens Cashel Travels position to deliver a better range of services across the UK & Ireland to their many clients.

Cashel Travel is having its best year ever on the back of an exceptionally strong marketing and sales drive over the last few years. It employs over 30 staff in its Edinburgh office and the purchase of Great British Trips will add a further 5. Cashel Travel is projecting a turnover this year in excess of £6million.

James Aitken, Cashel Travel Managing Director said, “We believe the ethos of the two companies match perfectly and we are delighted to have everyone in Great British Trips join our very busy team. Cashel Travel is one of the largest privately owned Destination Management Companies in Britain and having an office in Manchester with such an experienced team will really strengthen our UK and Irish business. 2017 has been an exceptional year due in part to our investment in sales and technology not to mention an extremely favourable exchange rate. ”

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Cashel Travel are euromic members

euromic - the power of local knowledge

Who are euromic & what does this mean for Cashel Travel? 

In 1973 euromic was founded as a non-profit association to promote & develop the top DMC's in each country around the world. It has a one-member-per-country policy which means they only seek out the very best & most professional Destination Management Companies. Membership is by invitation only.

All members strive to be the best & stay the best at what they do. Members develop co-operation, exchange information and leads. euromic holds seminars to educate, train, exchange ideas & the latest techniques for the staff of the member DMC's. This is all to ensure and maintain the quality of service provided by euromic members.

"Recognized for its experience and expertise in meetings, incentives, conventions and high-caliber special-interest programs, euromic stands for quality, security, stability, sophistication and the highest standards of professional conduct, as well as success. euromic strives for top quality and the best professional service in the field of group travel, meetings, incentives and conventions."

This is the next step forward for Cashel Travel as a leading & experienced DMC in the UK & Ireland. Covering two key meetings, conferences & incentives destinations, the doors have been opened to the best locations on offer in Great Britain & Ireland.

These are very exciting times for Cashel Travel & the future looks very bright indeed. With our highly professional, experienced & multi-lingual staff we aim to deliver the best service & experience to all who come our way.

If you didn't see the press release last month you can view/read it on our site here

Below is an article on page 2 of IMEX daily about the membership being officially announced also

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Saint Patrick's Day (just a little history)

A sign in the Guinness Store House saying Everyone's Irish on March 17th
A St Patricks Day sign in the Guinness Store House

The picture above is self-explanatory and it pretty much sums up the attitude and feeling that many people experience on Saint Patrick's day. It's a huge day for the Irish & many with Irish heritage or ancestry, but also those without. From one day events with parades to week long festivals, the celebrations are generally centred around fun and it's arguably the most sociable celebration/festival on anyone's calendar, especially in Ireland. It's celebrated in more countries than any other national festival!

But who is St Patrick? He's the patron Saint of Ireland and he banished all the snakes from Ireland! Well, that's what almost everyone can tell you, but it's not exactly true. Yes, he is a Saint and he was in Ireland for a period of time around the 5th century spreading Christianity. But he wasn't actually Irish, he was born in Britain and was kidnapped around the age of 16, taken to Ireland as a slave and worked as a Shepherd for around 6 years. During this time it is said that he found God, who then told him to flee to a waiting ship and back home again. When he arrived home he studied to become a priest and later returned to Ireland, spreading his faith in a predominantly pagan land.

He was obviously a very determined man as he came up against countless Druids and other opposition who wouldn't have liked what he was teaching and would have made life very difficult for him. It is believed that St Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the "Holy Trinity" and this is why it's such an important symbol today. The significance of March 17th is that Patrick is believed to have died on this date.

A picture of a single shamrock showing 3 leaves
A typical shamrock
So when did everyone start celebrating St Patrick's day? Well, the Patron Saint has been celebrated by the Irish since around the 9th century. It was known as Saint Patrick's feast day. It wasn't until 1903 that it became a public holiday in Ireland & also when their first St Patricks Day Parade took place, in Waterford.

St Patrick's day parades have actually been running in North America since the 18th century. There are parades recorded as early as 1771 in Philadelphia. In Montreal (Canada) they've been putting on a parade since 1824! Today the biggest of all Paddy's day parades is in New York and they held their first one back in 1848. To put the size of this celebration/festivity into perspective, a staggering $4.4bn was spent on Saint Patrick's day in the USA last year (2016)

So it would appear that the Irish diaspora (Immigrants & their descendants) somehow managed to turn this day into a global event by honouring St Patrick in almost every city or country where they settled, worked or fought. For such a small country this is remarkable.

A picture of the US Coast Guard Pipe Band marching in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York
US Coast Guard Pipe Band marching in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York

The green bug is still spreading today and many countries are still adopting this global festival. Although it was originally a religious celebration it has been growing & includes huge festival celebrations alongside. Many of the biggest parades originally began as religious gatherings before they evolved. 

With the growing popularity of Saint Patrick's day, the Irish government established the St. Patrick's Festival in 1995. The first festival was held over one day, and night, on March 17th 1996, it has since grown to a 4-5 day celebration. The mission for establishing the St. Patrick's Festival is (Taken from

  •  To offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebration in the world.
  •  To create energy and excitement throughout Ireland via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity.
  •  To provide the opportunity and motivation for people of Irish descent (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations.
  •  To project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal.

Many Irish people are still amazed to learn about all the countries that celebrate Lá Fheile Pádraig, especially those who host parades. Since 1999 Moscow have had a St. Patrick's Day Festival. It's also commonly celebrated in Switzerland. Lately, Buenos Aires have been enjoying Paddy's day too! But there's no discrimination when this festival is concerned. You don't even need to be on this planet to celebrate or take part!!!!

Irish-American astronaut, Catherine Coleman with The Chieftains, Matt Molly's 100 year old flute and Paddy Moloney's thin whistle which she played on the International Space Station on St. Patrick's Day in 2011.

On St. Patrick's Day in 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield took pictures of Ireland from the International Space Station and posted them online. He sang Danny Boy and posted that too. He also dressed in traditional Paddy's Day green to top it all off. 

Just a small (kinda) history on this global celebration that came all the way from The Emerald Isle. We're looking forward to Paddy's day this year as it falls on a Friday. What a way to kick off your weekend.


Friday, 10 February 2017

Castles and Kilts! Why Scotland is Ideal for (MICE) Corporate Events

A picture of Edinburgh castle at sunset in Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Edinburgh castle at sunset in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

The spirit, landscape and sheer quantity of activities on offer make Scotland a great business destination. Whether you’re planning a meeting, incentive, corporate gathering, conference or event, the number of options make Scotland a unique and impressive destination for any MICE event.

Scotland has over 1,000 castles and they make a one-of-a-kind location for a magical event or an exclusive incentive. Our favourite castle experiences include themed royal evenings at Stirling Castle, a private reception at Edinburgh Castle and a product launch at Scone Palace (we know it’s not technically a castle but we love it). There are so many options from the updated and luxurious to the classic and gothic.  

A picture of the famous Swilcan bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course links in St Andrews, Scotland

The famous Swilcan bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course links in St Andrews, Scotland

The legacy of golf spans six centuries in Scotland so there is no better place to play a round of golf. After all, Scotland is the country that gave the game to the world.
There are over 550 fantastic courses to choose from. Our favourite places to play a round are St. Andrews, one of the oldest courses in the world and in Speyside for golfing in Malt Whisky country - after a game you can sample some malt at a distillery.

A picture of the Strathisla distillery the oldest and most picturesque distillery in the highlands of Scotland
Strathisla distillery, the oldest and most picturesque distillery in the highlands of Scotland

Whisky is the closest thing to Scotland in a glass and there is so many whisky related activities (aside from drinking it) to do in Scotland. There is nothing like the sights, sounds and unmistakable aromas of a traditional Scottish distillery. Tours to discover the origins of Scotch Malt and of picturesque distilleries like the Strathisla are a must. Another great whisky option is a led whisky tasting at an event or coupled with a dinner at a castle.

A picture of an Owl in flight at a Falconry demonstration at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie in Scotland
Falconry at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie in Scotland

Falcons and Fishing
Scotland is famous for its ancient sports. We’ve been experts in Royal sports since the monarchy began hunting in the forests and fishing in the rivers of Scotland. Today, these sports have become exclusive experiences. At a falconry display, you can see the spectacular sight of a bird of prey hunting with the backdrop of a castle.
Scotland is also one of the world's top destinations for freshwater and sea angling. There is world-class fishing available across the country throughout the year.

A view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland with rolling hills in the background

Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

The Great Outdoors
Another reason for a team event in Scotland is because it is the ultimate natural playground. With the Highlands on the doorstep, the spectacular mountains are ideal for hiking and exploring. But sometimes the best way to promote teamwork, fun and company values is with some outdoor activities. Scotland has many to choose from including canyoning, bungee jumping, survival skills and whitewater rafting. Expert instructors will cater for all abilities. These experiences will bring any team together.

A man dressed in a kilt lifting a Caber or large wooden pole during a Highland Games Caber Toss demonstration at Winton Castle Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland
A Highland Games Caber Toss demonstration at Winton Castle Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland

Highland Games
For an authentic Scottish atmosphere, you can create your own Highland Games clan gathering. Kilts will swirl, pipes will skirl and haggis will be hurled at your exclusive event. Staged in breathtaking scenery, with a castle or country house as a backdrop, this magical day gives a truly warm Scottish welcome.

A picture of Three young gentlemen walking and wearing a semi-dress sporran kilt outfit
Three young gentlemen wearing a semi-dress sporran kilt outfit

And, of course, we couldn’t forget Scotland’s national man skirt, the kilt. Any dinner can be made more interesting with a kilt dress code.

There are so many reasons to host a meeting, incentive, corporate gathering, conference or event in Scotland.

We look forward to welcoming you to Scotland!