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Where Gleneagles Dare

By The Drum, Administrator

June 30, 2005 | 8 min read

Sir Bob Geldof has single-handedly hi-jacked the British press during the last few weeks as he has whipped up a media frenzy in the run up to the G8 Summit, which is being staged at the picturesque Gleneagles Hotel next week. But while Sir Bob has been encouraging protestors to journey to Scotland’s capital to raise awareness of the world’s poverty problems, the marketing and events team at Gleneagles, Scotland’s best known hotel and golf resort, Dorothy Welsh and Stuart Smith, have had their own agenda. They’ve quietly been going about their business to ensure that the leaders of the planet’s eight most powerful nations are treated to a summit they’ll never forget and that the resort itself, and indeed Scotland, makes the most out of being on the worldwide stage for three days.

Head of marketing, Dorothy Welsh has been at Gleneagles for the last five years while head of events Stuart Smith, has worked there for eight years, so both are well versed in exactly what Gleneagles has to offer your average world leader. When The Drum meets them, there’s just two weeks to go until the G8 Summit kicks off and they are confident that they will have everything in place for when Messrs Bush, Blair and Chirac et al arrive in town. The announcement that Gleneagles would host the G8 Summit was made around a year ago by Prime Minister Tony Blair, and since it was revealed Welsh says that staff have been looking upon it as a positive challenge and something to look forward to, despite the ever present threat of protestors trying to scale walls and security fences.

Welsh said: “The reaction from our staff and the people living close to Gleneagles has been very positive indeed. The evening that it was announced that Gleneagles had got the G8 we were here and we put posters around the place so that the staff knew it was going to be announced. We are all very excited about hosting such a prestigious world-class event with so many famous people. A few of us knew beforehand that the G8 was going to be held here so we kind of geared everybody up for the good news.”

Smith added: “There has been a mixture of excitement and almost exhilaration as the G8 is something so unique that, when you actually take a step back and take a look at what is going to be happening here, there are very few hospitality establishments in this world that are ever going to have the opportunity to work on something of this size and scale. To have it as a memory at the end of the summer is great. People here feel that it will be something that they can remember being involved in forever.”

For security reasons details of exactly what the eight world leaders and their delegates will actually be dong during their three-day stay are being kept under wraps, but obviously the Summit will consist of a number of meetings, civic receptions, press calls and, Welsh and Smith hope, a little free time to enjoy the facilities that the resort has to offer. Gleneagles is by no means a stranger to staging huge events. In recent years Gleneagles has hosted conferences for NATO, and it was also the venue for the Bilderberg Conference.

As a marketing opportunity, both Welsh and Smith know the value of hosting the G8 Summit at Gleneagles. And with more than 2,500 members of the press blowing into town for the duration, they fully realise the possibility of securing positive media coverage in every corner of the globe.

Welsh said: “This should be fantastic for Scotland. The president of Savannah Tourism, Anthony Shopp, was over a little while ago, and he said that after the G8 was held at Sea Island in 2004, Savannah saw tourism increase by around 12 per cent. I think for an established destination like Scotland it is very important that we get the opportunity to remind people what a wonderful destination this actually is. There are new kids on the block every year, who would have thought 20 years ago that places such as Cuba, Dubai, Vietnam, Prague and Budapest would be major tourist destinations today?

“The opportunity for Gleneagles to capitalise on hosting the G8 from a marketing perspective will come after the actual event itself. Obviously a lot of the details of the events are confidential beforehand for security reasons, but we are hoping to catch some great images of the world leaders here at Gleneagles, and I think it will be very beneficial for the venue as people in the UK, and internationally, tend to think of Gleneagles as just a golf resort. The G8 will show that we are a world-class meetings venue as well.

“After the event the plan is to do a lot of newsletters so that we can communicate with our clients, and obviously I hope to have some great pictures of the world leaders having a very effective event here, and enjoying themselves, which I can use as part of my marketing. Gleneagles will be the most talked about hotel in the world for those three days in July which will give us a great platform to work from.”

In the run up to the Summit a number of public bodies have been working together to ensure that Gleneagles, the local area around the luxury Perthshire resort and Scotland benefit from being centre stage.

Welsh said: “There is a Scottish Executive body looking at ways of maximising the opportunities for Scotland and VisitScotland has representation on that. There is also a local body being co-ordinated by Perth and Kinross Council that I am part of, and that includes people from Scottish Enterprise Tayside and the local tourist board as well. They are all very keen that the journalists visiting the area to cover the Summit have the opportunity to get out and see some of the local area and what it has to offer visitors, so that they can relay that in their articles.”

So, does Welsh have any reservations that any potential negative media images of G8 protesters being swept across the putting greens at Gleneagles by police water cannons could have a negative impact on the Gleneagles brand?

She said: “I don’t have concerns about that at all. Security during the G8 is the responsibility of Tayside Police and we have always had a good working relationship with them, and they have also been planning in detail since the announcement was made so we have every confidence that they will be equipped to handle security matters during the Summit.”

A media centre is now being constructed at Gleneagles, which will be home to more than 2,500 members of the world’s media. It is at the media centre where much of the activity will take place during the Summit as the press look to file their reports, and it is indeed the media coverage of Gleneagles, and Scotland, that holds the key to guaranteeing a positive marketing outcome for all involved.

Welsh said: “During the actual event the marketing team will be based at the media centre helping to co-ordinate and look after the press. We will be very flexible, as we will all obviously have mobile phones, so if there is a particular need then we will be able to react quickly. Some of the scheduling is being kept pretty flexible, so we will have to be able to react quickly.”

So, once the eight most powerful men in the world have packed their cases and left Gleneagles and once the media scrum has disbanded, what does Welsh and Smith hope to have achieved?

She said: “We would certainly like to see the kind of gains that Savannah has seen, in the region of 12 per cent in the years to come, and for them it is still coming in future booking because so many major events and conferences are planned up to 18 months in advance, so it takes a while for the economic benefits to filter through. So, hopefully we will be seeing the same business benefits to Scotland for some time to come.

“This is an ideal opportunity, on a genuinely worldwide stage, to show what we can do here at Gleneagles, and in Scotland, in terms of holding major events. It will also provide us with a great opportunity to show people what a great destination we are for holidays and short breaks. Hopefully many of the press will go back home and write about Gleneagles and Scotland rather than just about the G8, and also many of the delegates and members I hope will choose to come back for meetings or holidays at a later date.”

It seems that Welsh and Smith have everything in order to guarantee that Gleneagles and Scotland will provide a G8 Summit to remember; let’s just hope they can also guarantee good weather.

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