Introducing Gordon Morrison, CEO of Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA)
Gordon Morrison is the current CEO of ASVA. As part of his role, Gordon represents the attractions sector in a number of key industry groups, including the Scottish Tourism Alliance Council, Skills Development Scotland Tourism Skills Group, the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel, the Year of Coasts & Waters Working Group, VisitScotland’s Quality in Tourism Industry Group and the Scottish Tourism Recovery Task Force. He is also an experienced trainer and regularly hosts one of ASVA’s most popular recurring workshops – Exceeding Visitor Expectations.
Having worked in the sector for over 15 years, Gordon has held a number of prominent roles, including Quality & Tourism Manager with VisitScotland where he was responsible for the delivery of the highly regarded Visitor Attraction Grading Scheme, and as Commercial & Visitor Services Manager for Museums & Galleries Edinburgh where he spearheaded the iconic attractions, Scott Monument and Museum of Childhood.
In our latest instalment of our Arts, Heritage and Culture ‘conversations with’ series, Rebekah Abbott sat down with Gordon Morrison to reflect on the challenges facing the Scottish tourism attractions industry in the wake of the pandemic and in the current economic climate — and he discusses the value of working with a recruitment partner.
Watch the full interview with Gordon here.
‘When it comes to filling senior posts, it’s not just a beneficial thing to use a recruitment specialist, it’s essential.’
Can you tell me a little bit about your take on the sector as you see it currently?
Obviously, we’ve had a very challenging last few years, as 2020 and 2021 were the most difficult years with most of the industry shut down — I never thought we would see that. However, the sector has shown tremendous resilience and adaptability which has put us in good standing for the current climate.
Visitors are coming back to attractions across the country, and the tourism hot spots in particular are doing incredibly well.
Whilst things are looking promising, there are still significant challenges in relation to the cost of doing business; and that applies regardless of which sector you’re working in. With energy costs continuing to rise, many of our attractions are finding they are being hit hard.
That said, the industry is feeling confident as we move into the summer of 2023. When attractions are busy, there’s no better place to work because it’s a very exciting environment. Additionally, we’re seeing investment into building the highest quality visitor experience, which will be essential for the sector as we move into 2024 and beyond.
What are organisations within the sector doing to ease the pressures?
If there’s one thing that we learned during the pandemic, it’s the importance of working collaboratively. Many organisations have embraced that and are working together with other areas of the tourism industry.
The pandemic has also seen a massive uptake in utilising online booking systems, which has allowed us to collect and use valuable data to create a more personalised visitor experience – and that can only be positive for the industry going forward.
Can you talk to me a bit about some of the recruitment challenges you’ve seen?
We have always found challenges with staffing as we have never been a high-paying sector. Once we left the EU, many of our staff returned home — that was also the case when the pandemic hit, and staff were put on furlough.
Our sector was the hardest hit and took the longest time to recover. It was viewed as a vulnerable industry and therefore, not an industry in which you should find employment.
From a recruitment point of view, we have seen even senior roles affected — and the perception of poor job security has had a bearing on this.
Most attractions are not for profit, so there is a real challenge in terms of encouraging the right people to come into the industry. However, I think we’re improving and in a recent ASVA survey of our members, we found close to 50% of our sector is now being paid a living wage which is an improvement.
How do you feel that a recruitment partner could potentially add value to a recruitment search?
Many organisations I work with are small, without an HR department — often, the CEO will also be the HR Manager, the Marketing Manager and so on — the resources are limited. When it comes to filling senior posts, it’s not just a beneficial thing to use a recruitment specialist, it’s essential.
A recruitment partner takes away many of the time pressures, allowing you to consider the very best candidates. Organisations value time above money. They want to ensure they’re getting maximum use of their precious time and when it comes to recruitment, whether that be a senior leader within your executive, time is vital — that is the most important element of working with a recruitment specialist.
Sometimes smaller organisations without HR departments or HR professionals are unclear about the skills they require in an individual or need assistance with research around remuneration, or even with the job specification. Therefore, using the experience of a specialist is extremely beneficial.
Rebekah Abbott is our Head of Arts, Heritage and Culture Appointments. With over 20 years’ experience in the sector, including having founded her own music-based not for profit, Luminosa Music, Rebekah has a first-hand understanding of the importance that having the right leaders in the right roles at the right time, can have on the success of an organisation.