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Evaluation of Destination Leadership Programme
This report presents the findings of a qualitative assessment of the Destination Leadership Programme (DLP). The aim of the DLP was to support and develop leadership capacity at the local and national destination levels. The pilot DLP delivered a professional development programme for the tourism sector in Scotland, which ran for six months. The pilot comprised: five full-day workshops covering different key themes (customer journey; destination development; marketing and branding; sustainability; and the digital economy); three two-day residential weekends, covering the themes of evaluation, collaboration, partnership, and vision and strategy; and an assessed leadership project. The main DLP programme expanded this approach to additional locations. The DLP included 100 hours of contact time for participants as well as 35 hours of project work. The evaluation looked specifically at the impact of the DLP on individual participants, their organisations, and their wider tourism destinations. It also considered the impact of exposure to the DLP, support for the pipeline of leaders, and whether there is a need for any further support.
A total of 33 telephone interviews were conducted with participants. Participants were selected to be representative of the different years and destinations in which the project ran. The interviews used various criteria, ranked on a 10-point scale (e.g. understanding what makes a destination successful; collaboration with others; confidence in leadership abilities etc.). Questions were established after a review of project approvals papers and discussions with Scottish Enterprise. Feedback from participants was also gathered on various aspects of the programme’s delivery, including its promotion, their motivations for participation and thoughts about the workshops and residential weekends.
The Destination Leadership Programme (DLP) was found to be a very positive experience for those who participated and, based on participants’ responses, for Scottish tourism destinations. The workshop speakers were described as being of ‘exceptional quality’, and included perspectives from Vienna, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Helsinki. For individuals, key positive outcomes of participation in the DLP included: developing their understanding of what is required for successful destination development; identifying the factors that impact upon a destination’s performance; and building their leadership skills and competences. As well as enhancing individual careers, it also served to strengthen individuals’ networks. The DLP has seeded a number of destination development projects, which have resulted in destination improvements. The DLP also helped to enhance the profile of participant’s organisations both within and beyond their destination. The programme was also found to have an impact on participating destinations, most notably Edinburgh. The project has resulted in an increase in cross-sector collaboration and there is a better understanding of the diversity of Scotland’s tourism projects. It has helped to create a ‘shared understanding’ of the actions that might be taken at a destination level and the rationale for this.
The overall feedback was positive, however participants made a number of suggestions for continuous improvement should the course delivery continue in future years. These included: introducing a broader geographic focus, including more rural examples; considering hosting an annual event or learner journey opportunity for DLP graduates; ensuring that participants are drawn from across the whole of the tourism industry; and using DLP graduates to promote the programme.