Welcome back to our 'Spotlight' series where we shine the light on the industry's amazing leaders and inspiring figures! Today, our guest is ASVA's (Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions) CEO, Gordon Morrison. He was so kind to answer our questions and share his thoughts as well as some personal facts like crying every time when watching a certain film... to find out which one, keep reading! :)
- Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Gordon Morrison and I am the CEO of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA for short), the representative body for the attractions sector in Scotland. I’ve been in this role, supporting and inspiring our members, for almost 4 years now (yikes!) and over this period I am proud to say that membership of the association has grown by more than a third. I am therefore either doing something right, or more and more members are joining the association in an effort to get me ousted out of office! Outside of work, I am a big sports fan, especially football (c’mon the Dons!), baseball (go Mets!) and darts (I like any sport where the bellies of the professionals are bigger than mine!). I am also a genuine geek. Not one of these modern, ‘cool’ geeks, with retro thick rimmed glasses and ironic 80s t-shirt. No, a proper, old school geek. If I am wearing an 80s t-shirt, it’s because I probably bought it in the 80s! I am the proud owner of more than 10,000 comic books (much to the chagrin of my other half, Lesley), with my pride and joy (outwith my beautiful daughter Georgia of course) is my copy of Fantastic Four issue 48, an iconic comic which features the first appearance of the Silver Surfer and Galactus, and I was lucky enough to have it signed by none other than Stan Lee, the founder of Marvel Comics! It’s probably the most valuable thing I own…
- Where did you start your career?
I’ve been involved in tourism & hospitality for over 20 years now. I’ve always had an interest in history and heritage (I studied Modern History at Glasgow Uni and Heritage Management at RGU), so it was probably inevitable that my first major steps into the sector came when I joined the National Museums of Scotland back in 2001 as a retailer. Prior to this, I had the pleasure of working in bookshops across the UK but working at NMS was my first step into the tourism sphere and into the world of history and heritage.
- What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
Making a difference. Whilst my job carries with it a reasonably high degree of responsibility, and I will admit the stress levels over the last couple of years of the pandemic have been incredibly challenging, I get motivated by the fact that actions that I take can and do have genuine impact. I am fiercely proud of the support that ASVA provides to our members and nothing motivates me more than making a difference to support and inspire the sector that I love.
- What do you do in your current role?
As CEO of ASVA, I oversee the strategic development of the organisation and am responsible for its profitable operations. I lead on the day-to-day functions, including the delivery of key member benefits, lobbying and networking on behalf of the attractions industry, as well as overseeing company finances, HR and IT. A key part of my role is to be an ambassador not only for the organisation, but for the visitor attractions sector within the wider tourism environment. I work alongside key stakeholders such as the Scottish Government, VisitScotland and The Scottish Tourism Alliance, ensuring that the views of the attractions sector are always considered and recognised in matters of tourism policy. It is a challenging role, and there are rarely enough hours in the day, but it also delivers a high degree of job satisfaction.
- What would you do (career-wise) if you were not in this current job?
My dream job would to be on stage performing (ideally as a lead in musical theatre), but alas I am nowhere near talented enough (though I do love a sing song)! Therefore, more realistically, if I wasn’t doing what I do now, I would be involved in some other customer-centric role. I am a huge advocate for delivering exceptional customer service and have delivered numerous presentations and training courses on the subject, so it is likely that I would be operating in the field of customer service training.
- Who is your hero? Why?
Willie Miller – Legendary Aberdeen Football Club captain from the 80s (the glory years for the Dons). Probably the best central defender that Scotland has ever produced and a hugely influential figure both on and off the park in Aberdeen. A lot of people credit Alex Ferguson as the mastermind behind the extraordinary success that Aberdeen – a small(ish) provincial club – enjoyed in Scotland and Europe in the 80s, but I think that it was Willie Miller that was the real driving force! I wish I had an ounce of his drive and determination (and of course his skill on the football park)!
- What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t panic! It’s okay to come out of education and not have a clue what you want to do. I have never had a career masterplan, instead seizing opportunities as and when I could. I have never been scared to take myself out of my comfort zone and this is probably my biggest asset, as it has taken my career in some weird and wonderful directions.
- How do you see the Visitor Attraction industry going further/changing?
The last few years have ben incredibly challenging and the recovery from Covid is going to take some time. The next few years will be more about consolidation than anything else. However, we are not an industry that likes to sit still and, if anything, the pandemic has seen even greater strides with regards to innovation and adaptability within the sector. Quality of experience will always be at the heart of any successful visitor attraction, and those that will thrive will continue to invest in people and infrastructure to ensure that they are providing the highest quality of experience for each and every visitor.
- Why should people consider working in the Tourism sector?
Three words. Variety. Opportunity. Fun. The range of fantastic job opportunities within our industry are unparalleled and, for those that want it, there is a hugely enjoyable and fulfilling career to be had. Oh, and there is no other industry that is as much fun to work in!
- Tell us three things about you that no-one knows?