Caterer and Hotelkeeper - 11344

Thursday 29th January 1998 00:00

Media shop, Loch Ness Marketing (LNM). Run as a company separate from the hotel, LNM is fronted by Cameron, who holds a 50% stake. His remit is to help film directors find suitable locations in the picturesque area. He also sorts out practicalities, such as recruiting extras and liasing with the emergency services where necessary.

It sounds like a career in itself but, as a close friend of the Campbells, Cameron never loses sight of the fact that LNM's first loyalty is to the Drumnadrochit - his opening gambit when agreeing location work is: "Deal with me and stay at the hotel." The £250-a-day location fees thus go to LNM, while the extra F&B and accommodation revenue goes to the hotel.

Two years on, LNM is getting results. In 1997, the number of film crews that stayed at the 24-bedroom Drumnadrochit rose to 29 from 14 the previous year. Fraser says that the extra business boosted turnover by 10%. In fact, he reckons that £50,000-£60,000 of the hotel's takings of £500,000 last year was generated by LNM, against £30,000-£40,000 in 1996.

Cameron came up with the idea for LNM while brainstorming a marketing strategy with the Campbells. Although he could see that Scotland was increasingly being used by film directors, the potential didn't hit home until the movie Loch Ness, starring Ted Danson, was being made. About 50 members of the film crew stayed at the hotel over six weeks. Business boomed. The way forward was obvious.

LNM required no investment to set up as Cameron drew his marketing manager's salary from the hotel until it got off the ground. Likewise, there are no overheads as telephone calls are paid by the hotel and the office takes up otherwise unused space on the top floor.

While Cameron enjoys the buzz of film location work, Fraser regards it more objectively as a "bolt-on" to supplement his hotel's core tourism business. "With film crews there is a better quality spend," explains Fraser. "A recent crew of 12 people spent £6,000 in four days."

To illustrate his point, he says that crews are charged the standard room rate of £35-£45 for bed and breakfast, and choose dinner off the £16 set menu or the à la carte. But he estimates that the bill per person often comes in at an average of £125 a night - double that spent by most tourists for dinner, bed and breakfast.

One reason is that, after a long day's work, film crews are more likely to frequent the bar, contributing to a push in beer sales of 27% and adding 21% to soft drinks. They also pay for extra services. Filming often starts at dawn, for instance, so Fraser charges double the £6.50 breakfast tariff to serve it at 5am.

Another new money-spinner spawned by the location business is outside catering at lunchtimes. The hotel has dabbled in corporate entertainment on Loch Ness so it required only a nominal investment in more thermal containers so that hot food could be transported to the location site along with awnings, table linen, china and plates. Menus are devised to suit each crew. For £7 a head they might get soup, buttered breast of chicken with mustard sauce, potatoes, coffee and shortbread. "There's no point cutting your throat and losing business over a fiver here or there," says Cameron. "Everything is part of a bigger package."

Crucially, the business generated by LNM has given the Campbells courage to keep the Drumnadrochit open during the winter season for the first time. "All other hotels in the area are closed and the staff paid off," explains Fraser, "but we have kept six staff on. Previously, we have only been open from 10am to 3pm." An added benefit is that most reservation enquiries come from abroad late at night, and now there is always someone to take calls.

Dealing with the film fraternity has been educational and Cameron has learned from some costly mistakes. He now never discloses where a photograph of a potential location has been taken before the deal is signed. And every detail is set out in the contract, down to whether the company pays the crew's bar bills.

The more demanding clientele has also forced the locally recruited staff to become more flexible. So, if crew members finish work after the kitchen has closed and want an omelette, they get it. But as Fraser says: "Staff realise that, as it's a seasonal hotel, they have to sustain turnover to get a wage, so it is to all our benefit."

The economic benefits spawned by LNM have not been limited to the Drumnadrochit. Cameron, for instance, rarely turns down a location job because the crew refuses to stay at the hotel. "If they need somewhere more upmarket, I send them up the road," he says. "We know our limitations. We are a functional overnight stop for people roving in the Highlands."

In the same spirit, he subcontracts directors' requirements, such as boat hire or prop-making, to locals, and many of the villagers are now seasoned film extras. "The locals take it in their stride," he says. "People are very laid back up here. Everyone has two jobs."

It all stimulates the local economy. In the Loch Ness area alone, Cameron estimates that high-spending film crews contributed £100,000 last year. This has not been lost on the authorities. The Highland Council, Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, Highlands &Islands Film Commission, BTA and Inverness & Nairn Enterprise frequently refer film enquiries to Cameron.

The other advantage is that LNM, the hotel and the region get mentioned in film credits and brochures worldwide. Says Cameron: "We are constantly advertising at no extra cost to ourselves."

The next stage is to increase the location business. The target for this year is to attract at least 40 film crews. For tourist business, Fraser is banking on the next sighting of Nessie. "It'll be in March," he quips. "Just in time for the summer season."

MOST nights, Willie Cameron can be found running Hunters restaurant at the Drumnadrochit Hotel on Loch Ness. Most days, however, he transforms into a film location manager, shutting himself in the upstairs office to set up deals with directors all over the world.

Cameron isn't moonlighting or living a fantasy; he's fulfilling his other role as the hotel's marketing manager. And he's got the blessing of the proprietors, Fraser and Jackie Campbell. Their objective is to boost occupancy and F&B takings by encouraging film and TV crews to stay at the hotel.

To do this, the trio has set up what they describe as a one-stop media shop, Loch Ness Marketing (LNM). Run as a company separate from the hotel, LNM is fronted by Cameron, who holds a 50% stake. His remit is to help film directors find suitable locations in the picturesque area. He also sorts out practicalities, such as recruiting extras and liaising with the emergency services where necessary.

It sounds like a career in itself but, as a close friend of the Campbells, Cameron never loses sight of the fact that LNM's first loyalty is to the Drumnadrochit - his opening gambit when agreeing location work is: "Deal with me and stay at the hotel." The £250-a-day location fees thus go to LNM, while the extra F&B and accommodation revenue goes to the hotel.

Two years on, LNM is getting results. In 1997, the number of film crews that stayed at the 24-bedroom Drumnadrochit rose to 29 from 14 the previous year. Fraser says that the extra business boosted turnover by 10%. In fact, he reckons that £50,000-£60,000 of the hotel's takings of £500,000 last year was generated by LNM, against £30,000-£40,000 in 1996.

Cameron came up with the idea for LNM while brainstorming a marketing strategy with the Campbells. Although he could see that Scotland was increasingly being used by film directors, the potential didn't hit home until the movie Loch Ness, starring Ted Danson, was being made. About 50 members of the film crew stayed at the hotel over six weeks. Business boomed. The way forward was obvious.

LNM required no investment to set up as Cameron drew his marketing manager's salary from the hotel until it got off the ground. Likewise, there are no overheads as telephone calls are paid by the hotel and the office takes up otherwise unused space on the top floor.

While Cameron enjoys the buzz of film location work, Fraser regards it more objectively as a "bolt-on" to supplement his hotel's core tourism business. "With film crews there is a better quality spend," explains Fraser. "A recent crew of 12 people spent £6,000 in four days."

To illustrate his point, he says that crews are charged the standard room rate of £35-£45 for bed and breakfast, and choose dinner off the £16 set menu or the à la carte. But he estimates that the bill per person often comes in at an average of £125 a night - double that spent by most tourists for dinner, bed and breakfast.

One reason is that, after a long day's work, film crews are more likely to frequent the bar, contributing to a push in beer sales of 27% and adding 21% to soft drinks. They also pay for extra services. Filming often starts at dawn, for instance, so Fraser charges double the £6.50 breakfast tariff to serve it at 5am.

Another new money-spinner spawned by the location business is outside catering at lunchtimes. The hotel has dabbled in corporate entertainment on Loch Ness so it required only a nominal investment in more thermal containers so that hot food could be transported to the location site along with awnings, table linen, china and plates. Menus are devised to suit each crew. For £7 a head they might get soup, buttered breast of chicken with mustard sauce, potatoes, coffee and shortbread. "There's no point cutting your throat and losing business over a fiver here or there," says Cameron. "Everything is part of a bigger package."

Crucially, the business generated by LNM has given the Campbells courage to keep the Drumnadrochit open during the winter season for the first time. "All other hotels in the area are closed and the staff paid off," explains Fraser, "but we have kept six staff on. Previously, we have only been open from 10am to 3pm." An added benefit is that most reservation enquiries come from abroad late at night, and now there is always someone to take calls.

Dealing with the film fraternity has been educational and Cameron has learned from some costly mistakes. He now never discloses where a photograph of a potential location has been taken before the deal is signed. And every detail is set out in the contract, down to whether the company pays the crew's bar bills.

The more demanding clientele has also forced the locally recruited staff to become more flexible. So, if crew members finish work after the kitchen has closed and want an omelette, they get it. But as Fraser says: "Staff realise that, as it's a seasonal hotel, they have to sustain turnover to get a wage, so it is to all our benefit."

The economic benefits spawned by LNM have not been limited to the Drumnadrochit. Cameron, for instance, rarely turns down a location job because the crew refuses to stay at the hotel. "If they need somewhere more upmarket, I send them up the road," he says. "We know our limitations. We are a functional overnight stop for people roving in the Highlands."

In the same spirit, he subcontracts directors' requirements, such as boat hire or prop-making, to locals, and many of the villagers are now seasoned film extras. "The locals take it in their stride," he says. "People are very laid back up here. Everyone has two jobs."

It all stimulates the local economy. In the Loch Ness area alone, Cameron estimates that high-spending film crews contributed £100,000 last year. This has not been lost on the authorities. The Highland Council, Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, Highlands &Islands Film Commission, BTA and Inverness & Nairn Enterprise frequently refer film enquiries to Cameron.

The other advantage is that LNM, the hotel and the region get mentioned in film credits and brochures worldwide. Says Cameron: "We are constantly advertising at no extra cost to ourselves."

The next stage is to increase the location business. The target for this year is to attract at least 40 film crews. For tourist business, Fraser is banking on the next sighting of Nessie. "It'll be in March," he quips. "Just in time for the summer season."


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