Business organisation Aberdeen Inspired has appointed Scotland’s first evening and night time economy manager as it looks to promote the city’s nightlife and broaden its appeal.
Nicola Johnston (29) has taken up the new role after six years working in senior roles in the skiing and hospitality industries in France.
Originally from Glasgow, the Edinburgh Napier University graduate worked as a general manager for a range of boutique hotels and also owned her own health food deli in the Tarentaise Valley in the heart of the French Alps.
The concept of an evening and night time economy manager was developed in Amsterdam and introduced in London last year. The Aberdeen post is the second of its kind in the UK.
Miss Johnston will be the voice of Aberdeen’s evening and night time economy and will have an extensive remit, including the creation of a new brand for nightlife in the Granite City as well as a new creative hub for residents and groups to use in the city centre.
One of her key roles will also be to lead Aberdeen Inspired through a re-accreditation process for the Purple Flag Award as the city looks to secure the award for an unprecedented fifth year in a row to demonstrate a safe and secure night time economy.
She will also look at good practice which has been adopted in other cities to see what would be appropriate for Aberdeen and work with cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels on a wide range of strategies, including Restaurant Week and ‘Alive after 5’ which aims to boost the city centre’s evening economy.
Miss Johnston said: “I’m delighted to take up the evening and night time economy manager role with Aberdeen Inspired and am excited to have joined a dynamic team which works hard to promote the city centre and boost trade.
“This is an exciting opportunity to make a difference and help develop the hospitality and hotel trade in Aberdeen. My experience of working in France has already been a huge benefit and has helped me to understand many of the challenges businesses face in Aberdeen.”
Miss Johnston will also look at trends in alcohol licensing and work with Aberdeen Inspired’s partners to maximise footfall and attract more visitors to the city centre. She will also look to address late night transport issues in the city.
She said: “People have been very receptive to the fact that things need to change and want to work with us to lead the way for a regeneration of Aberdeen’s night time economy. It’s important that we look at diversifying what’s on offer so we can inspire more people to visit Aberdeen and help them to share their positive experiences with a wider audience.
“We are looking at ways to make Aberdeen more interesting and appealing to visitors in terms of hospitality and leisure and I’m also very keen that we focus on entrepreneurship and do everything we can to encourage students to stay in the city once they have graduated from university or college.
“It’s important to learn from our colleagues in other cities to see what ideas have made an impact and identify what could make a difference to Aberdeen. Evening and night time economy managers in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin have all developed brand strategies and have a clear vision of their night time economy which is what we’ll be working on too.
“There’s a lot to do but I believe we’re up to the challenge and we will be doing our upmost to support Aberdeen as it continues this transition.”
The team at Aberdeen Inspired also plans to launch a blog this summer to highlight what’s going on in the city to encourage residents and visitors to get involved with activities being held in the city centre.
It will also highlight the city’s efforts to gain re-accreditation for the Purple Flag award and include blog posts which will give an insight in to the city at night and what work is done by partners including Police Scotland, NHS Grampian and the street pastors to keep people safe.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “We are delighted to welcome Nicola to the team, she brings a wealth of experience and has demonstrated a very high standard of work and results delivery in previous jobs.
“This is an exciting appointment and we look forward to working with Nicola on a range of projects to help develop the city’s evening offering and promote Aberdeen as a safe and welcoming place for residents and visitors alike.
“The perception of many of our evening and night time economy businesses is that their voice isn’t always heard or necessarily understood by statutory organisations. Now that we have Nicola in post the evening and night time economy manager’s role will offer a unique opportunity to bridge this gap and is another illustration of how we are listening to them and have introduced this new role to help move the city centre forward.
“With this appointment, we continue to be at the fore in terms of innovation in our field, as our recent UK and Ireland award successes highlighted as well as being crowned the best European Business Improvement District in 2017, in Berlin last month.”
Aberdeen City Council Licensing Board convener, Councillor Marie Boulton, added: “I would like to congratulate Nicola on her new role and welcome her to Aberdeen.
“Aberdeen City Council and our community safety partners have worked very hard to provide an outstanding evening economy; initiatives such as Operation Oak, Best Bar None and Ask for Angela play a huge part in creating a safe and more enjoyable environment for all.
“We look forward to working closely with Nicola to make Aberdeen’s city centre an even better place for people to visit.”