More than 120 representatives of the tourism industry came together on Thursday 31 March in Oban’s Corran Halls to look at how tourism in Argyll could be ‘Stronger Together’. Hosted by the Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership and chaired by Argyll and Bute Council, the aim of the event was to facilitate further collaboration between businesses in the tourism industry and the public sector and gain feedback on the work of the Strategic Tourism Partnership.
Speaking after the summit, Mike Story, Vice Chair of the Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership said, “This has been a fantastic event. I think that all groups will leave here today knowing that a legitimacy has been given to the concept of Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership to act as an umbrella brand and the leader within the region.
A full programme for the day included inspirational speakers on the future of tourism in the area including Dr Mike Cantlay, Chair of VisitScotland, Paul McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink and Bob Downie, Chief Executive of the Royal Yacht Britannia. All speakers emphasised the world-class assets of Argyll , highlighted the opportunities that lie ahead for tourism and encouraged businesses to collaborate to maximise these.
Mike Cantlay Chairman of VisitScotland said, “Tourism is the corner stone of the Argyll economy and future growth is critical to the region. Particularly in the current climate it’s extremely important for local businesses and agencies to work together to get the maximum tourism growth to ensure that it makes an increasing contribution to the local economy.
“This event has been vital in ensuring ongoing dialogue between the agencies and industry and help to encourage a better understanding of what is currently happening throughout the Argyll and Bute region and how we can improve the tourism product for the future. It is only by working closely in partnership can we hope to attract more people to the area and reap the long term economic benefit.”
Robert Pollock, Argyll and Bute Council’s Head of Economic Development chaired a question and answer session with an expert panel, which generated a range of questions and stimulated ideas for the way forward. A series of interactive workshops gave participants a chance to further discuss the challenges and opportunities for tourism and their feedback was shared will all by Robert later in the day.
After the meeting he said, “The day represented an opportunity to collectively discuss and identify the key priorities for tourism in our area. It was exceptionally valuable and constructive to have so many local and national stakeholders in one place at one time. The event has undoubtedly shaped the future direction of the Strategic Tourism Partnership and provided momentum. I’m delighted that so much of the feedback from the participants was very positive.”
A critical focus of the day was identifying next steps for both the Strategic Tourism Partnership and all those present. The event summary by Calum Ross, member of the partnership and Chairman of the British Hospitality Association (Scotland), stressed the importance of turning the day’s discussions into an action plan. “A full report of the Tourism Summit will be created as soon as possible and widely shared. This will detail the specific actions and feedback generated by the participants in the summit workshops. It is clear that the first priority for the partnership is to take the lead in creating an umbrella identity “Argyll and the Isles” to promote tourism in the region and secondly to improve communication with the existing tourism marketing associations. Everyone here today must play their part by delivering fantastic and consistent customer experience to ensure that visitors not only return but encourage their friends to visit in future. Lastly, VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Forum have been tasked with lobbying for key infrastructure improvement, specifically roads and broadband speed, and we welcome their support ”.
Evaluation from participants showed that 98% found the Tourism Summit useful and among the many positive comments were requests for it to become an annual event.
Inveraray Jail’s Prison Governor Gavin Dick said, “As one of many small marketing groups in Argyll, we can definitely see the benefits of being ‘stronger together’ especially when seeking changes that would benefit us all, for example transport infrastructure and broadband range and speeds.”