Argyll and Bute Council’s decision to choose a major holiday company as the preferred bidder for Castle Toward has been welcomed by local and national tourism chiefs.
Last week, Bristol-based Seasons Holidays was announced as the successful bidder for the Cowal peninsula estate.
Some of the biggest names in inward investment in Scotland have now come forward to welcome the news, and spell out the benefits which such a development will bring.
Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, said: "This is yet another fantastic result for the Scottish tourism industry and I am delighted that Seasons PLC is announcing its plans to create a resort combining hotel, spa, conference facility and holiday lodges on the Castle Toward estate.
"The unique proposal provides an opportunity for the development of the first, new, family-focussed fractional ownership resort in the UK for a number of years.
"The company has shown a real appreciation of the potential for this area and the project will deliver significant investment to the local economy while raising the profile of Argyll and Bute as a premium tourist location across the UK and Europe.
"Our development agencies, Scottish Development International and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, have been working closely over many years with Seasons on this development and will continue to support the company to fulfil its long-term growth potential in Scotland."
Anne MacColl, chief executive of Scottish Development International, stressed that the proposed holiday resort could have a major impact on the local area.
“We know that developments of this type have a significant economic impact by creating new employment, developing new supply chains and generating new spend in the local area by resort guests,” she said.
“This announcement is excellent news not just for Argyll and Bute, but Scotland as a whole, and is a reflection of Scotland’s combination of outstanding natural assets, skilled people and supportive infrastructure - which attracts visitors and investment from across the world.”
Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) area manager for Argyll and the Islands, Douglas Cowan, said he was delighted that Seasons had been chosen as the preferred bidder.
“Research has shown that the development will have a significant impact on the local economy and across Argyll and the Islands as a whole, both during the construction phase and when fully developed,” he said.
“HIE has worked closely with Scottish Development International and Argyll and Bute Council over several years to promote the area as a key investment opportunity for international resort developers. Through the Destination Dunoon and Cowal Steering Group, HIE and our partners aim to see the Cowal peninsula receive the recognition it deserves.
“Cowal is a place of outstanding natural beauty, and a major resort has the potential to attract many more visitors to the area."
Argyll and Bute Council leader, Councillor Dick Walsh, said the reaction to last week’s announcement had been overwhelmingly positive.
“Our primary concern during this process has been - and will continue to be – to secure the very best outcome for the local community and Argyll and Bute more widely, and to set in motion the most significant economic development in the area for many years,” he added.
“It is very reassuring that so many people understand that by choosing Seasons Holidays as the preferred bidder, we are putting the Cowal peninsula right to the forefront of tourism investment and development in Scotland.
“I am delighted that people are excited by this proposal. There is obviously a long way to go before matters are concluded and work can begin on the ground, but I would like to assure the community that everyone involved will now be working together in a bid to see this development take shape as soon as possible.”
Seasons Holidays chairman Barry Hurley expressed his pleasure in securing Castle Toward, and highlighted the opportunities for both the communities of Cowal and Seasons Holidays.
“We will now endeavour to work closely with the local planning authority, Historic Scotland and all the associated bodies to achieve a deliverable mixed use resort development, whilst retaining the important historical heritage of the site,” he said.
“We are convinced this new development will be a catalyst for the re-emergence of tourism and leisure in this region of Scotland. The benefits in economic terms, new local employment and investment generally will be the most rewarding aspect of this new venture proposal that is seen at all our regional developments throughout the UK.
“A truly exciting opportunity now exists and congratulations to Argyll and Bute Council for seeing the future vision for Castle Toward as we have always seen over the past five years since our first visit to the development. A great deal of thanks also goes to Scottish Development International which has worked extremely closely with my acquisition team, Argyll and Bute Council and council members".