Bold new tourism strategies launched at Scotland’s Marine Tourism Conference

Thu 12 Mar 20

Sail Scotland’s Marine Tourism Conference took place in West Kilbride yesterday as part of Scottish Tourism Month, providing a high-profile launch pad for ambitious national strategies and key industry announcements during the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

In a first for Sail Scotland, the marketing body for Scottish marine tourism, their annual signature conference event was the chosen platform for announcements from the Scottish Government, the National Tourism Strategy Steering Group and from North Ayrshire Council.

Now in its fifth year, the conference offers those working within the sector an unmissable opportunity for industry learning and collaboration, promoting the development of new partnerships. Yesterday’s conference, entitled ‘Sea to Shore and Shore to Sea’, was held in the Waterside Hotel, overlooking the Firth of Clyde, and was sponsored by North Ayrshire Council.

The conference opened with an address from Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who launched an ambitious new five year marine tourism plan for Scotland, ‘Giant Strides’. This will build on the previous strategy and aims to boost Scotland’s reputation as a world-class sustainable marine tourism destination and increase the industry’s economic contribution to over £500million by 2025.

The strategy was developed in consultation with broad range of individuals and industry leaders and Ms Hyslop praised and encouraged the continued collaborative working within the sector.

She went on to highlight the new national tourism strategy, ‘Scotland Outlook 2030’, before announcing continued Scottish Government support for North Ayrshire Council’s ‘Making Waves’ tourism action plan.

Conference delegates later heard from James Stuart of the National Tourism Industry Leadership Group, as he outlined the ‘Giant Strides’ strategy. This was followed by an open floor discussion with support from speakers Mark Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Karen Yeomans from North Ayrshire Council, Catherine Topley from Scottish Canals and Gordon Watson from Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Catherine Topley, Chief Executive at Scottish Canals, said: “Following the success of Awakening the Giant, we’re confident that the next five year strategy will support a sustainable future for the marine tourism industry and we look forward to working with partners across the country to drive benefits for businesses and communities over the coming years.”

The second high-profile presentation of the conference came from Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) and Chair of the National Tourism Strategy Steering Group. Mr Crothall shared an update on the new National Tourism Strategy, ‘Scotland Outlook 2030’ and outlined STA support for the ‘Giant Strides’ strategy.

He said: “This new strategy, a welcomed evolution of Awakening the Giant, is very well aligned to the priority areas and aims of Scotland’s recently announced future wider tourism strategy, ‘Scotland Outlook 2030’ which is built around four cornerstones – Our Passionate People, Our Memorable Experiences, Our Thriving Places and Our Diverse Businesses.

“The marine tourism sector through Giant Strides and together with others play a significant in helping us achieve the overarching national vision as outlined in Scotland Outlook 2030 which is for Scotland to become acknowledged as The World leader in 21st Century tourism over the coming decade, by delivering responsible tourism for a sustainable future.”

North Ayrshire was the focus of the third announcement of the conference. Councillor Alex Gallagher and George Hunter, Senior Manager Tourism & Coastal Economy, both of North Ayrshire Council, revealed plans for a new summer festival, supported by Ayrshire’s Growth Deal and celebrating Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Irvine will host the new two-day ‘Making Waves Festival’, which will include activity and entertainment on and off the water. The initiative complements the range of marine tourism activities being led by the council as part of the North Ayrshire industry-led Tourism Action Plan ‘Making Waves’, which also supports key destination development projects.

Councillor Alex Gallagher of North Ayrshire Council said: “North Ayrshire Council was delighted to sponsor the Sail Scotland Conference. The council recognises the important role the marine sector plays in the Scottish and North Ayrshire economy. With our exciting Ayrshire Growth Deal marine tourism projects and outstanding coastal assets, the council is committed to maximising the opportunities that they represent. The Year of Coasts and Waters is a time to celebrate our beautiful coast and islands through new initiatives, events and festivals and we are delighted to be part of that.”

The ‘Sea to Shore and Shore to Sea’ overarching theme was highlighted throughout the conference, with Sail Scotland’s Chief Executive Alan Rankin emphasising the marketing body’s focus on collaboration with destinations along Scotland’s coasts and canals. Furthering this theme, speaker Annabel Lawrence, Maritime Studies MLitt of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) West Highland College, gave insight into the UHI’s unique Marine and Coastal Tourism BA (Hons) programme. This focuses on the many uses of the marine resource and how tourism interacts with these.

Also demonstrated throughout the event was a commitment to considered, sustainable marine tourism development, with both the ‘Giant Strides’ and the ‘Scotland Outlook 2030’ strategies aiming to deliver environmental benefits for Scotland’s coastal and canalside communities.

Delegates were further inspired to encourage the boating community to play a role in protecting our coastal and maritime environments in a presentation from Shane Wasik of Basking Shark Scotland. The Oban-based wildlife tour operator was shocked at the condition of beaches in otherwise beautiful and remote settings and explained how he has been organising beach cleans in these challenging locations.

The successful event also marked the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, with speakers from several celebratory events. From West Coats Waters’ collaboration of 22 destinations and operators to the Fife Regatta showcasing these beautiful, classic yachts in their Clyde birthplace and the light and sound spectacular of ‘Rivers of Light’ at Scotland’s Boat Show 2020, the marine tourism sector is on course to promote and encourage visitors to Scotland’s stunning coasts and waters.

Sail Scotland’s own multi-media #MustSeaScotland campaign was also showcased at the conference, with delegates invited to try state-of-the-art 360 degree virtual reality videos. These offered immersive on-the-water virtual voyages to eight of Scotland’s must-visit coastal and marine locations. The innovative campaign targets key demographics and

regions, including the English market, inspiring visits to Scotland’s extraordinary islands, coastal destinations and canals.

Gavin McDonagh, Chair of Sail Scotland, said: “We were delighted that our signature Marine Tourism Conference was chosen as the platform for these key industry announcements and national strategy launches.

“It was fantastic to see the whole industry come together at yesterday’s event, with delegates inspired, challenged and encouraged to continue key collaborative working. Scotland’s extensive coastlines, breathtaking scenery, rich maritime heritage and unique coastal communities are at the heart of our marine tourism and we are excited to see continued sustainable growth, delivering real economic and environmental benefits.”

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