The event was brought to the Highlands and Islands for the first time and was held at The Moorings Hotel.
Organised by Sail Scotland, the national sailing tourism marketing organisation, it was supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Caledonian MacBrayne.
The conference provided a unique opportunity to bring the sector together to encourage new ideas, partnerships and increased collaboration.
A formal twinning agreement between Sail Scotland and The Swedish Guest Harbour’s Association was announced at the conference.
Double Olympic Gold Medallist, Shirley Robertson OBE was also announced on the day as Sail Scotland's inaugural Honorary Ambassador.
Director of the Swedish Guest Harbours Association, Fredrik Barthold, joined 10 members of the association and gave an international perspective of developing a destination approach to marine tourism in rural Sweden.
Professor Lorne Crerar, Chair of HIE, also spoke at the event. He said: “We are delighted to hold the conference in the Highlands and Islands. The region offers tourists a diverse mix of marine tourism experiences and is home to some of the most interesting and challenging sailing waters in Scotland and is already gaining recognition internationally as a world class sailing and marine tourism destination.
“Many remote and rural communities are developing first class marina facilities which are proving to be increasingly attractive to the global sailing community. As more visitors come, more jobs are being created, new businesses are emerging in this vibrant and growing part of the tourism sector in Scotland.
“The conference will bring the industry together from across Scotland to discuss how we work with each other to grow the sector and take advantage of the opportunities presented by Scotland’s Year of Coast and Water 2020.”
Sail Scotland’s Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Steel, added: “We have developed and grown Scotland’s Marine Tourism Conference, now in its third year, to directly support of the National Marine Tourism Strategy. We have witnessed incredible demand, with the event sold out ten days in advance. With over 100 delegates from across Scotland, and a delegation from Sweden, it has grown into a key annual event as part of Scottish Tourism Month.”
“We had a really interesting full-day programme, with a range of speakers to inspire and challenge delegates to collaborate, innovate, and ensure that we work together to make the most of the opportunities ahead as we plan for Scotland’s Year of Coast and Water 2020.”
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The conference is one of many tourism conferences taking place the length and breadth of Scotland as part of the very first Scottish Tourism Month and I was delighted to hear that the event has been a sell-out, a reflection of the widely recognised opportunity to grow tourism in this hugely important sector.
“Since the launch of the Marine Tourism Strategy, the sector has enjoyed a healthy growth thanks to the dedication and commitment of marine tourism businesses, our destinations and also the funding and investment from organisations such as HIE, SDI and VisitScotland.
“This is an important year for our marine and coastal tourism industry and I would encourage all members of the tourism industry to become engaged in the National Marine Tourism Strategy – ‘Awakening the Giant’ and of the national Tourism Strategy. Tourism is everyone’s business and we all have a part to play in growing the Scottish tourism industry today and in the future."
Sail Scotland collaborative work with West Highland College UHI saw students from their Marine and Coastal Tourism Degree course help in delivering the conference, creating direct links between education and industry and supporting Scotland’s Year of Young People 2020.
A recent report revealed that Scotland’s sailing tourism supports 2,700 jobs and has an economic value of £130 million, a growth of 28 per cent between 2010 and 2016. The Sailing Tourism in Scotland report, produced by the Crown Estate, HIE and Scottish Canals, identified the potential for this to grow to £167 million over the next seven years.
Support from HIE and other partners including VisitScotland and Scottish Canals, allows Sail Scotland’s marketing campaign to support the achievement of the national strategy’s ambition to grow the value of marine tourism to £450m by 2020.
Photo Caption L-R is:
Daniel Steel, Chief Executive Officer, Sail Scotland
Lorne Crerar, Chair, Highlands & Islands Enterprise
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Shirley Robertson OBE, Double Olympic Gold Medallist
Gavin McDonagh, Chairman, Sail Scotland