The Let’s Grow Tourism programme is being run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in partnership with Business Tourism Solutions and Lochaber Chamber of Commerce. It offers flexible support designed specifically to develop adventure tourism experiences.
The programme is open to businesses looking to grow, from adrenaline-inducing mountain biking and white-water rafting, to hillwalking, wild camping, foraging and cookery.
It will include a series of specialist workshops with inspiring speakers, one-to-one expert advice and collaboration opportunities with like-minded businesses.
Those taking part will gain insight into emerging local, national and international trends to understand challenges and opportunities for adventure tourism in the Highlands.
They will explore how to use market research to best effect, including in depth analysis into Scotland’s tourism sector and experience economy. Other topics include using online platforms to reach target markets, and the benefits of trade shows.
With more Scots than ever choosing to ‘staycation’ post lockdown and explore all that Scotland has to offer, the demand for authentic, outdoor experiences is growing.
David Oxley, Director of Business Growth at HIE, said:
“We are looking for motivated and enthusiastic businesses of all sizes to register interest. If you are keen to develop professional and personal skills, capabilities and industry connections, this programme is for you.
“We’ll work with businesses to maximise their potential, examining a range of topics including how technology can increase margins and make for better client experience. Delegates will come away with a tailored business development plan to realise their ambitions and boost the adventure tourism sector in Scotland.”
One firm looking to apply is Abacus Mountain Guides in Fort William. The firm was established in 2000 when Mike and Louise Pescod turned their passion into a profession.
Mike said the support offered by Let’s Grow Adventure Tourism would have been ‘incredibly useful’ to them at any point over the past 20 years. He added:
“Even though we are an established business we’re applying as we’re looking to expand into Europe and Norway and offer Scots trekking holidays in these destinations.
“We’re looking for advice on growing our business in this direction and this programme will provide the support we need to do that. There are specific hurdles and challenges associated with package holidays and it will be useful to speak to other businesses who have overcome these.
“Let’s Grow Adventure Tourism is an excellent support tool for any business, be that a newbie or someone who’s been in the game for a long time, looking to take the next step.”
Wild Scotland, the organisation which represents the wildlife, adventure and activity sector in Scotland, has backed the programme.
Douglas McAdam, Wild Scotland Chair, said:
“Help to grow businesses in our sector could not come at a more crucial time. Adventure operators across the Highlands will be given the opportunity and support to really grow their business and turbo charge their efforts to reboot their operations post Coronavirus.
“There are incredible opportunities ahead for our sector and it is imperative that we work quickly and collaboratively to ensure that tourism is rebuilt for the better and is stronger than ever.
“However, with increased demand, comes increased pressure and this highlights the need for measures and standards to ensure adventure and nature-based tourism in Scotland is truly sustainable."
Let’s Grow Adventure Tourism forms part of the Northern Innovation Hub, a project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £11m from the UK Government and £1.7m ERDF support as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. The Deal is a joint £315 million initiative supported by both the UK and Scottish governments.
UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid, said:
“I encourage all adventure tourism businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. It’s vital that our tourism industry bounces back from the pandemic and thrives once again. The UK Government is doing all it can to support jobs and businesses with a £160bn coronavirus support package.
“We are also investing more than £1.5bn in City Region and Growth Deals across Scotland to fund innovative projects that create jobs and secure the future of our economy.”
Business can register interest in the new programme here. The deadline for registrations is Friday 7 August.