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Local communities aim to be leaders in Scottish tourism

Published: 06/11/2020

Community leaders build network to shape the future of tourism

Sixteen community group representatives from Shetland to Galloway will be expanding their horizons digitally this weekend as they look at the future of Scottish tourism.

The group is taking part in Communities Leading in Tourism, a specialist programme offered by partners Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), and delivered on the ground by the Social Enterprise Academy (SEA).

The programme is giving the participants in-depth insights into the wider tourism sector, the impacts of COVID-19 and the role communities themselves can have on supporting local recovery.

The fully online course provides local and national tourism insights. SEA Highlands and Islands Hub manager, David Bryan, said: “So far we’ve had inputs from community tourism leaders in Canada, Indonesia and Italy. This weekend we have a virtual residential, looking at Callander, Scotland’s first social enterprise town and a gateway to our first National Park. We can’t travel there, but we’ve recorded short video-tours of tourism social enterprises in the town, and we’ll have live discussions with leaders from these facilities throughout the day.”

“The next month includes live discussion with community tourism leaders in South America, South Africa and Wales before the learners finalise their plans for tourism in their own communities.”

One of the programme participants is Stephanie Cope, project manager of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse visitor centre. The working lighthouse sits at the UK’s most westerly mainland point, and for the last 20 years the community has managed holiday accommodation, a visitor centre and cafe in the surrounding buildings. They’ve now bought the complex through community asset transfer.

Stephanie said: “As new community landlords, the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust identified this programme as an ideal opportunity to engage with discourse on community-led tourism.

“It has been both inspiring and energising to learn about the benefit that placing communities in the driving seat brings, in respect of delivering improved outcomes for local people alongside a more authentic and fulfilling experience for our guests."

Well-known local downhill cyclist Emma Guy, who is project co-ordinator for the Tweed Valley BID, is also on the programme. She commented: 'I got involved in the Tourism programme to expand my knowledge and to learn from the experiences of other people working in tourism in Scotland.

“I've made some good connections already as there's a wide variety of people from all over Scotland. It's been so insightful to learn from them and share experiences. The course content is excellent and it's definitely inspiring me to look at things differently in my own community and understand what could be possible in the future.”

Lindsay Simpson of HIE, said: “As our communities continue to fight the impacts of the pandemic, this programme, delivered entirely online, has given local people new expertise in tourism and leadership skills. This is the second of two cohorts of the programme we’re running, and the aim is to create a long term network of forward-thinking community tourism leaders across rural Scotland who can support each other.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, Chair of SOSE, explained: “In the South of Scotland we have a community promise called ‘Twinned with Tourism’ which confirms how much we recognise that communities and tourism go hand in hand.  We are extremely proud of the Communities Leading in Tourism programme which is designed to help equip community organisations obtain vital knowledge and leadership skills to help the tourism industry recover and thrive into the future.  It’s an excellent programme with fantastic feedback and we would encourage anyone with an interest in the next cohort to apply. ”

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