TV & TikTok star proves his worth at Argyll & the Isles tourism summit focused on growth and sustainability

Left to Right: The Hebridean Baker, Cathy Craig and David Adams McGilp

A REFRESHED strategy to boost sustainable tourism was unveiled alongside a new destination website at this year’s Argyll & the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership Summit. Over 100 representatives for Argyll’s tourism businesses from across the destination attended the event in Dunoon, where they heard from TV and social media sensation The Hebridean Baker, who shared his secrets to his success and how this has helped to support his island economy. 

Jointly hosted by the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative, Argyll and Bute Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland (who together form The Argyll & Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership), the Summit set out to inform and inspire tourism business owners, bring them together to foster networking and explore the role everyone plays in driving a sustainable post-pandemic recovery of the region’s tourism economy. 

Welcoming delegates to the event, Cathy Craig, CEO of the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC) said: “While undoubtedly our tourism businesses are facing significant challenges in the current climate, we also recognise how well our destination is placed to leverage the current visitor demand for authentic, sustainable and quality experiences. 

“With its stunning natural heritage, extensive coastline, magical islands and abundant fauna and flora – to mention just some of our region’s attributes – Argyll and the Isles is deservedly one of Scotland’s leading tourism destinations. And its vibrant tourism industry is making huge strides to lead the way in sustainable tourism excellence.” 

Developed by The Argyll & Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership, the area’s refreshed Visitor Economy Recovery and Growth Strategy reflects local tourism challenges and opportunities and how the destination could play a key role in national tourism ambitions. It also outlines partners’ commitment to, and their investment in, the region.

Speaking at the Summit, David Adams McGilp, Regional Director, Industry & Destination Development for VisitScotland said: “I’m really pleased to meet with colleagues from across the region in person once again. Tourism is worth around £95 million annually to the Argyll and Isles economy, bringing jobs and investment that make a significant contribution to the wider impact of tourism in Scotland. The focus of our refreshed Strategy for Argyll and the Isles is supporting the post-pandemic recovery of tourism which aligns with the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030.”

Fergus Murray, Head of Economic Development at Argyll and Bute Council added: “Tourism is vital to our local economy and we are fully behind the post-pandemic recovery strategy. It’s been fantastic to see so much passion and enthusiasm among business leaders at the Summit today.”

Other topics explored at the event included how the University of the Highlands and Islands is adapting to meet the skill needs of local Argyll based businesses, how green practices can drive greater business efficiencies, and the important role innovation can play in supporting a sustainable tourism economy.

Morag Goodfellow, Area Manager for Argyll and the Islands with Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: “Innovation means making changes that will improve efficiencies with digital innovation particularly transformative for the tourism sector.”

Championing the finest local produce was also a key theme of the Summit, with lunch provided by Dunoon’s Blairmore Cafe and a keynote speech by The Hebridean Baker Coinneach MacLeod. One of Scotland’s best-selling cookbook authors, Coinneach shared insights on how his baking obsession infused with Hebridean culture engaged global audiences and transformed his life while providing a boost to Hebridean tourism. Over 25 million people across the world have now watched his videos online.

Coinneach, who revealed that he is moving to a croft in Oban very soon, talked about the importance of delegates finding the right authentic tone of voice. He said: “We’ve got to create a storyline that creates an atmosphere and a feeling that people are going to experience something very different if they visit us in Argyll or the Islands than they would elsewhere.” 

Highlighting the significance of partnerships to his success he said: “You must be proactive. You have to reach out and find out who could be good to collaborate with. Who shares your storyline? Who gets mutual benefit from what you’re doing? Those types of collaborations are the ones who will help you build your storyline.”

Emma Clark AITC Vice Chair, official Argyll & the Isles Food & Drink Ambassador and owner of Glenegedale Guesthouse on Islay added: “Food tourism is a powerful tool that can aid recovery and drive our economy forward. We produce and supply some of the very best food and drink right here in Argyll and the Isles. So now is the perfect time for everyone in the region to work together to responsibly promote our sensational local produce, our unique land and waters, tantalising food trails, world class distilleries and a vast amount of award-winning eateries to suit all tastes.”

Other speakers at the event included: Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative Chair Iain Jurgensen, Alison McRae Chair of the Argyll & Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership, Brendon Wallace from the Dunoon Project Ltd, and Marc Crothall CEO Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Speaking about her experience of the day attendee Sarah Drummond, representing Kilmartin Museum said: “I found it invaluable. It was hugely positive from a business engagement perspective. I met a number of local businesses we hope to collaborate with. It also served up speakers from a wide range of backgrounds who were able to speak to the full spectrum of challenges facing the tourism industry Scotland today, as well as the ways we can individually and collectively work to mitigate them.”

Fiona McLean, General Manager of The Pierhouse on the shore of Loch Linnhe added: “After a tumultuous few years for our industry, it was fantastic to get together with our colleagues to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Argyll and Bute is a stunning part of the country, offering visitors world-class tourism experiences, and we are so proud to be part of it. Thank you as ever to AITC for an inspiring programme of speakers and great content.”

The Summit was free to direct members of the Argyll and Isles Tourism Cooperative, but open to all tourism businesses and suppliers in the Argyll & Bute local authority region. Calmac provided free ferry travel to island-based businesses.

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