Visit Inverness Loch Ness hosts Richard Lochhead MSP

Left to Right: Richard Lochhead and Michael Golding

VISIT Inverness Loch Ness (VILN), the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) for Inverness and Loch Ness, was delighted to host the newly appointed Minister for Small Business Innovation and Trade with a responsibility for tourism, Richard Lochhead MSP. The visit included a meeting with Chief Executive Michael Golding, and also a tourism business leaders roundtable event at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, April 5th.

The roundtable event brought together experienced tourism leaders from the region from a variety of sectors including accommodation, tourism attractions, hospitality, golf and adventure tourism.

Represented at the business roundtable event were Marina Huggett from Achnagairn Estate; Freda Newton from Loch Ness by Jacobite; Jane Slaughter from Pinewood Steading; Stuart McColm from Cabot Highland; Tony Story from the Kingsmills Hotel; Gail Cleaver from the National Trust for Scotland (Culloden Battlefield); Mike Dunthorne from In Your Element; David Shayer from Aye Stay; Anna Low from Foyers Lodge; Willie Cameron from Cobbs Group; with Michael Golding from Visit Inverness Loch Ness chairing the event.

The visit came as it was confirmed that the Minister would be taking over responsibility for co-chairing the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group (ILG) from Ivan McKee MSP and former Tourism Minister. This group, set up to champion Scotland’s ambition to be a world leader in 21st century tourism, is also co-chaired by Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc Crothall.

Speaking about the event, Michael Golding, CEO of VILN, said: “We all know how important tourism is to Inverness and Loch Ness and we were delighted to bring together business leaders from a cross section of the industry to discuss the challenges and opportunities we are facing now. For the newly appointed Minister to choose Inverness and Loch Ness for his first tourism meeting in this role speaks volumes about our region’s contribution to Scotland’s tourism economy as a whole.

“There is no substitute for speaking directly to those running a business in tourism to really understand their priorities and, crucially, how the Scottish Government can help. I know that both our members and the Minister found this meeting extremely valuable.”

Among the themes that emerged were:

  • short term let licensing
  • local visitor levy
  • changes in rateable values
  • staffing challenges
  • housing and planning
  • proposed alcohol advertising ban
  • rising cost of operating a business
  • A9 dualling
  • airport development
  • inflation
  • rising energy costs
  • Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund

Commenting on the roundtable event, Small Business Minister Richard Lochhead added: “It was great to visit Inverness to meet local business leaders and hear first-hand about the opportunities for the sector as we strive to become a world leader in 21st century tourism.

“Our discussion touched on many of the challenges currently facing the sector but also highlighted the dedication, quality and excellence of businesses operating in Inverness and the wider region. The tourism and hospitality sector plays a crucial role in our everyday lives and contributes to a wellbeing economy by creating jobs and sustaining communities.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the sector to ensure that we deliver on the aims of our national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, and the wider aims of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.”

One of the business leaders in attendance, Freda Newton, Managing Director of Loch Ness by Jacobite, added: “Tourism businesses are facing a lot of challenges at the moment, and I welcomed the opportunity to share our experience with the Minister. At Loch Ness by Jacobite, we are looking forward to what we hope will be a busy season for our cruises and we have also made significant investment in other areas of the business such as An Talla to give people a reason to visit all year round.

“However, new legislation such as the Deposit Return Scheme, combined with inflation and the rising costs of doing business means that everything is being squeezed when many tourism businesses are still recovering from the pandemic. Ultimately, we all want the same thing which is to promote Scotland and in doing so grow the economy and create employment opportunities. I hope that the Minister takes our feedback onboard and that his door remains open.”

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