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Tourism summit seeks to boost visitor numbers to Argyll

A landmark tourism summit was held today bringing together key figures in the sector to explore ways of boosting visitors to the West Coast.
The meeting, held at Inveraray, examined how collaboration enables visitor attractions to pool their resources and promote Argyll as a region to increase footfall.

The event was hosted by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) with attendees from such organisations as the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) as well as the local chamber of commerce.

Promoting tourism in remote regions can be a logistical challenge as different businesses and organisations often market their attractions in competition with one another.

Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance was set up as a consortium co-operative business in 2010 to encourage a collective approach.

The open membership allows contributions from businesses across the remote area to network with each other, support the Alliance and showcase what visitors can expect from the region.

For example Argyll is home to such attractions as Dunadd Fort, where Scotland’s ancient kings were crowned, and the Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale, which was featured on BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch.

Carron Tobin, founder member of the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, explained to the summit how the collective approach works.

She said: “The consortium business model is one that is very relevant to tourism businesses in the region. Some of us have tried to market the area individually, but we’re just one lone voice in a very crowded marketplace.

“The idea is to showcase the collective destinations of the Mid-Argyll area to boost overall visitor numbers. So an hotelier on the Crinan Canal or the manager of a historic site such as Kilmartin House Museum can reach a bigger audience through a shared collective voice and brand.

“We are then in turn working with the umbrella Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative which is taking a strategic approach to marketing this beautiful region and helping us to work effectively with our neighbours like Kintyre, Cowal and Oban.”

Sarah Deas, chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, said: “HOATA shows how effective a collective approach can be. We believe this offers a way forward for the tourism sector in other parts of Scotland. Our event today has proved a valuable strategic exercise.”

David Adams-McGilp, VisitScotland regional director, said: “Scotland is in a strong position as a holiday destination but there’s no room for complacency and we need to ensure we continue to work hard and work together to make Scotland a must visit destination.

“2013 marks the Year of Natural Scotland, this is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase and enhance Scotland’s reputation as a place of outstanding beauty. The Highlands is ideally placed to capitalise on this and therefore going forward we must ensure collaboration is at the core of all our activity.”

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