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An ambitious three-year project to grow the tourism sector in Argyll and the Islands by at least £16 million over three years has secured support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The proposals by Argyll and the Islands Tourism Co-operative (AITC) will focus on adventure tourism, events and festivals, and food and drink.
AITC brings together the area’s destination marketing organisations. It was formed in 2012 as a co-operative of members and now represents around 1,200 tourism interests.
Earlier this year AITC secured a three-year funding package from Argyll and Bute Council and annual funding from CalMac.
With this funding it will provide strategic leadership across the sector, support development of new products and services, and increase sector capacity and capability.
HIE has approved funding of up to £240,000 over the three-year period. The money will cover development costs with targets and outputs defined by HIE.
This funding follows a three-year investment from Argyll and Bute Council which combines with member subs to cover core funding and marketing, with additional support provided by the partners on the Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership Group.
In 2015, tourism in Argyll employed around 6,500 people. The sector plays a vital role in the economic sustainability and viability of many rural communities, and significant investments by entrepreneurs and companies have created employment.
In addition to working with AITC, the HIE team in Argyll and the Islands works with more than a dozen tourism clients, who deliver growth in the sector and make a significant contribution to the economy.
Jennifer Nicoll, HIE’s area manager for Argyll and the Islands, said: ‘This ambitious project outlines plans to grow the tourism sector across Argyll and Bute – something that will ultimately lead to new jobs, increased turnover and more international trade.
‘These aspirations are aligned with our aims to support the sector’s continued growth, thereby supporting business and the rural economy and improving wider community resilience.
‘I welcome the plans and look forward to supporting their implementation.’
AITC chairman Gavin Dick said the HIE funding was a
further ‘vote of confidence’ in the work of AITC over the past five years.
‘We are delighted that HIE has continued to support our work to promote Argyll and the Isles as one of Scotland’s top tourist destinations,’ he added.
‘An independent assessment of tourism growth in the region and AITC’s performance from 2011-2016 concluded that the region has been comprehensively outperforming Scotland as a whole and, while this is by no means down to the activity of AITC alone, it clearly demonstrates that the combined efforts of everyone involved in the industry is having an impact.
‘Recent research by VisitScotland shows the tourism industry in Argyll and Bute accounts for 17 per cent of employment opportunities – almost double the national average. It is a vital part of our economy. This funding means we can continue to promote our message, both at home and further afield and develop the experiences waiting for visitors to Scotland’s Adventure Coast.
‘We have been developing plans with HIE, and now this funding has been approved we can get on with ensuring we deliver the maximum possible return for visitors who come to the region and the businesses and destination marketing organisations we represent.’
The funding award from HIE follows the assessment and review of the Argyll adventure tourism offer undertaken with long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont in 2016 as part of the Wild About Argyll adventure and film project.
A copy of the assessment and recommendations can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org