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Online Programme Puts Community Leaders At Heart Of Destination Development

24th September 2021

Community representatives from across Scotland are taking part in an online programme to help shape the future of local tourism destination management.

The three-month online Communities Leading in Tourism course, which starts on Tuesday 28 September 2021, is designed to boost tourism sector expertise and destination leadership skills.

More than 20 participants are signed up. They are involved with development trusts and community organisations from across Scotland - from Shetland in the Highlands and Islands, to Langholm in the South of Scotland. All are keen to support local social and economic recovery in response to COVID-19, and to develop and deliver sustainable facilities, events and attractions that benefit communities and visitors.

The Communities Leading in Tourism course is part of the Scottish Tourism Leadership Programme. Its aim is to bring the community and tourism sector together to maximise local tourism opportunities. It's delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy on behalf of the Scottish Government, HIE (which is the lead agency for the course), South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

Steven Dott, HIE's senior development manager for tourism, commented: "Participants work with tourism industry professionals to explore destination management, and to look at how they can shape opportunities for local communities and visitors. This is the fourth cohort of our programme, and current and previous participants help each other through a Scotland wide Communities Leading in Tourism network."

Nessie Gearing works with Gairloch and Loch Ewe (GALE) Action Forum, a community owned, charitable, development trust and social enterprise which delivers key local services including running a community hub which houses a community cafe, gift shop and tourist information service.

Her role is to deliver the tourist information and retail services, maximising the local benefit from tourism and encouraging visitors to slow down and get the most out of their visit.

She commented: "GALE provides the only tourist information centre in the area and has done so for the last 18 years. Over 100 local businesses use the centre to promote their services and on a normal, non-Covid year around 30,000 visitors come through the door. Tourism is a huge part of our economy and through my role I want to spread the benefits across more local businesses and into more parts of our community, encouraging a better distribution of visitors and spend throughout our community.

“This programme is coming at the perfect time. As an organisation we want to own, manage and control more tourism opportunities locally, building local wealth and re-investing this into living standards, community services and infrastructure for a better more sustainable future."

Lara Porter is the new Operational Development Manager for the Upper Eskdale Development Group, which transformed the Old Primary School in Eskdalemuir into a community hub. It provides a cafe bistro, gallery, community shop, therapy and consultation rooms and accessible playground.

She commented: “The timing of this course could not be better. We want to develop a long-term strategy for the hub which offers the best benefits for locals and visitors. I’m really looking forward to exploring various aspects of destination tourism with the specialist course leaders and other participants.”

Sarah Russell is Development Manager with community interest company Giraffe. The enterprise’s cafe and professional kitchen in Perth delivers great food and offers opportunities for those facing barriers in Perth and Kinross to gain work experience, independence and confidence through a programme of supported activities.

She commented: “This is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow not only for the organisation, but also for the local community. I am hugely passionate about inspiring current and future generations to be proud of our area. Whether it’s highlighting opportunities for young people and communities, encouraging visitors to spend more time in the area or helping to bring together businesses - tourism offers a wide range of chances to invest and grow employment, business and community.”

Applications for the next cohort, starting in January will open in October.


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