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Encouraging visitors to travel off the well-trodden path and to visit out with the standard tourism season was the theme of this year’s Highland Tourism Conference.
Held at The Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness today (Wednesday 27 November) and organised by VisitScotland in partnership with the Highland Council, this year’s event focused on how our tourism industry can collectively manage the success of the Highlands.
This region continues to prove a popular choice for international visitors, building a strong local tourism economy. The conference looked at how this impacts the sustainability of tourism across the Highlands and what delegates can be doing as an industry to future-proof and preserve the beauty and draw of this part of Scotland, ensuring it remains an enchanting destination for Scotland’s visitors for many years to come.
Keynote speaker Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, explained to the more than 150 delegates attending how they were trying to encourage their visitors to travel ‘Beyond the Golden Circle’ (a popular tourist route in Southern Iceland) to create more regional spread and alleviate the associated infrastructure issues which can be created. This has involved encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation within tourism businesses to seize opportunities and create quality, sustainable, authentic experiences for visitors.He said:
“I am honoured to be invited to share the Icelandic experience at the Highland Tourism Conference this year. Icelandic tourism has borrowed both practices and ideas from Scotland over the last few years and I am happy to be able to give a little back. The sharing of knowledge between our two countries is important and I hope my input can be of some value to for the tourism businesses in the Highlands.”
Other speakers at today’s event included Laura Hamlet of the Wester Ross Biosphere, talking about Sustainable Heritage Areas: Partnerships for Ecotourism and Clea Warner and Kevin Frediani from NTS, spoke to delegates about Growing People and Places at Inverewe.
Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing at VisitScotland, spoke about Marketing the Highlands and the latest global campaign to make our country the destination of choice for visitors across the world through highlighting the unique experiences we have on offer that can be found Only in Scotland.Marc Crothall, CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, spoke aboutOur Vision and Mission for the Future Beyond 2020.
The conference included workshops for delegates on themes including sustainability and managing your online reputation; as well as an open panel discussion about managing success in the Highlands, during which they could ask questions of the speakers and the day was focused on the delivery of practical and thought-provoking sessions, content and workshops.Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said:
“We recognise that tourism has grown rapidly in the Highlands and has to be managed carefully and sustainably to maintain its position as a must-see, must-return destination. As has been discussed and explored today, we are optimistic about the future and are ambitious for tourism in the Highlands. There are huge opportunities ahead of us to create a sustainable industry that spreads the benefits of tourism right across the Highlands and right through the year.
“This region has a global reputation and we need to ensure that every visitor has a quality experience when they visit. This relies on continues investment and innovation from the industry to consistently exceed expectations.”Stuart Black, Director of Development & Infrastructure at the Highland Council, said
“2019 looks to have been another successful year but we need to build on this momentum. Therefore the focus of this year’s event is on ‘managing success’ as it’s important that we continue to provide the high quality experience that the Highlands is world famous for.”
Conference delegates hear about managing tourism success