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AITC official news stories
 AITC statement on 2017 Mull Rally
Added: 07 Jun 2017
Chair of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) Gavin Dick expressed his sadness at the news from Mull Rally Club saying: “This is a huge loss to rally fans across the country who regard Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally as one of the best. Last year 150 crews travelled to Mull to compete in some of the finest stages in this exciting three day event. It is, without question, a huge blow to Mull with the potential loss of £1M to its economy. However, we fully support the work of the Mull Rally team to stage an alternative motorsport event over the three days, and will help the committee to promote it in any way we can."
 
Tourism body welcomes new directorTourism body welcomes new director
Added: 30 May 2017
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) today welcomed new director Andy Roger to its Board.

Andy who is the Resort Director of Cameron House Loch Lomond brings with him a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry. He also has first hand experience of the challenges and opportunities facing tourism across Scotland.

In addition to being in charge of the five star, 136 bedroom destination, which includes the Carrick Spa and 18 hole championship golf course, Andy has also recently been appointed as Chair of the Love Loch Lomond Board.

AITC Chair Gavin Dick welcomed Andy to the board saying: “I’m delighted Andy has agreed to join us as a co-opted director. Andy brings with him a great understanding of the national and international tourism market. We are looking forward to even greater collaborations in the region bringing further benefits for the businesses and visitors alike."

Andy said: “I have watched the development of AITC with real interest and seen the increase in brand awareness of Argyll and the Isles. I’m thrilled to be joining the board and look forward to contributing to tourism growth through product development, collaborations, leadership and skills.”

AITC is looking forward to a very busy summer. The online Wild About Argyll films from local groups as well as AITC are really grabbing the imagination and encouraging even more people to head west and experience what Scotland’s Adventure Coast has to offer.
 
CowalFest returns in OctoberCowalFest returns in October
Added: 29 May 2017
This year’s Walking and Outdoor Festival will be held from Friday 6th October to Sunday 15th October 2017 inclusive.

It will feature more than thirty walks graded from gentle strolls to challenging day trails. Walks are facilitated by knowledgeable volunteers and take place amid the stunning scenery of this often-overlooked area of Scotland.

If your interests extend to wildlife or photography, then the Cowal Peninsula affords golden opportunities to follow these with the help of enthusiastic local guides.

Families are catered for and evening events will be of interest if staying over for a few days in this beautiful part of Scotland. Cultural and heritage events, such as ceilidhs, will also be on offer.

A special feature this year will be walks, talks and entertainment celebrating the world-famous entertainer, Harry Lauder and his connections with Cowal. Please see our full programme which will be out by late June 2017.
 
Princess Anne gets Wild About ArgyllPrincess Anne gets Wild About Argyll
Added: 24 May 2017
HRH Princess Anne got Wild About Argyll on a visit to Portavadie today (23 May) where she spent over an hour and a half enjoying its famous scenery and hospitality.

During her stay she was shown round the state of the art facilities – including the new Spa and Leisure Experience – and unveiled a plaque in the Café to commemorate her visit before enjoying a light lunch of local Argyll produce.

Portavadie has rapidly established itself not just as one of Scotland’s best marinas, but also as one of the country’s top visitor destinations with unrivalled scenery, accommodation, restaurants and spa and leisure facilities.

Guests were enjoying what it has to offer this morning, as they have been throughout the year, unaware that a Royal guest was about to arrive. Many were delighted to have a brief chat with The Princess Royal as she was shown around by Portavadie staff. She also met some of the people who – in the space of just 10 years – have helped transform the site from a disused and abandoned dry dock into a world class destination.
Portavadie’s first phase – its 230-berth, state of the art marina – only opened in 2007.

Since then the owners have added:
· The Facilities Building – which includes luxury shower facilities, drying room, restaurant, bar and reception area (2009)

· The first of its Luxury Apartments, along with a shop and a chandlery (2010)

· The Lodge and Studio Apartments, along with expanding leisure activities for guests so as to offer beauty and wellbeing treatments (2011)

· Phase Two of Luxury Apartments (2012/13)

· The award-winning Spa and Leisure Experience, which includes an indoor pool, outdoor infinity pool, spa pools, café/deli, gym and events spaces. (2015)

All are positioned and designed to take maximum advantage of Portavadie’s stunning location, with spectacular views across Loch Fyne and beyond from virtually every corner.

Today the sun came out as The Princess Royal – herself a keen sailor – was shown around the boardwalk and marina areas and admired some of the many yachts and other vessels taking advantage of one of the most sheltered havens on the West Coast.

Portavadie General Manager Iain Jurgensen said the Royal visit was a highlight of what has been an exciting few years.

“It was wonderful to welcome The Princess Royal to this beautiful spot and to show her around our facilities,” he added.

“So many people have worked so hard to cement Portvadie’s place as one of Scotland’s best and most popular visitor magnets – whether for yachtsmen, day trippers or people looking to get away from it all in our top class accommodation.
“It’s very rewarding for them to be able to show such a high profile guest the results of all their efforts, and The Princess Royal seemed to be impressed with what she saw.

“Her visit will give us renewed energy as we continue to look for ways in which to improve what we offer our guests and make maximum use of the beauty and tranquillity of this unique location.”

The Princess also heard why investment in infrastructure in the area is important to support team members to choose to live and work in the area’s tourism sectors.

Iain continued: “The career pathways on offer at Portavadie may well become our most important legacy, affecting generations of young people and offering them rewarding careers in the hospitality industry. The economic impact of Portavadie is significant and there is a considerable need and demand for aspirational, affordable housing, which will enable team members to put down roots and support the fragile local economy.”

Portavadie is just two hours from Glasgow by road, and can also be reached by a short but spectacular 25 minute ferry trip from Tarbert, Loch Fyne.
For more information on Portavadie visit www.portavadie.com or email info@portavadie.com
 
Cowal unites for first local tourism summitCowal unites for first local tourism summit
Added: 16 May 2017
Businesses and organisations from across Cowal headed to Dunoon today (Tuesday 16 May) to hear about the future of tourism at the first local summit organised by Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC).

Held in Dunoon’s newly refurbished Burgh Hall, the summit brought together speakers from across Cowal and wider Argyll to outline the preparation of a local destination strategy and action plan.

These documents will form the foundation of how tourism looks, and is delivered in Cowal, affecting every tourism business in the area.

Organised by AITC Freelance Development Agent for Cowal Helen Dick and hosted by AITC Director Iain Jurgensen, this was an event about developing collaborative marketing opportunities between businesses and tourism’s destination marketing organisations, and bringing them together.

Representing the local view, and the changing face of Dunoon were:

Ann Campbell, Project Manager of Dunoon Burgh Hall – the Burgh Hall is Dunoon’s culture and events hub, which has been undergoing major refurbishment and will reopening to the public soon.

John Gordon, Argyll and Bute Council’s CHORD Programme Manager discussed the Dunoon Regeneration Projects.

Marily Rieley, Argyll and Bute Council’s Bute and Cowal Development Officer on the findings of the recent Think Dunoon Charrette and

Colin Moulson BID Manager – Dunoon Presents who’s events programme has brought significant footfall, and spend into the town as well raising Dunoon’s profile as a mountain biking destination.

To put this into a national perspective VisitScotland’s David Adams McGilp Regional Director and Donald Hoy Industry Relationship Manager gave an update on VisitScotland’s programme to promote Argyll and the Isles and how Cowal benefits from this publicity.

Delegates then heard from summit hosts, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative. AITC’s Development Manager Carron Tobin spoke about the year-long Wild About Argyll campaign, launched at Glasgow’s Oran Mor at the end of January and featuring ultra adventurer Mark Beaumont.

AITC Director and Portavadie, Loch Fyne’s General Manager Iain Jurgensen spoke about The Skills Agenda. Portavadie is passionate about creating real careers in the hospitality industry and promoting home grown talent. The Loch Fyne destination is actively involved with schools and further education establishments to help young people into hospitality careers.

Finally Fiona McPhail of Kyles Marketing Group and Iain Fleming of Cowal Marketing Group spoke about their local destination marketing organisations and the importance of working together and collaboration between DMOs. They then launched both Cowal Marketing Group and Kyles Marketing Group’s Wild About Argyll film edits.

AITC Chair Gavin Dick welcomed the summit saying: “This is the first of many area summits, where businesses can come together at a very local level. We know, following feedback from our annual regional summits, that the opportunities to network, collaborate and develop working relationships are very important to delegates.

“Offering area summits which can zoom in and focus on these issues while also bringing in industry experts to talk about the regional and national agenda helps to put everything in perspective. We live and work in a region where tourism is everyone’s business and through these local tourism summits we will give every area the opportunity to have their voice heard. We encourage as many businesses to sign up for their local summit as soon as they are announced.”
 
Inveraray Castle wins Prestigious AwardInveraray Castle wins Prestigious Award
Added: 03 May 2017
Inveraray Castle has won an Award of Excellence based on customer feedback.

The Award was given by Irish coach tour operator, CIE Tours International, which recognises the quality of the UK’s hotels and visitor attractions by awarding a merit award to those who have received a greater than 90% customer satisfaction rating.

For the past 5 years, Inveraray Castle has earned an Excellence Award, which this year was based on the feedback of the 14,000 visitors CIE brought to the UK in 2016. CIE launched its UK awards five years ago, replicating its long running awards in Ireland.

Since then, the numbers of venues and attractions achieving a higher than 90% satisfaction rating in the UK has grown from 32 to 56. In 2016, the company enjoyed a 10% rise in visitors on their UK tours.

The award ceremony was held at Hotel du Vin Devonshire in Glasgow on Tuesday 25th April. Elizabeth Crabill, Managing Director of CIE Tours International commented: “We need to work hard to encourage our main market, US travellers, to holiday outside of the US, so the quality of the experience in the UK has to be consistently high. The level of customer satisfaction achieved by our suppliers plays a vital role in our current business growth.

“We are pleased to award these partners that have developed a notably excellent customer experience in the UK. We anticipate that demand for our UK tours will grow significantly in 2017, demonstrating the significance and growing appeal of Britain’s heritage and quality customer experience.

“Our Awards are well recognised and hugely respected in Ireland,” continued Elizabeth Crabill, “and it is gratifying to see that the awards have been embraced so quickly in the UK. The increase in the number of awards reflects how providers have incorporated our quality focus and that overall quality levels are increasing. This is great for our customers and the overall industry. Our visitors from North America are accustomed to very high levels of service and to achieve a rating above 90% from our travellers is very meaningful.

The rise in standards in only five years in our UK providers is remarkable and it proves that people’s efforts in striving for high standards pays off.”

During 2016, CIE Tours took visitors to 175 visitor attractions and 75 hotels across the UK, paying a total of £10 million to its UK suppliers, including buying around 150,000 hotel bed nights. We are all thrilled to win yet again for the 5th year running the prestigious CIE Award of Excellence.

This is all credit to all the wonderful and professional staff here at Inveraray Castle who look after our visitors so well. To consistently achieve over 90% from CIE’s North American clients is truly gratifying.

 
THE ADVENTURE SYNDICATE LAUNCH ULTRA-DISTANCE RACE TEAM WITH TOUR OF THE HIGHLANDS, 3RD-12TH MAYTHE ADVENTURE SYNDICATE LAUNCH ULTRA-DISTANCE RACE TEAM WITH TOUR OF THE HIGHLANDS, 3RD-12TH MAY
Added: 30 Apr 2017
Women’s cycling powerhouse The Adventure Syndicate have announced Ride The Highlands: a self-supported tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, with the dual purpose of promoting active travel among remote communities and launching their new race team, The Quad.

Athletes Lee Craigie, Rickie Cotter, Emily Chappell and Paula Regener will leave Glasgow on their bikes on the Wednesday 3rd May (accompanied by photographer James Robertson), and follow a 500-mile route that takes in the Caledonian Way and the Hebridean Way, visiting schools and communities in Oban, Fort William, Inverness, Stornoway, Harris and Uist.

Having ridden through Arran to reach Oban and carrying camping equipment for the week, The Quad will be hosted by Oban Cycles on Thursday 4th for an inspiring evening of films and a Q&A session. The following day they will visit Lochaber High School before arriving in Inverness on the 6th May.

The Quad will then host an overnight adventure by bike for girls between the ages of 13 and 16 in the Inverness area, in collaboration with Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland and Velocity Café & Bicycle Workshop, before riding over to Ullapool and starting their journey south through the Western Isles. Scaladale Activity Centre will co ordinate mountain bike sessions and film showings in Stornoway (8th May), Harris (9th May) and Uist (10th), and The Quad will then travel to London for an official launch appearance at Spin Cycling Festival on the 12th May.

As well as being athletes at the top of their game, The Quad are skilled communicators and are passionate about increasing awareness of the physical and emotional benefits of riding a bike. Their school visits will include a showing of ‘Escape’, a short film produced by Sustrans and starring athlete Lee Craigie, followed by an inspirational talk and a Q&A workshop around how to travel self-supported by bike, and in some cases an accompanied ride-out and overnight camp. In association with Paths For All, who work hard to promote the benefits of cycling and walking over driving in Highland communities, The Adventure Syndicate will also conduct research into the reasons why people (especially women and girls) choose not to ride their bikes.

Lee Craigie says “We are really looking forward to launching The Quad with Ride the Highlands, and to visiting all these communities where promoting active travel could make a valuable difference to people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. We are also really excited about riding as a team for the first time, and preparing our bodies and equipment for the race challenges we will all face later this summer.”

The Quad is the first professional racing team to focus entirely on self-supported, ultra-distance events, and consists of Lee Craigie (former British Mountain Bike Champion and member of Team GB), Emily Chappell (London cycle courier turned ultra-endurance road racer), Rickie Cotter (24-hour Mountain Bike Champion) and Paula Regener (long-distance self-supported cycling specialist). Over the next few months Rickie and Lee will be taking on the Highland Trail 550 (Scotland), the Tour Divide (Canada to Mexico, June) and the Colorado Trail Race (Denver to Durango, July), and Paula and Emily will be racing the TransAtlanticWay (Ireland, June) and the Transcontinental (Belgium to Greece, August).

The Adventure Syndicate and The Quad are grateful to Leigh Day, Apidura, Exped and Findra for their support in helping them achieve their social and athletic aims.
 
Expo-sing Argyll & The Isles Region’s tourism businesses to meet global tour operators Expo-sing Argyll & The Isles Region’s tourism businesses to meet global tour operators
Added: 20 Apr 2017
Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC), Cruise Loch Lomond and Cowal Way will be joining top tourism businesses and organisations at Scotland’s biggest travel trade event at the SEC (Scottish Event Campus) in Glasgow next week.

VisitScotland Expo 2017, on 26 and 27 April, will be the 38th staging of Scotland’s biggest business-to-business event for the travel trade. The national tourism organisation’s flagship show will give 276 Scottish tourism businesses – including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and activity providers – from every corner of the country the chance to showcase their products and services to more than 600 tour operators and travel agents from all over the world.

The event is expected to create a net economic impact of £2.5 million for the local economy while, thanks to one-to-one appointments facilitated by VisitScotland, exhibitors are expected to generate an average of £22,000 worth of gross turnover as a result of attending.

The Argyll & The Isles exhibitors will be showcasing the region as a world-class visitor destination – as the current Wild About Argyll marketing campaign highlights so effectively – and inspiring travel trade professionals from the home and overseas markets to bring their clients to explore all that it offers.

VisitScotland is organising a number of familiarisation visits or ‘fam trips’ for groups of the Expo attendees. The series includes a trip to Mull and overnight stay at the Ardanaiseig Hotel for a 12-strong group of US-tour operators sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

In addition, a Film and Literature trip will involve a group of international delegates enjoying dinner and an overnight stay at Loch Melfort Hotel at Arduaine near Oban, visiting Inveraray Castle – the location for a Downton Abbey Christmas special – and lunch at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.

David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “These fam trips are a great way of letting travel operators experience a selection of the wonderful, diverse range of attractions that Argyll & The Isles boasts. Giving Expo delegates a taste of what their own tour customers could enjoy here definitely allows us to demonstrate the huge sales potential the region has. A visit really helps to ‘seal the deal’ so it’s fantastic that we’ll be welcoming these very influential visitors here.

“I’m delighted too that Argyll & The Isles will have a strong presence at Expo and I’m sure that attendees will be impressed – particularly by the superb Wild About Argyll marketing materials. Collaboration is vital to grow tourism so it’s great to see such commitment to working together and to capitalising on this fantastic opportunity to engage with key travel trade professionals from all over the world.”

Gavin Dick, Chair of Argyll & The Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) said: “We’re really looking forward to being back at VisitScotland Expo in Glasgow showcasing our Wild About Argyll campaign. Glasgow is the city on our doorstep and a key message for the international travel trade is that Scotland’s Adventure Coast is just a stone’s throw away from the city. Argyll & The Isles has an incredible range of land and water-based adventures to suit all interests and abilities.

“Through our Wild About Argyll film and other content we hope to give the travel trade a real taste of the adventures their clients can experience – both wild and mild. We are delighted so many attendees are undertaking fam trips in Argyll and that a number of our local operators are able to demonstrate first hand just what we have on offer - and how AITC can help attendees build their own Wild About Argyll itineraries and tours.”
 
 New festival heads to Helensburgh in August
Added: 19 Apr 2017
Argyll Gathering is a new Scottish event celebrating the best of music, culture and the arts opening its doors August 19th - 20th 2017 in the stunning setting of Helensburgh. The event will showcase the best in traditional contemporary Scottish music, local food and drink and feature interactive workshops.

Community is at the heart of the festival and its goal is to celebrate the best of what Scotland has to offer culturally; Argyll Gathering is not just a festival, but a platform for people to interact and form an artistic movement.

So far, artists confirmed are the former lead singer of one of Scotland’s most celebrated groups, Runrig‘s Donnie Munro, who will be performing live with a full band. The most famous bagpipe band in the world, Red Hot Chilli Pipers will be bringing their ground-breaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock/pop anthems, Scottish supergroup Treacherous Orchestra are the third of the festival’s headliners - their foot-stomping, Celtic rock performance is sure to blow spectators away.

The festival also boasts additional praised artists, Bwani Junction who will perform “Graceland” by Paul Simon, Elephant Sessions, Manran, Federation of the Disco Pimp, Jarlath Henderson Band, Blue Rose Code, Daimh, Fat-Suit, Pronto Mama and, finally Nae Plans (Adam Sutherland & Hamish Napier) will perform over both days with special guests and added surprises.

A community workshop tent, aimed at all ages will showcase music, art and the Gaelic language. There will be delicious food courtesy of Food From Argyll, sweet treats, a carefully selected beer and ale bar, an independent spirits bar and children’s entertainment will be on offer making the festival something for all the family to enjoy.

Having been born and raised in Helensburgh, Festival organiser James Windebank has seen the town evolve and change over 30 years. “The one thing that I always wanted my hometown to have was a spectacular event that focussed on bringing people together to listen to great music, have a dram and really enjoy themselves as a community of people!”

Together with co-curator, Nick Lawrie, he and Windebank have independently worked on some of the largest cultural projects in the world and wanted to curate an event to bring out the best facets of that they have learnt working events over the years.

Windebank goes on to say, “We believe that an event such as this should enhance its home turf, and really bring something to the table. That could be a great music line up that speaks to its patrons, showcasing the gorgeous larder of Scotland, or exposing people to the rich creative culture that exists all around us.”

Helensburgh and its surroundings are renowned for their picturesque backdrop. The area is steeped in Scottish history, it has also offered events such as highland games and piping championships to carry on traditions.
 
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative delighted to see Mark Beaumont back in Argyll on Day 8 of his Around Britain training ride Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative delighted to see Mark Beaumont back in Argyll on Day 8 of his Around Britain training ride
Added: 11 Apr 2017
Mark Beaumont was Wild About Argyll and then some on day 8 of his Around Britain training ride.

Having started the day in Dumfries and Galloway, Mark headed north, and following a short ferry ride from Gourock, entered Argyll in Cowal, before heading west to Portavadie, over to Tarbert, across to Kilberry before heading north again on the A83 to Oban.

Along the way he passed some of Argyll’s most scenic locations, including the stunning Kyles of Bute, as well as some very familiar landmarks, which played their part in his Wild About Argyll challenge.

Gavin Dick Chair of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) has been following Mark on his tracker, and has been very impressed with the pace he has maintained day after day since leaving London. The pace was staggering, as was the incredible speed he showed today through Ayrshire before catching the ferry across the Clyde at lunchtime saying:

“This is an enormous challenge and we’re amazed at his performance. We are very proud to say Mark is the face of Wild About Argyll and know he is inspiring the next generation of ultra adventurers. We are looking forward to seeing him complete this part of his training, before his ultimate round the world in 80 days adventure this summer.

“We encourage everyone to get behind Mark, give him their support and follow him around the entire coast of the Scottish mainland before heading south to London, via his tracker at http://www.artemisworldcycle.com/live-update/ - this truly is a tremendous effort from Mark and the team.”
 
Statement on Mark Beaumont’s world record attempt to ride round the world in 80 daysStatement on Mark Beaumont’s world record attempt to ride round the world in 80 days
Added: 03 Apr 2017
Commenting on Mark Beaumont’s Round the World in 80 Days announcement this morning, Chair of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative Gavin Dick said: “This is a phenomenal challenge, we continue to be astonished by Mark’s ability to push the boundaries of endurance cycling. We wish Mark and all the Artemis World Cycle Team, the very best of luck for the ultimate challenge this summer and we’ll be following him throughout his Around Britain training ride via his tracker on http://www.artemisworldcycle.com.

“Great things happen when you challenge your own boundaries and through this incredible world record attempt Mark will also be inspiring the next generation of endurance athletes. We are proud to have Mark Beaumont as the face of Wild About Argyll and look forward to welcoming him back to Argyll and the Isles in a few days time as he circumnavigates the 3,500 mile coastline of Britain.”

Mark will cycle through Argyll and the Isles approximately a week after he sets off on the Around Britain ride on 4 April. Anyone interested in joining Mark for a few miles should follow the tracker on the website for live updates.

The photo shows Mark Beaumont on the A83 during his Wild About Argyll 12 day epic challenge - wildaboutargyll.co.uk. Photo credit Kieran J Duncan
 
Collaboration, travel, history and adventure – the sixth AITC summit has it all Collaboration, travel, history and adventure – the sixth AITC summit has it all
Added: 21 Mar 2017
Representatives from tourism businesses from across the Argyll and the Isles region headed to the banks of Loch Awe on Tuesday (21st March) to be part of the sixth annual Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) summit during the Scottish Tourism Week 2017.

The theme of this year’s summit was City / Coast Connections and the collaborations which can be built between both. AITC has been working closely with Glasgow Life (formerly Glasgow City Marketing Bureau) on the current year long Wild About Argyll campaign, and welcomed Marketing Communications Director Tom Rice to the Lochawe stage to talk about how collaborating with Glasgow, the city on our doorstep, can be a win-win for tourism growth across both destinations.

Wild About Argyll, which launched in Glasgow’s Oran Mor at the end of January, was at the forefront of the day. Delegates heard about its success so far, and the opportunities for their businesses to get involved in this exciting campaign. The face of Wild About Argyll, ultra adventurer Mark Beaumont, whose 12 day epic adventure lies at the heart of the campaign, dropped in during a training ride and spoke to delegates about his personal highlights from the epic adventure and his belief in Argyll and the Isles ability to transform its appeal to a younger more active market.

This year is Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archeology and the Lochawe venue was influenced greatly by the proximity to St Conan’s Kirk. This is a key location on the historic West Highland Line and one, which owes its existence to tourism. First used as a place of worship in 1930, St Conan’s Kirk is a remarkable and often eccentric building, which is one of Argyll’s gems. Delegates were treated to talks in the kirk during the morning session, a wonderful venue for a summit, which aimed to inspire as well as inform.

The lunchtime and afternoon venue for the summit was the Loch Awe Hotel, which overlooks Kilchurn Castle on the banks of Loch Awe. The hotel, which is owned and operated by Lochs and Glens is a magnificent landmark in the area which commemorates the arrival of the West Highland railway to the west coast in the late 19th century.

Keynote speakers included VisitScotland’s Director of Marketing Charlie Smith who spoke about the on-line community and collaboration. People First Chief Executive David Allen spoke about the importance of WorldHost in Argyll and the Isles. WorldHost is an internationally recognised standard for excellence in customer service. AITC has recently been awarded WorldHost accreditation as a business and is working towards Argyll and the Isles becoming a WorldHost Regional Destination.

As with all AITC summits, networking and breakout sessions played an important role. This year the emphasis was on skills and how to build effective city / coast connections and how to turn these into effective partnerships. AITC directors Iain Jurgensen and Cathy Craig were joined by Graeme MacFarlan of Calmac.

AITC Chair Gavin Dick thanked delegates for the attending this year’s summit saying: “I am delighted to welcome so many tourism representatives to Lochawe today. Some are old friends, who have attended every summit, but also new businesses. It is hugely encouraging to see the confidence in tourism in Argyll and the Isles and we are very proud to represent you at a local, regional and national level.

“With the strong focus on travel, and the location on the historic West Highland Line, AITC is very grateful to ScotRail for their sponsorship of this year’s summit and providing free train travel to the summit from Glasgow. We’d also like to thank Neil Wells from Lochs and Glens for use of the Loch Awe Hotel as our venue, VisitScotland for their contribution towards lunch, and of course Food From Argyll who once again showed how wonderful our region’s produce is.

“I hope everyone will take home today the themes of our summit and apply them to their own businesses – and above all get directly involved in our Wild About Argyll initiative. I hope everyone has a very busy season and builds many new partnerships over the year.”

For more information on AITC visit www.exploreargyll.co.uk or email info@exploreargyll.co.uk and to find out more about AITC’s Wild About Argyll campaign visit www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk

St.Conan’s Kirk Notes to Editors St.Conan’s Kirk is a hidden architectural gem located on the atmospheric north shore of Loch Awe, Argyll - Scotland’s longest loch. Started in 1886 and completed in 1930, the kirk was designed by Walter Douglas Campbell who employed an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Notable features include weathered stonework from Iona Abbey, a large stained glass window from fifteenth century St Mary’s church in Leith and a bone from Robert the Bruce. Work is currently ongoing to identify the significant resources to maintain and restore the building which has been voted one of Scotland’s top ten most iconic buildings of the 20th Century. More details about St.Conan’s and the preservation campaign can be found at https://www.stconanskirk.org.uk/
 
Leading by example – AITC achieve WorldHost status Leading by example – AITC achieve WorldHost status
Added: 16 Mar 2017
As part of the aim for Argyll and the Isles to become a WorldHost Regional Destination, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) is leading by example, and recently achieved WorldHost accreditation.

The hallmark of excellent customer service, WorldHost has been used to train more than 1 million people worldwide – and was the programme used for the tens of thousands of volunteers and staff at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

WorldHost was launched in Scotland in 2014 and since then has trained over 10,000 staff across the country. In order to achieve WorldHost accreditation, AITC had to demonstrate that, a minimum of 50 percent of its customer facing staff attend and pass WorldHost workshops.

AITC’s development agent team showed its commitment to providing excellent customer service by attending a WorldHost training day in Portavadie. This fun and interactive workshop, which is tailored to the tourism industry, includes delegates learning how important is to the local economy and why it is important for every individual to play their part in growing tourism in our area.

Across Argyll and the Isles, businesses are putting their staff through the programme, and achieving World Host recognition. To date AITC who work with Business Gateway to deliver the training, has enabled the free training of 254 delegates across the region.

Chair of AITC Gavin Dick explained: “You only have one chance to make a good first impression and we want tourism businesses across Argyll and the Isles to make the best one possible. WorldHost training gives your staff the confidence and tools to deal with providing great customer service together with what to do in a difficult situation.

“Our aim is to make Argyll and the Isles a WorldHost Regional Destination, this is an ambitious target as we need 25% of tourism businesses in each of our towns to go through the training. However, we believe it is achievable and will create a welcome Argyll and the Isles can be proud of.”

Kate Fraser of Business Gateway in Argyll and Bute said: “WorldHost is a well-respected training programme that can bring real benefits to a tourism business through delivering excellent customer care. Argyll and Bute Council’s Business Gateway has worked in partnership with AITC to help a wide range of businesses access this training. Our advisers have delivered more than 26 World Host workshops through this partnership, making a significant contribution to helping the area move closer to achieving World Host Destination status”.

For more information on getting your staff WorldHost trained contact info@exploreargyll.co.uk ENDS
 
Scottish Tourism Alliance responds to Finance Minister’s announcement on 12-month business rates cap for hospitality and licensed trade businessesScottish Tourism Alliance responds to Finance Minister’s announcement on 12-month business rates cap for hospitality and licensed trade businesses
Added: 21 Feb 2017
STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE SCOTTISH TOURISM ALLIANCE 21 February 2017

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have campaigned heavily over the last few months to bring about a reversal in the proposal to increase business rates.

We wrote to the First Minister and other Ministers demanding a need for a review of the business rates revaluation and have had regular dialogue with Scottish Government to convey our views, concerns and evidence from businesses on the devastating impact of the proposed Commercial Rateable Values on Scotland’s tourism industry.

We are hugely boosted and encouraged by the Finance Minister’s announcement of a 12.5% business rates cap for hospitality and licensed trade businesses of one year, a pragmatic move which will allow the Barclay Review group to report on its findings, and for a more equitable process for rates evaluation to be agreed and applied.

We know that this afternoon’s news will be welcomed by tourism businesses across Scotland, businesses which yesterday were facing serious financial challenges post-April and in many cases, closure and the loss of many jobs.
The STA, BHA and the SLTA will proceed with our planned meeting with Scottish Government Cabinet Ministers Derek Mackay and Keith Brown at 1.30pm tomorrow to discuss the Finance Minister’s relief package in more detail, and also the desired process to be followed by the Assessors before a new approach is introduced on 1st April 2018.

Tourism has been acknowledged by Scottish Government as being “Scotland’s most important industry”; today’s announcement underlines and highlights the government’s support for our industry and acknowledges the importance of tourism as the main economic driver in Scotland.

It is important that we as an industry continue to work together to bring about the changes that will enable our industry to prosper and grow and to support the creation of policies that will not only allow us to compete with the rest of the world, but put us on the front foot for getting ahead of the game.

This is hugely encouraging news and will undoubtedly offer tourism businesses confidence to continue to deliver these quality, authentic experiences for visitors during what is set to be a busy year for our industry.

We very much welcome today’s announcement and look forward to continuing our dialogue with Scottish Government, its agencies and tourism businesses over the coming weeks.
 
Tourism body celebrates five years of achievements Tourism body celebrates five years of achievements
Added: 12 Feb 2017
Hot on the heels of the successful launch of Wild About Argyll in Glasgow at the end of January, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (AITC) has issued their key statistics and achievements 2011 – 2016.

As AITC prepares for its sixth annual tourism summit, which this year will be held in Lochawe Hotel, Lochawe on 21 March 2017, the release of this document underlines the importance of tourism to the economy of the region and the significant effect the body has had on the tourism industry in Argyll and the Isles.

Scottish Government statistics show in the period 2011 - 2014, Argyll and the Isles comprehensively outperformed Scotland as a whole in terms of tourism, citing:
• Argyll and the Isles total visitor spend increased from £199m to £270m – an increase of 36% compared with 4% for Scotland.
• Argyll and the Isles overseas visitor spend rose from £36m to £46m – an increase of 28% against 23% for Scotland.
• Argyll and the Isles Sustainable Tourism GVA rose from £81m to £127m an increase of 57% compared with 29% for Scotland.
• Argyll and the Isles Turnover rose from £167m to £227m an increase of 36% against 15% for Scotland

Source: Office of National Statistics, Annual Business Survey (Compiled by Scottish Government)

In addition, according to the Visitor Attraction Monitor, the greatest percentage increase in visitors to attractions by council area between 2015 and 2016 was in Argyll and the Isles at 21.9% compared to 4.9% for Scotland. (Source: Visitor Attraction Monitor, The Moffat Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University).

AITC Chair Gavin Dick is delighted by how far the organisation has come in five years saying: “Although AITC cannot and is not claiming that this performance is down to our activity alone, these statistics are authoritative proof of the importance of tourism to our region and the effect AITC has had in changing the way tourism is represented in Argyll and the Isles. Bringing businesses and organisations together from across the region, along with partners who have national influence under one umbrella, has seen a seismic shift in how tourism works in Argyll and the Isles.

“Five years ago we were a group of tourism businesses and individuals with a vision. With a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone involved, we have turned that vision into a reality. AITC currently has 11 destination marketing organisations and five sectoral group members which give access to over 1300 businesses. We have 10 freelance development managers and agents who work across the whole region. We also have 10 directors who provide their time and expertise on a voluntary basis, there simply is no group better equipped to the task of delivering tourism’s economic benefits to the region as AITC.”

AITC’s 2017 campaign Wild About Argyll, which features ultra adventurer Mark Beaumont’s 12 day Argyll and the Isles adventure, was launched at Oran Mor, Glasgow on 31 January. Skerryvore’s new single ‘Live Forever’, which features video from the 12 day epic adventure, is the Wild About Argyll campaign theme.

The year long campaign is designed to introduce potential visitors to our region, Scotland’s adventure coast, and to put together their own ‘Wild About Argyll’ adventure – whether they are here for a day trip, short break, or longer holiday.

For more details on AITC visit www.exploreargyll.co.uk or email info@exploreargyll.co.uk and if you want to find out more about how you can get Wild About Argyll visit www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk
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New Scottish tourism campaign encourages adventure seekers to go ‘Wild About Argyll’New Scottish tourism campaign encourages adventure seekers to go ‘Wild About Argyll’
Added: 31 Jan 2017
More than 250 members from across the country’s tourism community are set to gather in Glasgow tonight (Tuesday, January 31) for the unveiling of ‘Wild About Argyll’ – an exciting new marketing campaign aimed at encouraging more visitors to take advantage of Scotland’s Adventure Coast.

Created by Argyll and The Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC), the ambitious £100,000 initiative is geared at showcasing the breadth of outstanding outdoors activities and adventure sports available throughout the west coast to a global audience over the next 12 months.

Taking place at Oran Mor in the city’s West End, the launch of Wild About Argyll will be hosted by renowned Scottish adventure athlete, Mark Beaumont – the record-breaking long distance cyclist, adventurer, broadcaster and author who is famous the world over for his endurance challenges.

Mark, who spent part of his childhood living in Argyll, will recount an epic 12-day multi-sport adventure that he undertook across the region last summer – from trail-biking, fell running and horse-riding to quad-biking, kayaking, sailing and wild swimming – which will be at the heart of a series of short films supporting the new campaign to be shown in cinemas, on TV and online.

A highlight of the event will be a live performance of ‘Live Forever’ which has been chosen as the soundtrack for the Wild About Argyll campaign and will be premiered by Scottish folk fusion band SKERRYVORE, fresh from collecting their Live Act of the Year accolade at the Scots Trad Music Awards in December.

The evening will also feature music from newcomers Tide Lines, who hail from the west coast, tasting sessions from Food from Argyll and projection of some of the footage from Mark’s challenge onto the spire of Oran Mor.

Adventure tourism has been identified as an area for growth within Scotland. Tourism Scotland 2020, the national tourism strategy, highlights ‘activities and adventure’ – worth an estimated £759 million to the economy – and mountain biking, valued at £119 million, as sectors with real potential.

A pan-Scotland research report, led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and published in 2015, also found that of 351 businesses surveyed in the sector, 84% expect future demand to increase in the next three to five years with almost a fifth expecting this to be significantly so.

With 12% of those businesses located in Argyll and The Isles, the Wild About Argyll campaign aims to capitalise on the considerable tourism growth potential the region possesses as Scotland’s first choice destination for adventure seekers.

A key theme of Wild About Argyll will be the promotion of the region’s accessibility for tourists and day-trippers, with strong emphasis on the increased volume of fast, reliable and cost effective rail, bus, ferry and air services into the mainland and islands from Glasgow and the wider central belt.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the recent launch of Glasgow’s new Tourism and Visitor Plan to 2023.
Led by tourism partners Glasgow Life, VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise, it provides the framework through which the city will attract one million more visitors and position Glasgow as the ‘gateway to Scotland’ over the next seven years.

Achieving a baseline of three million overnight visits per year by 2023 will deliver an economic boost of £771 million and contribute an additional 6,600 jobs in the city.

It will also help to achieve Scotland’s target of an additional £1 billion of visitor expenditure by 2020 and align with the aims of the Glasgow City Region City Deal; supporting the growth of the wider west of Scotland economy.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “Tourism is of vital importance to our rural and island communities, which every year welcome millions of visitors. Our dramatic landscapes and seascapes provide the perfect background for a wide range of adventure tourism experiences. I welcome this ambitious initiative by Argyll and The Isles Tourism Co-operative, which will showcase some of the best of what Scotland has to offer.”


Scots adventurer Mark Beaumont said:“Having spent my youngest years on a farm in Argyll, I have always wanted to go back and explore. This epic journey across land and sea didn’t disappoint and made me realise that Argyll and The Isles is one of the best adventure playgrounds in the world. There’s a staggering diversity of terrain and sporting opportunities – and I know that the series of short films made for Wild About Argyll will showcase the area in new and exciting ways. I’m proud to have roots in Argyll and can’t wait to go back.”


Gavin Dick, Chair of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC), said: “When we set Mark an epic multi-sport challenge across Argyll and The Isles last summer our aim was to have fun but to also collect as much stunning, inspirational footage as possible to really focus attention on Argyll and the Isles as Scotland’s Adventure Coast.

“The juxtaposition of this unrivalled tourism experience on the doorstep of Glasgow is what excites us most. We have an amazing quality and diversity of activities available throughout the region and the ease of access, whether for a day out or an extended stay, is pretty unique. We’re delighted to be working so closely with Glasgow to attract new visitors and further develop strategic links with the city’s new tourism plan.”


Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “Mark Beaumont’s epic, but often arduous, journey across some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery certainly helped showcase Argyll and Bute as a wonderful area to visit. As a council we are also committed to attracting people to live and work in one of the country’s most promising regions and we were delighted when he undertook the challenge in our area. There is no doubt this new campaign will help boost the number of people coming here.”


Councillor Frank McAveety, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Wild About Argyll is a fantastic campaign and launching it in Glasgow is the next step in a programme of joint working between the city and the AITC team over the past year to create new links with Argyll and The Isles; encouraging tourists and visitors to consider the west coast region as part of a trip to Glasgow.

“Tourism is the cornerstone of Glasgow’s economy and our tourism products and experiences are hugely complementary – Pinkston Watersports Centre, which is home to Scotland’s only artificial whitewater course, and Cathkin Braes trails for example are the perfect introduction to the likes of kayaking and mountain biking in the city before really getting to grips with it in Argyll.

“We are committed to working with partners like AITC to achieve our ambitious objectives of positioning Glasgow as the gateway to Scotland; attracting one million more visitors and realising the huge potential of the sector for the city and country as a whole over the next seven years.”


Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “The stunning inland and coastal landscapes of Argyll and The Isles make it a perfect natural adventure playground for a vast range of outdoors activities, and one of the great advantages of this incredible region is that its unspoilt rugged beauty isn’t remote – it’s easily accessible, particularly to visitors travelling from Glasgow and the Central Belt.

“There’s simply no better destination across the length and breadth of our country to experience the Spirit of Scotland and enjoy world-class adventure sports opportunities and facilities, so it’s great that this exciting new campaign will increase awareness of that and promote Argyll and The Isles to lovers of our great outdoors.

“We wish AITC every success with it and I’m confident that the campaign’s inspirational footage of Mark Beaumont’s action-packed trip to the region will encourage many people to follow in his footsteps, providing a great boost to tourism and the visitor economy.”

Image courtesy of Finalcrux Films
 
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