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We interviewed Carron Tobin, who worked on the campaign West Coast Waters. This campaign brought together various businesses in the tourism sector from across Scotland’s west coast.

Tobin is the Director of Rural Dimensions and freelance Development Manager with AITC.

Why did your organisation decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21?

The Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC) have engaged in each Themed Year. We particularly deal with marketing and campaigns, but we also work on product development.

We were delighted when the Year of Coasts and Waters was announced – it felt like it had Argyll’s name written all over it. The Themed Year was actually the trigger for the West Coast Waters collaboration to be set up.

We had been working with Highlands & Islands Enterprise on marine tourism opportunities across the west coast in 2017. When the Themed Year was announced, it gave real impetus to what we were doing.

But Highlands & Islands Enterprise challenged us to consider a bigger geography. So, we reached out and quickly formalised the West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration.

This is a collaboration of all destination marketing organisations and tourism groups on the west coast. Collectively it represents over 2,500 tourism interests.

Castle Stalker, situated on an islet on loch Laich, Argyll.

Our first task was a detailed audit of all the places you can get on or off the water – over 300 locations.

This audit then focused on what you can do at each location from events and activities to attractions, distilleries and eateries.

What are the main things you created around the Themed Year?

West Coast Waters is a pan west coast strategic campaign. It's all about encouraging people to get on (if not in) the waters of the west coast.

We launched a marketing campaign in the autumn of 2019 and hope to extend throughout 2021. It was developed specifically to take advantage of opportunities presented by the Themed Year.

From creating inspirational videos to working with bloggers, we used paid social promotion. This let us extend the reach of our marketing activity to audiences across the UK.

It also helped us raise awareness of the fantastic on and in water activities available across the west coast.

We are working on a number of linked projects, one of them being The Coast that Shaped the World.

This project gathers local stories and does digital story narration and interpretation. It thus ties the Year of Coast and Waters and the Year of Stories together.

NatureScot’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund funded this £500,000 three-year project. Our partner, University of the Highlands and Islands, leads on the project.

There is also the WCW Baton Relay - a pan west coast baton relay extending over 20 weeks and connecting all our communities and local events.

A family at the sandy beach near West Sandwick on Shetland

Three mini campaigns were rolled out in 2020. This was to encourage engagement during the pandemic through organic social media activity.

A West Coast Sunset Trail competition was launched on social media channels early in the campaign. This encouraged people to share their favourite sunset images from the west coast.

Throughout 2020 and every fortnight a West Coast beer / spirit supplier offered a prize for the winning photo. Both the winner and the prize giving business received profile across the West Coast Waters social media channels.

This user generated content also helped to highlight locations where you can best see the fantastic west coast sunsets.

The long term plan is that a Sunset Trail will be created to add to the West Coast Waters website along with more stunning images from the competition.

Once it was clear lockdown was not going to finish soon, we ran an #immerseyoursenses campaign to engage people and keep the west coast front of mind.

By taking one sense a week we invited followers to share their favourite west coast sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures. We had really strong engagement from locals and from much further afield.

The West Coast Woofers initiative then ran over summer. The aim was to encourage people to share the best locations along the west coast for dog walks.

Locals were especially encouraged to engage with this activity to show the west coast as a dog friendly destination.

We created special themes, including "coastal wander of the week" and "beach walk of the week", as well as the hashtag #WestCoastWoofers.

Destination management organisations were encouraged to:

  • get behind the campaign
  • engage with the content
  • promote their own content aligned to the themes

What success stories did you experience with your Themed Years activity?

Our creative agency, Designline Creative, made an industry toolkit. In which, each destination had a bespoke Themed Years logo, based on the colour palette of that destination.

This led to really strong industry engagement and helped to increase the reach and impact of the campaign.

We had a roadshow underway in March 2020 prior to lockdown. The buy in was significant with all sorts of offers of help and support and evident enthusiasm to be involved.

The Coast that Shaped the World appointed 32 local story gatherers. These collated all sorts of stories and hidden gems from their individual areas across the west coast.

Were there any unexpected outcomes?

Our campaign provided a really strong basis for peer-to-peer support and information sharing. This wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

What do you have planned for 2021?

We will be continuing to roll out our West Coast Waters marketing campaign. Planning to introduce new dimensions to it, we hope to engage more and more businesses and providers.

We are very excited to be working on the Coast that Shaped the World project. This project will gather and narrate lots of well-known and less well known stories for 2022.

Creating new exhibitions in local communities, we hope to launch a new campaign encouraging people to go to less visited areas. There, they'll be able to discover more about our amazing cultural and natural heritage.

Find out more about the West Coast Waters campaign on their website.

More Themed Year destination case studies

Browse more initiatives which proactively engaged with the Themed Year.

Related links