Our Regional Director for Argyll & The Isles, David Adams McGilp, reflects on a successful year for tourism in the region in 2018 and discusses things to look forward to this year.
2018 was a successful year for tourism in Argyll & The Isles and there’s lots to look forward to this year. From exciting adventures to top attractions, world class events to unrivalled food and drink, the region has so much to offer visitors.
It was great to see a number of tourism-related projects receive the Argyll and the Islands LEADER funding in 2018 to strengthen the rural economy and enhance the services and facilities in the area. Working in partnership with Ardrishaig Community Trust, Scottish Canals is developing Gleaner Oil Site into a community, heritage and interpretation hub, and Kilmartin Museum received funds to help raise awareness of Kilmartin Glen’s rich archaeological legacy.
New research continued to show the vital role of tourism to the region’s economy, accounting for 15% of employment. This is evidence of the sector’s integral role in sustaining communities across Scotland by creating jobs and stimulating social change.
We celebrated the Year of Young People 2018 and our Future Focus campaign explored the different careers of young people in tourism. This included local boy Jamie Macdonald who was selected as the Youth Artistic Programmer for Tiree Music Festival. He is an example of a young person in the region making a valuable contribution to the community as well as pathing a career for themselves in the industry.
Tiree Music Festival is one of 12 events which have been awarded a share of £113,000 from Argyll & Bute Council for this year. This investment will enable the region to continue providing top events, keeping up with ever-changing consumer demands and ensuring visitors have the best experience possible. 2019 will be another year of superb events and festivals across Argyll & The Isles and will help showcase Scotland as the perfect stage.
This summer will see the launch of the Hebridean Whale Trail. The first of its kind in the UK, it will feature 25 whale-watching and whale heritage sites across the west coast of Scotland and will highlight the remarkable marine wildlife offering this region has available.
The Hebrides have already received international recognition this year as CNN Travel included them on a list of the 19 best places to visit in 2019. Islay was specifically mentioned, praised for its stunning sandy beaches and the atmospheric Loch Finlaggan. Accolades like this highlight the fantastic visitor experience available in this part of the world.
The region is no stranger to awards with three winners at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and the West Regional Final of the Scottish Thistle Awards at the end of last year. All three winners are now nominees at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final taking place at the EICC in Edinburgh in March. I wish them all the best of luck.
The Isle of Bute will be featuring on a new route as part of a tourism initiative for Ayrshire, Firth of Clyde and the Clyde Islands, which last month received a £300,000 funding boost from the Scottish Government. I look forward to the launch of ‘Five Routes – One Great Adventure’ and I’m sure it will showcase the awe-inspiring scenery of this special island.
Planning is already underway for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, a year-long programme of events and activities which will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have on our country. With its remarkable marine and coastal tourism offering, this Themed Year is an excellent opportunity for Argyll & The Isles to showcase itself as a top visitor destination.
I am optimistic about what 2019 has in store for the region. Tourism is at the heart of Scotland’s economy and we want it to go from good to great to world class. In Argyll & The Isles we want to champion collaboration, promote local areas and ensure tourism is recognised for the ripple effect of success, well-being and prosperity it brings.