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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 17/09/2020

We’re starting a new feature so you can get to know our team a little better! Over the coming months we’ll be asking members of staff from across VisitScotland to tell us a bit about themselves and their roles, as well as some of their favourite places to visit in our beautiful country. In the first of this new series hear from Lyn Donnelly (Senior Partnerships Manager/Responsible Tourism lead).

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I was born in Glasgow and moved to Edinburgh to work at VisitScotland. I now live at Portobello Beach and have completely fallen in love with living by the seaside. My favourite time at Portobello is later in the evening when the light is beautiful, and the beach is quiet. Over recent weeks there’s been a real holiday vibe with an increase in paddleboarders, wild swimmers and volleyball players.

Tourism has changed so much in the last 15 years. I’ve gone from being an adventure-seeking backpacker, living on a shoestring and travelling around the world from destination to destination, to someone who now understands the importance of slow tourism, immersing myself in a destination and its culture. Like a lot of travellers, I’m now making more considerate travel choices and understand the importance of seeking new ways to travel responsibly.

You’ve worked in a variety of roles at VisitScotland, could you tell us a bit about your career to date?

I previously worked in hospitality and hotels, including a brief stint as a wedding planner. Duties included sprinkling fresh rose petals over the heads of newlyweds whilst they were doing their vows – not something that was in the job description!

I joined VisitScotland’s Events Directorate back in 2013 and worked on Homecoming 2014 as the Project Executive. It was the perfect role for a new employee as Homecoming was a project that involved collaboration between teams across the organisation and I got to meet and work with so many colleagues in different departments. Following Homecoming I then joined the Partnerships Directorate as the National Partner Executive engaging with our national partners.

I then moved into the Industry Destination and Development Directorate where I spent four years working as the Shop Local Retail Manager. This involved devising and implementing VisitScotland’s Shop Local initiative and engaging with local artisans across Scotland. I really enjoyed this role and I’m proud that VisitScotland now supports over 300 Scottish suppliers across our iCentre network.

I love working at VisitScotland and feel very fortunate that I’ve been allowed the flexibility to work in a number of different roles and departments. Getting involved in different groups, such as the Staff Innovation Group and Future Leaders Group, and the support and encouragement from mentors in the organisation has given me the confidence to progress my career.

What is your current role and what are your main responsibilities?

I’m the Senior Partnership Manager and lead VisitScotland’s responsible tourism activity. As part of my role I engage with our national partners (ScotRail, Historic Environment Scotland, CalMac, NorthLink, National Trust for Scotland and more) to identify opportunities for collaborative working and areas for responsible growth. Throughout the COVID-19 recovery planning, insights and feedback from these partners has been invaluable, helping inform our decision making and activity with the wider VisitScotland team.

As I engage and listen to the industry during COVID-19 recovery, I understand the importance of collaboration to ensure a more responsible future for tourism. Through strengthening relationships with our partners such as Keep Scotland Beautiful, Zero Waste Scotland and NatureScot, we share expertise and insights and work together to devise and implement activity to achieve our ambitions for responsible growth. 

Looking ahead to 2021, COP26 in Glasgow offers a great opportunity to build momentum with the industry providing support and advice and encouraging ambitious actions, innovation and collaborations. COP26 provides Scotland with a global platform to showcase our ambitions for responsible destination development and set out our plans for the future.

This week is Climate Week Scotland (14 – 20 September) – how can people across the country get involved?

There’s lots of information on the Scottish Government’s new Net Zero Nation website. This includes tips for individuals plus information and marketing materials for businesses to get involved. At VisitScotland, all week we’re sharing stories of businesses that are making a positive difference through their activity. There’s lots of exciting initiatives happening across the country, with tourism contributing toward a more responsible future. We’re also running a programme internally to get staff thinking about their impact. For those looking to implement small changes that can make a big difference, our partners like Keep Scotland Beautiful, Zero Waste Scotland, Marine Conservation Society – among others – have some easy tips and initiatives.

A key motivation for holidaying in Scotland is our beautiful scenery – and our incredible built architecture is also an attraction. How do we promote responsible tourism to protect these?

Our approach to responsible tourism is holistic – it’s about making better places for people to live and visit. Protecting our natural and built environment is hugely important as they’re vital for our brand and part of what makes Scotland such a special place. Communities are also central to this, as we need to make sure the balance is right, so everyone feels the benefits of tourism.

In recent years, responsible tourism has become increasingly embedded in everything we do – from external marketing campaigns to our own office operations. We promote a good regional and seasonal spread, encourage visitors to consider their impact, and promote messages around how to travel responsibly across all our communications channels. The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is another positive initiative, where we administer Scottish Government funds to projects in rural areas struggling with infrastructure due to visitor volume. Although the past six months have been devastating for the tourism industry, it’s been a moment for us to reflect on how we make changes for the better and rebuild the industry in a responsible way.

And finally, do you have a favourite place to holiday in Scotland?

This is a tricky question! I have fond memories of the Isle of Arran and have visited the island every year since I was six months old. I’ve loved watching the island develop with new tourism experiences. A family trait – that we’re ridiculously early for everything – means that often our car is at the front of the queue for the CalMac ferry. The view of Goatfell when you come into Arran on the ferry is one of my favourite vistas in Scotland.

Another favourite holiday destination is the Outer Hebrides. I love the changing landscapes between Lewis and Harris, the white sandy beaches, incredible scenery and, of course, the Harris Gin. It’s become a favourite holiday destination for myself and my friends. We spend a lot of time on these holidays with games, picnics and, as the picture suggests, we’ve been social distancing at the beach over the years…

Group of friends on a beach in the Outer Hebrides