Glenegedale House, five star guesthouse on the Isle of Islay, is very active within the local Islay community and a champion of collaborative working. Emma Clark, Owner of Glenegedale House, is both the Chair of Explore Islay and Jura and the Vice Chair of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative – groups keen to promote and develop local food trails and festivals. In Emma’s many roles she plays a pivotal part in supporting the local community and raising the profile of local businesses.
Supporting the community throughout the pandemic
In Emma’s role as Chair of Explore Islay and Jura, she was the go-to person during the lockdown periods from March 2020 – assisting local tourism businesses across all 23 inhabited islands in Argyll. Emma provided support for mental health and wellbeing as businesses faced their biggest ever challenges, as well as helping with funding queries, keeping local communities talking and busy, and keeping businesses up to date in what was a rapidly changing situation. This support helped many of these businesses survive, having a positive impact on the local community both socially and economically.
In the period from 15 July 2020 when our tourism industry began to reopen until 26 December 2020 when the country went back into its most recent lockdown Emma pre-organised a ‘safe house’, in conjunction with Argyll and Bute Council, for visitors to the island who had to be tested and/or isolate. Working together, Emma and Argyll and Bute Council ensured that:
- These visitors were made aware of the guidelines
- These visitors were checked in on within the guidelines a few times within their stay
- They were provided with food delivered to their door, medical attention and information, as well as somewhere safe to stay
- Changeover staff and accommodation providers were briefed of all cleaning protocols
- There was safe passage for anyone very ill with COVID-19 that needed transferred to the mainland in a safe manner
Emma was also part of the Islay Community Council Recovery Group which organised a visitor charter, a video which explained to visitors how to stay safe and enjoy the island responsibly, and hand sanitiser and signs at all bus stops throughout the island.
Working with local food and drink producers
Glenegedale House focuses on sourcing the finest of Scotland’s larder to serve to guests. On social media the business frequently posts about the local food and drink they offer, tagging the various food and drink producers they use, actively supporting and promoting them. These businesses include Islay whiskies, Orsay Sea Salt, Gigha Halibut, Argyll Coffee Roasters, and many more.
Taste Islay & Jura
Taste Islay & Jura is a festival celebrating food, drink and foraging on the Isles of Islay and Jura. The first festival in 2019 was a great success and saw 2,000 buyers – an awful lot more than the 150 expected! Emma helped to promote the event, which brings a positive economic impact to the community due to the many visitors it attracts.
Collaboration with CalMac
Still in the planning stages, Explore Islay and Jura is working with CalMac Ferries on an initiative to bring together local producers and supply food boxes with recipe cards. These food boxes could be collected at the CalMac ferry terminal, which would help the local economy and encourage local purchasing from self-catering businesses. Another great example of innovation to benefit the local community.
Working within tourism is always a rewarding and wonderful place to be. During the pandemic this has been a hard journey for everyone however the hospitality industry has been notably hit the hardest financially, emotionally and psychologically. My aim from the start of the pandemic was to ensure as many of our businesses within Argyll and the islands were still standing and ready to trade in a safe, effective manner when the time was right.
With tourism in Argyll employing two thirds of the population in some shape or form this meant it was not only a sector I was able to help, but the wider community, by keeping everyone involved in each and every process whether that be funding availability for every sector, cleaning protocols, community engagement to ensure the visitor journey was wonderful and islanders were ready when they did return, and to ensure the value of tourism was recognised. I truly believe I achieved what I set out to do and more. I am incredibly proud of our community and how we pulled together and made Islay and Argyll the go to place for tourism now and in the future.
How you can get involved
Tourism is an economic and social powerhouse for Scotland. It creates wealth and social benefits in every corner of the country and enhances the wellbeing of everyone who takes a holiday at home. For more information on all strands of this project and how you can get involved visit our #tourismforceforgood page.