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Article published 29/03/2024

Last official day in office for VisitScotland Chair

Today marks the last official day in office for our Chair Lord Thurso. Lord Thurso took up the position as VisitScotland chair in 2016.

During his tenure, Lord Thurso has championed responsible tourism, believing economic activity from tourism should generate maximum prosperity with minimum environmental and social impact. Tourism is a Force for Good. It’s an economic good that not only creates wealth but can spread wealth, from bustling cities to remote rural areas.

Throughout his leadership, Lord Thurso has played an influential role in VisitScotland’s work to build a destination and visitor experience which allows Scottish tourism and events to flourish now, and in the future. 

Here’s some of that work:

  • Scottish Thistle Awards
  • Spirit of Scotland marketing activity
  • VisitScotland 50th anniversary
  • Scotland is Now
  • 2019 Solheim Cup
  • The pandemic – VisitScotland shifted from primarily a marketing organisation to a funding and business support organisation


  • Engagement with the diaspora community
  • COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference)
  • VisitScotland became the first National Tourist Board to declare a Climate Emergency
  • VisitScotland Connect
  • International partnership activity with a wide range of countries including Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, and Canada
  • 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships

VisitScotland is one of the organisations I've been most proud to be part of. I’ve had the honour of being in this position for eight years, one of our longest serving Chairs.

I started during a period of buoyant optimism. We’d had the winning years and a host of major events – Scotland was firmly competing on the global stage and our reputation was unimpeachable.

In my first few years, I had the pleasure of discovering huge swathes of Scotland that I had never seen before. Meeting the people at the heart of this valuable and vibrant industry. I was able to learn, understand and sometimes even experience, at every corner of the country, the things that draw visitors from across the globe.

Of course, as is well documented, the events of 2020 would lead to one the most challenging periods of tourism in living memory. But in this time of great adversity, I have often been reminded of the grit, determination, and resilience of Scottish tourism. In the wider industry, I was touched by examples of innovation, dedication, and camaraderie to rebuild and grow, attitudes that continue to this day despite new economic and regulatory challenges.

The road to recovery has not been easy but the end destination remains the same; Scotland is a leader in 21st Century tourism with a thriving, responsible visitor economy.

Lord Thurso, Chair of VisitScotland

A message from outgoing Chair of VisitScotland, Lord Thurso

I’m incredibly grateful to John for his counsel and leadership these past eight years. Not only has he been a fantastic ambassador for Scotland, his unwavering support, coupled with his vast experience in both the hospitality industry and public sector, has undoubtedly helped support the wider industry during what has been, at times, an extremely challenging period.

His passion and enthusiasm for responsible tourism will leave a lasting legacy and act as a driving force as we realise our ambition for Scotland to be one of the most economically, environmentally and socially sustainable destinations in the world.

Malcolm Roughead OBE, Chief Executive, VisitScotland

All the team at VisitScotland would like to say a huge thank you to John for the work he has done during his time here.

We wish him all the very best for the future.

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