Initiative to foster rural tourism launches

A programme to help community development organisations and social enterprises support the sustainable recovery of rural Scotland’s tourism sector has been launched.

Russel Griggs, chairman of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE). Picture: Bill McBurnie.

People working in community development with an interest in tourism can apply for one of 15 places on the Communities Leading in Tourism initiative starting in late September and running until December.

The 12-day programme aims to give participants insight into the complexities of the tourism sector, including exploring the challenges and opportunities faced following the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Douglas Cowan highlights the importance of engaging communities. Picture: Ewen Weatherspoon/HIE/Scottish Viewpoint.

It also marks the second of three intakes of candidates for the ground-breaking pilot programme developed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place at HIE, said: “When we developed this programme, we wanted to build a Scotland-wide network of community leaders connecting local development and tourism. As we tackle the impacts of Covid-19 in rural Scotland, community leadership is more important than ever. Engaging communities is an essential part of developing sustainable tourism going forward.”

SOSE chair Russel Griggs said: “The impact of the pandemic on tourism businesses and jobs is being felt in every one of our communities. In many rural towns and villages, local people have been at the heart of co-ordinating the emergency response to the pandemic. This programme will not only help equip community organisations obtain vital knowledge and leadership skills, but it will also enable them to successfully support local activity to safely welcome visitors back.”

The Social Enterprise Academy is delivering the programme including online sessions and three two-day residential tourism visits in Skye, the Trossachs and Stranraer.

David Bryan of the organisation said: “This programme is about communities taking control of the future of tourism in their areas. We will look at some great examples of communities deciding what sort of tourism they want, and then making it happen. The programme ends with everyone having developed their own action plan and gained the skills to implement it.”

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