Revamped tourism body targets links to other sectors of economy

Gordon Dewar, Fiona Moriarty and James Withers will sit on the main board of the STA, which aims to get visitors spending �6.5bn a year in Scotland by 2020. Photograph: TSPL
Gordon Dewar, Fiona Moriarty and James Withers will sit on the main board of the STA, which aims to get visitors spending �6.5bn a year in Scotland by 2020. Photograph: TSPL
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A RESURRECTED tourism body is drafting in three senior figures from outside the 
£11 billion holiday sector as it tries to forge closer links with other parts of the economy.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), which was formed last year from the ashes of the old Scottish Tourism Forum (STF), is recruiting Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar, Scottish Retail Consortium director Fiona Moriarty and Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers to sit on its main board.

STA chairman Stephen Leckie, who runs the Crieff ­Hydro hotel in Perthshire, said the appointments would help to implement the national tourism strategy by integrating holiday firms into other parts of the economy.

The national strategy aims to get visitors spending £6.5bn a year in Scotland by 2020, an increase of £1bn at 2011 prices.

Leckie told Scotland on Sunday: “Tourism is starting to make a big play in the economy and that’s being recognised by the Scottish Government and others in the public sector.

“We’re bulking up our board. We’re working more closely with organisations like Scotland Food & Drink and on the tourism strategy.

“We’re trying hard to move tourism to the front of people’s minds when they think about the economy in Scotland.

“The tourism industry is growing in stature and that has got to be good.”

Leckie added: “The STA has to stand on its own two feet in terms of finance and that’s working well. We’re gathering momentum.

“It also has to deliver a private sector-led tourism strategy to grow tourism as a business in Scotland.”

The STF was launched in 1998 but came to the brink of collapse in 2011 after its members – tourism businesses – were unable to continue funding its structure.

“The old Scottish Tourism Forum was effectively dead and so our directors had to become fundraisers,” Leckie said.

The alliance now boasts sponsors including Gleneagles Hotel owner Diageo, Macdonald Hotels and VisitScotland, as well as players from outside the industry, such as car retailer Arnold Clark, laundry operator Fishers and FTSE 250 transport giant Stagecoach.

Leckie praised the work of current STA board directors, including Rebecca Brookes, the managing director at ­Abbey Tours Scotland, and co-opted member Calum Ross, who is chairman of the British Hotels Association in Scotland and owner of the Loch Melfort Hotel near Oban.

“Calum was a main board director at Unilever,” said Leckie. “He’s a big mover and shaker. It means a lot to us to have people like that around the ­table. There is no one just attending board meetings for the sake of it. Everyone is contributing. They all want to get on and take things forward.”

Leckie also attributed the turnaround in the organisation’s fortunes to the appointment in May of Marc Crothall as chief executive.

Crothall said the body was growing in influence, with 300 delegates expected to attend its annual conference in Glasgow in March, double the turnout for last year’s event.

“There are areas where we can work together with other areas of the economy, like with the retail sector on skills and training,” Crothall said.

“When it comes to the food and drink industry trying to grow exports, the first taste of Scottish produce tends to be when customers are visiting Scotland. So it’s all about not seeing tourism in isolation but about seeing it as part of the wider economy.”

News of the Scottish Tourism Alliance appointments comes as Edinburgh Napier University and Scottish Enterprise prepare to use Tuesday’s Edinburgh Tourism Action Group annual conference to launch a two-year pilot study – based on a similar programme in Melbourne, ­Australia – to train tourism leaders in Edinburgh and St Andrews.