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Speyside groups back new tourism body SCOTO as it calls on visitors to make “conscious choice” to support Scotland’s local communities


By Calum MacLeod

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Left to right (back): Marc Crothall, chief executive of Scottish Tourism Alliance; Patricia Kent, manager at SCOTO member Callander Youth Project Trust; SCOTO facilitator Carron Tobin; SCOTO chairman Russell Fraser of Loch Ness Hub; Diane Smith, SCOTO coordinator. Front: Jack Wardrop, former Modern Apprentice and now youth worker with Callander Youth Project Trust with the SCOTO place-marker.
Left to right (back): Marc Crothall, chief executive of Scottish Tourism Alliance; Patricia Kent, manager at SCOTO member Callander Youth Project Trust; SCOTO facilitator Carron Tobin; SCOTO chairman Russell Fraser of Loch Ness Hub; Diane Smith, SCOTO coordinator. Front: Jack Wardrop, former Modern Apprentice and now youth worker with Callander Youth Project Trust with the SCOTO place-marker.

A new national tourism body is urging visitors to support community owned tourism enterprises across Scotland and deliver a boost for local jobs and services as the sector rebuilds after Covid-19.

Scottish Community Tourism (SCOTO) is a new network of around 100 community owned tourism organisations and enterprises, with key figures from the community tourism sector in the Highlands among those driving the project.

These include Badenoch The Storylands, led by Grantown musician Hamish Napier, and the Moray Walking and Outdoor Festival.

SCOTO’s aim is to promote and represent the growing number of community run tourism ventures across Scotland.

It wants tourists to make a conscious choice to seek out accommodation, activities, and food and drink services offered by businesses that are owned and managed by local community bodies, where every pound spent is reinvested in local priorities, from the environment to jobs for young people, housing to wellbeing services.

The new body formally launches today (25 April) with a series of promotional activities planned by members throughout the week.

Badenoch The Storylands is among the community tourism groups which has given its support to SCOTO.
Badenoch The Storylands is among the community tourism groups which has given its support to SCOTO.

A new interactive website has been designed to showcase Scotland’s wide range independent, community owned cafes, community pubs, distilleries, accommodation providers, shops, cultural centres, outdoor attractions, festivals and other service providers including toilets and ATMs.

Members will be offered a free listing on the website and venues joining the network will receive SCOTO place-markers to identify them as community owned enterprises.

Other Highland members include Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere in Kyle of Lochalsh, Discover Thurso, Dornoch Area Community Interest Company, the Seaboard Centre in Easter Ross, and Loch Ness Hub, a visitor and information centre (VIC) in Drumnadrochit.

Loch Ness Hub manager Russell Fraser is SCOTO's first chairman.
Loch Ness Hub manager Russell Fraser is SCOTO's first chairman.

Russell Fraser is manager of Loch Ness Hub and chairman of SCOTO.

He said: “There are dozens of examples of communities in Scotland taking ownership of local services and facilities and transforming them into successful community run tourism enterprises, but until now there has never been a dedicated body that represents their interests. SCOTO will provide that voice.

“Our members are unlike other tourism providers because they are owned and operated by the communities they serve. Every penny spent with our members is an investment in our landscape, our culture, our people and their future.

“Our vision of sustainable, regenerative tourism ensures that the benefits of tourism are felt across the community - through sustainable development, employment, improved connectivity and the natural environment. We want visitors in Scotland to make a conscious choice to support local tourism enterprises, knowing that their support will have immediate and long-lasting benefits for that community.”

Natasha Hutchison, general manager of Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere said: “Destination management is about more than just promotion of an area. It covers all aspects of the visitor experience; from roads and toilets to natural and cultural heritage. Communities and their priorities are also key in this process; happy places to visit must first be happy places to live."

Joan Bishop, the chairwoman of Dornoch Area Community Interest Company, which aims to enhance and preserve the town and manage community land and buildings, said: “Promoting tourism in a town is all about partnership and communication. Local organisations which are small or large, not-for profit or for-profit can benefit from increased numbers of contented tourists.”

The new organisation has received funding from the Scottish Government Tourism Leadership & Recovery Grant and has been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and the Social Enterprise Academy.

Membership of the new body is open to community owned tourism projects and businesses, organisations and individuals with an interest in the sector.

For more information, visit scoto.co.uk


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