Funding Boost for Highland Tourism

Pictured: Glen Docherty by Steven Carter.

Highland groups to share in £500k funding pot.

More than a dozen Highland organisations are among destination and sector tourism groups across Scotland impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which are set to receive a share in a £500,000 support package offered by VisitScotland.

A total of 81 membership organisations have been successful in applying for the Tourism Destination and Sector Support Fund, which was launched by the national tourism organisation last month, 14 of which are in the Highlands.

These include Assynt Development Trust, Cairngorms Business Partnership, Dornoch Area Community Interest Company, Golf Highland, Heart of Sutherland Tourism, Inverness and District B&B Association, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, North Coast 500, Road to the Isles Marketing Group, Skye Connect, Venture North Cooperative, Visit Inverness Loch Ness, Visit Wester Ross and Welcome Ullapool.

Those successful applicants across Scotland represent in excess of 10,000 tourism businesses and have been awarded grants to support their survival and ensure they are able to continue working with VisitScotland in the weeks and months ahead.

The one-off fund was created in response to the devasting impact of the pandemic on Scottish tourism and was open to all destination and sector groups that have a membership base made up of entirely, or predominantly, tourism businesses.

A total of 98 applications were received requesting a total of £1.6 million.

The fund, which closed on 22 May, was originally set at £400,000 but was increased to £500,000 due to the volume of requests.

Successful applicants could be awarded up to 50% of their membership income under threat due to coronavirus.

Those who failed to meet the eligibility criteria received a letter explaining why and were signposted to other sources of funding and support.

Riddell Graham, Director of Industry & Destination Development at VisitScotland, said:

“The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devasting impact on the Scottish tourism industry and this funding package for destination organisations and sector groups will hopefully go some way towards supporting them through this challenging time.

“We are pleased to have been able to increase our original funding pot to enable us to provide some funding for all eligible applicants.

“Even then it is unsurprising that the number of applications has been in excess of what is available and as such difficult decisions have had to be taken.

“Recovery will require our collective efforts and this fund represents a great opportunity to enable a collaborative approach to meet the massive challenges set by the pandemic and ensure the best possible outcomes for the whole of the visitor economy.”

Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Fergus Ewing, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for Scotland’s tourism sector.

“Throughout, I have been engaging with businesses and listening to concerns to explore how we can best help them navigate this unprecedented crisis. 

“We have a long way to go but this funding package will be a welcome boost for destination management organisations and sector groups.

“It will enable them to keep working with VisitScotland, tourism businesses and local communities to build a strong and safe recovery, welcoming visitors again in Phase 3 of the route map.”

Neil Hampton, from the Golf Highland Board, said:

“Golf Highland was set up to bring together the clubs and courses in the Highlands so that we could work as one in promoting the area, raising awareness of the diversity of golf available and the quality or experience that each course provided.

“This was done with the money given by the golf clubs themselves, so the devastating effect of the pandemic meant we couldn’t ask clubs for money as they were struggling to survive themselves, but with the knowledge that this was the time we really did need to get the message out.

“The funding from VisitScotland won’t fill the hole completely but will go a long way to ensuring that Golf Highland is still projecting the message to the world.”

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) was also among the successful applicants.

Gordon Morrison, Chief Executive of ASVA, said:

“The Tourism Destination and Sector Support Fund allows ASVA to continue to operate normally for the rest of 20/21 year, without us needing to further cut costs than we already have or reduce our operations in the short term.

“It will ensure that we can continue to support the attractions sector at full capacity, which makes a huge difference to us and to the sector.

“Our organisation works to a very tight budget and relies on income we bring in from members to survive.

“At present, we know that we cannot make asks of members to support our organisation financially, other than renewing their membership, so we have been delivering and will continue to deliver support services to the industry, such as webinars and online events, free of charge.

“This funding from VisitScotland will allow us to represent and support the sector for the rest of the year.”