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.
Its aim is to promote and represent the growing number of community run tourism ventures across Scotland.
SCOTO 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 launched today (25 April) with a series of promotional activities planned by members throughout the week.
A new interactive website has been designed to showcase Scotland’s wide range of 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.
Russell Fraser, manager of community owned Loch Ness Hub, a visitor information centre in Drumnadrochit, is a founding member and Chair 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.’
Marc Crothall, chief executive of Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: ‘Supporting, encouraging and enabling more community led tourism is a key aim set out in our national tourism strategy Scotland Outlook 2030. The formation of SCOTO is very timely as we recover from the pandemic and the tourism sector starts to get moving again.
‘Community led tourism will not only help drive greater economic benefit to the local economies but it will also deliver the real authentic memorable experiences that we know the future visitor is seeking. It is also through our communities, supporting local businesses and procuring from the local supply chain that will also help set Scotland apart from its competitors and together with the wider sector achieve our national ambition of being world leaders in 21st century tourism.’
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.
Karen Craib, tourism project manager at Scottish Enterprise said: ‘As one of the 10 successful applicants to the Scottish Government funded Tourism Leadership & Recovery Fund, Scottish Enterprise and our partners are delighted to have helped establish SCOTO which will showcase the fantastic range of community owned tourist enterprises right across Scotland.’
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