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Highland tourism conference puts climate change front and centre


By Rachel Smart

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From left: Irene Roberts, UKIR Director for Market and Management at Expedia; Jamie Brogan, Head of Climate Partnerships at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute; Chris Taylor, Destination Development Director at VisitScotland; Cat Leaver, Head of Brand and Global Marketing at VisitScotland. Picture: Trevor Martin Photography
From left: Irene Roberts, UKIR Director for Market and Management at Expedia; Jamie Brogan, Head of Climate Partnerships at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute; Chris Taylor, Destination Development Director at VisitScotland; Cat Leaver, Head of Brand and Global Marketing at VisitScotland. Picture: Trevor Martin Photography

Individuals and organisations involved in the tourism industry gathered together at the Highland Tourism Conference in Inverness yesterday.

Taking place at the Kingsmills Hotel, the topic of climate change was one of the main themes covered at the event which saw more than 150 delegates in attendance.

Jamie Brogan, head of climate partnerships at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute in the University of Edinburgh, provided the keynote address at the annual conference

He encouraged attendees to consider how climate change might impact their business and how action can make a difference. He also offered advice for businesses on what they can do and where to start.

The conference included presentations, workshops and exhibitions from a range of organisations and experienced industry professionals offering inspiration, market insights and practical solutions to help tourism and events businesses take advantage of a host of new opportunities to increase visitor numbers and enhance the visitor experience.

These included climate action planning, tourism trends and insights, marketing business and tourism as a force for good.

Jamie Brogan, head of climate partnership at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, said: “The need to act on climate is becoming a business imperative to which tourism has to respond. Even beyond the need to play your part in tackling the climate crisis, your customers, communities, funders and other stakeholders will be looking for visible actions.

“Tourism businesses of any size should recognise and be confident in the role they can play – looking beyond just reducing the climate impact of operating their own business and into the multiple roles that tourism businesses can play; in influencing, advising and educating staff, suppliers and customers; in leading, supporting or contributing to sustainable communities across the Highlands; and in developing and offering new experiences with sustainability at their core. Taking the lead on climate and sustainability is good for business, good for the communities in which the operate, and good for the planet.”

Other speakers at the event included Irene Roberts, director for market and management at Expedia, who discussed current and upcoming trends and insights of tourism in the Highlands.

She shared the biggest search in the international market for the Highlands comes from the USA and Canada. However, the greatest share of searches is coming from the UK.

She said: "Searches for 180 days plus are growing so it is important to ensure that rates and prices are accurate ahead of time. I cannot stress enough to please manage your rates well into next year."

In the afternoon, a showcase of award-winning Highland businesses took place – who all triumphed in their respective categories at this year’s Highlands and Islands Thistle Awards (HITA).

These included the Duisdale House Hotel, Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE) and the Stories of Scotland Podcast.

Cory Jones, chairperson of the Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE) board of directors, said: “GALE firmly believes in celebrating thriving communities, and the Highlands and Islands Thistle Awards provide a platform to showcase the incredible work being done by the region's tourism industry. By participating, we aim to highlight the positive impact our organisation has had on our community and inspire others to do the same."

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland’s director of destination development, added: “This year’s conference demonstrates our support for the tourism and events sector through the provision of excellent information and advice from our speakers, as well as via the breakout and workshop sessions.

“Responsible and sustainable tourism remain high on the agenda today, with increasing evidence and insight to support the unique experiences and products that visitors are looking for during their stay in the Highlands. However, this needs to be sensitively balanced amid the current cost challenges.

“Tourism is a force for good and its impact spreads far beyond the industry itself - it benefits our economy, our community and our wellbeing. VisitScotland is committed to championing change to shape the responsible growth of Scotland’s valuable tourism and events industry in a way that respects people and places.”


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