Fort William chamber part of new European partnership to up-skill adventure tourism sector

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In response to the fast-changing adventure tourism environment in Scotland, the rest of the UK and throughout Europe, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Highlands and Islands this week announced a new European Commission-funded trans-national partnership with higher education institutions in Estonia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Denmark.

From early in 2018 The Adventure Tourism Innovation Partnerships (AVIP) project, that includes Lochaber Chamber of Commerce (UK), the University of the Highlands and Islands (UK) – lead partner, Tallinn University (Estonia), Varna Chamber of Tourism (Bulgaria), Momentum (Ireland) and the European E-learning Institute (Denmark), will develop education and training programmes to strengthen the skills base of young people and adults working in the adventure tourism sector, particularly for those economies constrained by structural weaknesses and disadvantage by their remote locations.

Responding to regional skills gaps in the adventure tourism sector, the AVIP project has been set up to deliver quality, relevant, flexible, innovative and transferable learning pathways to students, entrepreneurs, employees and other practitioners.

These vocational and academic pathways will not only meet the industry requirement for enhanced digital competencies and entrepreneurial capabilities, they will also focus on giving individuals and organisations the skills to respond to and capitalise on the growing opportunities within the adventure tourism sector.

Adventure tourism is widely recognised as a powerful way to promote sustainable development in rural and economically marginal areas, generating smart employment and jobs growth, as well as providing strong incentives for conserving the natural environment.

Project partners acknowledge that to support the industry’s ambitions for growth there is a need to develop skills in key areas including management and leadership; marketing and digital technologies; product innovation; enabling high quality customer experiences and ensuring the availability of appropriate training.

Cross-cultural forums and innovative partnerships will ensure an alliance that pools resources, expertise and experience from across the five countries to deliver exceptional skills development in these essential areas, whilst assisting in driving the industry forward.

Project partners also believe that the AVIP project is transformative, creating a lasting impact for higher education institutions and their graduates, entrepreneurs and businesses, particularly SME’s and their employees, and will respond directly to the transformational changes in sustainable tourism.

Dr Steve Taylor, the head of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research, said: ‘This is a great opportunity for Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and West Highland College UHI to help bring cutting-edge training to tourism businesses in the region.  We look forward to collaborating with our international partners, and working with businesses and tourism organisations in Lochaber and the wider Highlands region to develop meaningful and instructive training courses to this increasingly important sub-sector of the Scottish economy.’

The project was announced as Lochaber Chamber of Commerce’s Lochaber ideas Week (November 13-17) got under way. The week is a celebration of business, education and community through a gathering of exceptional talks, workshops, competitions, discussion and networking opportunities, and is a catalyst to stimulate fresh initiatives and ventures, creating new connections and points of collaboration designed to enhance Fort William and Lochaber, The Outdoor Capital of the UK, as a fantastic place in which to live, work and visit.