Re-imagining tourism in Oban

Tori Hamilton

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A Glasgow School of Art student has been working with the Oban community to look at future of tourism in the town.

Over 12 weeks, Tori Hamilton, a student in the Innovation School at The Glasgow School of Art, worked with key stakeholders and businesses in the town to look at how Oban might make the most of new trends in tourism, looking at what opportunities there might be to target the changing aspirations and desires of visitors.

Tori specialises in co-design, an approach that brings together a designer and the end user to create a solution to a particular challenge together.

‘Oban is one of Scotland’s most beautiful coastal towns with a rich heritage. Over the years it has proved adaptable and reinvented itself as the tourism market changed,’ says Tori, who has a close connection to Oban. ‘There are now further opportunities for growing our share of the tourism market and getting a wider range of visitors.’

‘In particular there is now a shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible tourism,’ she adds. ‘New tourism is characterised by participation, with adventure and getting off the beaten track becoming popular. For Oban to remain relevant it needs to engage with this trend.’

Co-design, an approach that brings together a designer and the end user to create a solution to a particular challenge together, was used to engage with the community.

From organised workshops and conversations Tori identified five themes of importance to the community that could be used to help make the most of the new tourism opportunities:

  • living like a local – contemporary tourists increasingly want to immerse themselves in the locality, to do what locals do, eat what and where locals eat;
  • working together – all the different groups within the community need to work together to create “authentic” experiences, and in particular to get the best from digital tools that are increasingly available;
  • engaging further – getting existing tourists to either stay longer or visit more often;
  • addressing seasonality – as well as maximising the potential of existing opportunities in the town Oban could look to create specific opportunities for the “off season” and also benefit from groups which actively buy into the idea of helping places to maintain year-round tourism;
  • visitor delight – improving visitor satisfaction across the board to increase the chance of more and longer stays and of existing visitors spreading the word to potential visitors through personal endorsement.

Throughout the project Tori worked with Oban textile artist, Deborah Gray. A supporter of the aim to change the tourism landscape in the town, Deborah has created pieces which interpret the five key themes that are helping to spread the word.

In August there will be an event at the Rockfield Centre, Oban, at which the Tori hopes the public will come along and discuss the ideas raised in her collaborative project.