Tourism firms go coastal in Oban

Ashley Menzies, left, and Carron Tobin at the West Coast Waters event.

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Businesses in Oban have been taking advantage of support offered by West Coast Waters to reach new tourism markets as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Two business engagement events, delivered in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), took place on Wednesday and Thursday, February 26 and 27, in the Corran Halls, where delegates gathered from Oban’s marine and tourism industries to learn more about the initiative and how they could participate.

As well as talks from organisations such as Wild Scotland and the University of the Highland and Islands Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research, attendees were invited to participate in workshops focusing on four of the initiative’s key features.

They were: a promotional campaign toolkit including help with social media; a baton relay that will make its way to 36 locations over 20 weeks, and which can be tracked online; a ‘Coasts which Shaped the World’ seminar which included a history of local voyages and how they impacted on other countries; and a ‘Trail of Discovery’ seminar which included details of a sunset competition, as well as kayaking and food and drink trails.

There will also be a hospcotch trail, in association with CalMac, to allow tourists to island-hop along the west coast, and scavenger hunts in which locals can participate in litter picks and upcycling of materials as part of the project’s legacy.

Participants were also encouraged to network at the event and bring their own ideas as to how they could capitalise on the initiative. One of the participants, Fraser McIver, was there to represent Ardfern Yacht Centre.

Fraser said: ‘We’re part of the Sails Scotland organisation. It’s a brilliant way to meet up with other businesses, especially a cross-section of the hospitality industry.’

Asked what he wanted most from the business events, he replied that he wanted to improve his digital marketing skills.

West Coast Waters, a collaboration of 22 west coast destination groups, was formed to raise the profile of this area of Scotland and entice more tourists and adventure seekers to visit.

Tourism is currently worth £17 million to the Oban economy, and a particular focus will be growing this figure through investment in ‘glamping’, outdoor adventure holidays and ‘slow adventures’ which tap into the mindfulness movement and sustainable tourism markets.

Carron Tobin, coordinator of West Coast Waters, told The Oban Times: ‘We want to ensure this part of Argyll makes the most of its resources. None of us expected it to grow to the size it has. And now people are approaching us to take part, which rarely happens.’

At the event Carron also took time to single out some the achievements of people from coastal communities, including Lachlan Macquarie, from the Isle of Mull, who transformed the territory of New South Wales into what would become modern Australia.

‘Historically, the seaways were the highways. We’re trying to engender this feeling again with Our Coasts that Shaped the World digital initiative. It will remember big stories like Macquarie to wee stories remembered from grandmothers.’