Tourism body announces major changes

Linda Battison, centre.

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The Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance has announced a series of changes which it says are aimed at securing the long-term future of marketing the area to visitors.

OLTA members have given their initial approval to a series of proposals which came after it decided not to levy hard-pressed local tourism businesses with subscriptions this autumn.

As a result of discussions, many of OLTA’s key functions will now be taken on by the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC) from next year.

AITC, a destination management organisation, will also oversee a major upgrade to oban.org.uk which OLTA said it would not have been able to fund.

As a result, OLTA may be restructured to become a ‘tourism advisory group’ rather than a membership organisation as first established.

To help with the switch, AITC has agreed to waive joining fees for OLTA members until March 1 next year.

Businesses listed on www.oban.org.uk – one of the key benefits of OLTA membership – will remain free until March next year.

Members will also be featured on AITC’s www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk

AITC will also oversee a review of the Oban site’s current content, while behind the scenes, the site will switch to a more sophisticated content management system (CMS).

Linda Battison, a founding member of OLTA and its marketing director, said: ‘We believe that this is the right direction for OLTA.

‘Alone we do not have sufficient resources to finance a tech project of this scale and we certainly do not have the manpower to grow our destination management organisation.

‘The world has moved on and Oban cannot afford to be left behind.’

The OLTA board had recognised that after the pandemic, AITC is in a better position to help market Oban and Lorn to visitors, she said.

It is also better resourced to represent tourism at a local and national government level, she said.

Ms Battison said the new future arrangements had been met with ‘positive and supportive comments’.

Ms Battison added: ‘For now, the board and structure of Oban & Lorn Tourism Alliance remains a cooperative consortium limited by guarantee, but next year when the proposed changes are in place and our existing members subscribe directly to the regional DMO, the board will consider its options.

‘The important point to remember is that OLTA, in whatever form it takes in the future, will still have a seat at the table with the regional DMO, we would still work collaboratively with BID4Oban and our other established partners in the area, but we would have freed ourselves from crippling administrative and financial constraints.’

‘I have been involved with OLTA since its inception and I am relieved that this proposal provides a long-term future for the organisation.

‘It has been a difficult year for tourism and hospitality and the industry looks likely to be adversely affected well into 2021.

‘OLTA believes that we are ‘stronger together’ and by pooling our resources we will ensure that destination marketing for our area is underpinned and secured.’

Calum Ross, of Loch Melfort Hotel, is both a founding director of AITC and a past chairman of OLTA.

He described the proposals and the changes as ‘the next logical step’.

Mr Ross aid: ‘AITC was formed in 2012 as a cooperative with its membership being the local marketing and sectoral groups.

‘Collaboration with the DMO’s and business through the region has been it’s raison d’etre.

‘OLTA has been a key member from the start and it’s particularly pleasing that this influential DMO is now ready to take the concept of collaborative working one stage further.’

Mr Ross added: ‘As a business owner in the area, I am confident that this move will provide targeted destination marketing for this area and secure our core marketing activities for the future.

‘We’ve already signed up for AITC membership and any other business that would like to join can do so by visiting the Wild About Argyll website: www.WildAboutArgyll.co.uk/membership/