Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is to invest £3m over the next three years in tourism destination management organisations (DMOs) as part of the agency’s support for the sector’s recovery.
DMOs are formalised membership organisations representing local tourism providers, with many involved in regional level partnership working.
The HIE funding is mainly targeted at strategically important DMOs in the Highlands and Islands that already have established relationships with the agency’s area teams.
Many member businesses have benefited from increased turnover and networking opportunities as a result of their DMO’s activities, which are determined by the specific needs of their area.
In recent weeks DMOs have focused on co-ordination and communication among communities and local tourism providers as the they reopen to visitors.
They have also helped provide clarity on government guidelines.
The role of DMOs is expected to become more pivotal as the sector continues to reopen, and the region’s destinations and communities welcome back more visitors.
The increasingly challenging task of securing operational funding has been exacerbated by the loss of commercial revenue over the past few months.
VisitScotland provided essential short-term support with the Tourism Destination and Sector Support Fund as part of the COVID-19 response.
Many DMOs also benefited from the Scottish Government’s pivotal enterprise resilience funding.
The HIE funding will build on this to help make sure they are sufficiently resourced to play a vital role in the recovery of tourism across the Highlands and Islands.
It will be administered by the agency’s area teams and targeted at supporting strategically important activities.
These could include collaboration projects, member representation and networking, as well as community engagement and support and responsible management of destinations.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s deputy chief executive, said:
“Tourism is central to our regional economy and a vital source of rural employment.
“DMOs provide valuable co-ordinated support for the sector, tailored to the specific needs of their areas.
“It’s clear that the industry will become even more reliant on these groups as we progress through the recovery stages.
“Our role is to help them to be as effective as possible in this process.
“We have approved this investment to complement wider public sector support for DMOs in the region from organisations such as VisitScotland and from local authorities.
“We look forward to working with all our partners to achieve a successful and sustainable recovery of our tourism sector.”
Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said:
“A safe and strong recovery for all of our communities will be key to the future success of Scotland, and we have worked closely with HIE, and our other enterprise agencies, to minimise the impact of this pandemic.
“Place is at the heart of our vision for 21st Century tourism in Scotland and our destination management organisations will play an important role in making that vision a reality.
“Recovery will be slow, but I very much welcome today’s announcement by HIE, as will, I am sure, those organisations and communities on which our tourism sector depends.”Back