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Caithness News Bulletins April 2004

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15 April 2004

Report by Director of Planning and Development

The report outlines the background to the Ministerial review on tourism, highlights the main points from the Parliamentary Statement by the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport on 11 March 2004 and asks members to discuss the implications of the statement on the delivery of tourism in the Highlands.

1 Introduction
1.1 In November 2001, the then Minister for Tourism announced a review of the Area Tourist Board
Structure in Scotland. In July 2003, a Ministerial Group was established to consider future
development of the tourism sector, including evidence from the Area Tourist Boards.
1.2 The outcome of the review was a Parliamentary Statement, entitled “Scottish Tourism - Going for
Growth” which was delivered by the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport on 11th March 2004.
1.3 The Highland Council is a major provider of direct and indirect services for the Tourism Industry
and additionally is providing funding of £527,709 to the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board in the
financial year 2004/05. A Service Agreement between the Council and HOST has been agreed and
signed up to by both organisations.
1.4 A report on the Ministerial Review of Tourism was submitted as an urgent item to the Planning,
Development, Europe and Tourism Committee on 24 March 2004 to allow discussion prior to the
Meeting of the Highlands and Islands Convention on 29 March 2004. The Committee agreed that:
(a) Concern be expressed as to the reduction in local democratic input into the delivery of tourism
(b) Clarity be sought on the impact of the Review on local authority funding;
(c) Representations be made seeking a continued role for the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board
(HOST) offices in Strathpeffer; and
(d) The Chief Executive of HOST be invited to make a presentation on the impact of the Review.
2 Parliamentary Statement - “Scottish Tourism - Going for Growth”
2.1 The Minister reported that the importance of tourism to Scotland and its economy has always been
recognised by the Executive. He believed that the package of measures announced will provide
further support to make the tourism sector even more vibrant and successful in the next decade.
2.2 The key messages of the Review are as follows:
The Executive has announced a big increase in financial support for tourism which is
intended to help Scottish tourism to grow strongly in the decade ahead
There is to be extra funding for marketing Scotland at national and local level £17m extra
over 3 years - for the marketing budget of VisitScotland on condition that £12m of this
extra funding is matched by the industry over the next two years
£3m extra over the next two years for quality including extending the Quality Assurance
Hubs will take over most of the current activities of ATBs, but will not be free-standing
autonomous organisations.
VisitScotland hubs will negotiate Partnership Agreements directly with Local Authorities
for the marketing of other tourism services they require
Tourism businesses will in future pay for the services they want from VisitScotland rather
than paying membership fees to the ATB.
There will be more focus on industry led marketing and action groups
The Executive believes this package will enable tourism to grow by 50% by 2015.
3 The Impact on the Highland Council
3.1 The Executive recognises that Local Authority funding for tourism is crucially important. Scottish
Local Authorities operate over 50% of the country’s free visitor attractions and make an important
contribution to tourism by providing the necessary infrastructure to support the tourism product at
local level. The Highland Council, in line with other local authorities also provide funding towards
HOST. However, the Executive concluded that much clearer arrangements are needed in each area
with local authorities to enable them to see what the financial support for tourism in their areas is
3.2 The core grant system Highland Council uses to support HOST is linked to a Service Level
Agreement. The Executive suggests that in the future, each tourism hub will work closely with its
local authority to maintain the present level of financial support and they believe that this will be
assisted by replacing the present system of core grants with partnership agreements negotiated
between Visit Scotland and the Council. In this way, we will see exactly what our tourism funding
is buying from the VisitScotland network. The use of partnership agreements will align well with our
duty to achieve best value.
3.3 It is recognised that discussion on the content of the partnership will need to take place over the next
six months, not only at a local level, but on a Scottish wide basis.
3.4 Since the release of the Minister’s statement, a meeting has taken place between the ATBs, Scottish
Executive and VisitScotland. During a question and answer session, a number of issues were raised
including Local Authority involvement in the new Tourism Network Scotland. It was reported that
the Minister would shortly meet with elected members within CoSLA to discuss, in particular, the
maintenance of overall Local Authority funding to ATBs at the current level of £8 million. It was
also reported that the Executive, VisitScotland and ATBs would hold bi-lateral meetings with
CoSLA and individual Local Authorities at Ministerial and official level to set out the wider
ambitions for Scottish tourism, how we, at national and local levels can work together to secure
greater economic growth and more jobs, but also to discuss in particular the maintenance of Local
Authority funding to ATBs at the current levels. Concern was also expressed that Local Authorities
might be keen to support local tourism action groups and that this might take funds away from the
newly created local tourism hubs. The Executive recognised this but said they were keen for Local
Authorities to continue funding at hub level as they do now through ATBs.
4 Conclusions
4.1 The Highland Council has a major and important role in supporting, managing and funding tourism
and we need to be key partners in the future development of the industry.
4.2 We should welcome the move towards closer integration with VisitScotland, the strong National
Marketing Strategy, improved working with industry-led groups, the streamlined approach from the
Industry to access services and support and the announcement of additional funding for marketing
and towards the Quality Assurance Scheme - all of which will help us to continue to improve the
service provided in the Highlands.
4.3 We also require to seek clarification on how the proposal to replace Local Authority Grants to Area
Tourist Boards with Service Level Agreements will impact on local government funding.
4.4 The Council will wish to ensure that visitor information services to visitors are provided throughout
the Highlands, either by the hub or by arrangements with third parties.
4.5 The Council may also wish to express a continuing interest in the future of the Convention Bureau.

Members are asked to:
1. discuss the contents of the Parliamentary Statement and its implications for tourism in the
Highlands with particular reference to Section 4 of the report: and
2. seek clarification of the future role of the HOST offices in Strathpeffer.

Addition proposed by Councillor John Green and agreed by Councillors
3. seek clarification of the future role of the HOST offices in Wick.