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Gold Premier Partner
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Chamber Matters: Collaboration is the Route to Success

Andrew Mackay, Director at the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in Caithness and Sutherland and owner of The Norseman and Castletown Hotels writes about the exciting year ahead for tourism in Scotland and how collaboration is alive and kicking in Caithness and Sutherland.

2014 has the potential to be a mammoth year for tourism in Scotland. With VisitScotland’s well-publicised Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup - reaching the third largest television audience for a sporting event in the world - things are exciting. Combined with the hosting of the MTV Europe Awards in Glasgow and the legacy of the London Olympics, 2014 has the makings of a very exhilarating time for everyone in the tourism industry.

To capitalise on this opportunity we have to be positioned well and working as a team. Unfortunately, tourism businesses have to be honest with themselves and admit that we haven’t been successful at this in the past. However, things are changing. VisitScotland is no longer primarily a tourist office operator but a marketing juggernaut which sells Scotland as a destination, offering a great opportunity to take the bull by the horns and do something about this.

Joined-up thinking is the holy grail in most areas I have worked in - even the communities that you may think do it well still aim for it. What we have an abundance of in the North is the enthusiasm and quality of our people and it is this that shines through time and time again in the feedback from visitors. Just look at the feedback from the Mod in 2010 - it was larger than the participants expected and successfully implemented by the local organising committee.

If we can get our ability to package up our great events, fantastic facilities, award-winning visitor attractions and outstanding natural beauty to match up to our people then tourism can help boost our economy post-Dounreay.

An initiative driven by Highlands and Islands Enterprise called “Innovating Tourism in Caithness and North Sutherland” gave the opportunity for local businesses to work together collaboratively and those businesses have formed a co-operative called Venture North.

The co-operative is looking to capitalise on 2014’s opportunities as a starting base and to 2015 and beyond for the future growth of our wonderful destination, and presents an opportunity for the tourism sector to work together for mutual success. The engineering sector have seen success with this approach, working together on projects too big for one company – an approach we can learn from to grow Caithness’ tourism sector.

Venture North will create joined up thinking in the tourism sector for both tourists and businesses. By driving small or large projects from members to a one-stop shop web portal, we can improve the customer journey of our visitors and collaborate with the great work that North Highland Initiative and VisitScotland are already doing. By doing this well, we can ensure that visitors will stay longer, come back often, and spread the word about Caithness.