The Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance has been set up with support from Co+operative Development Scotland (CDS) to boost tourism to Mid Argyll. As an open membership co-operative, anyone can join, ensuring the local industry is widely represented.
Loosely bounded by Ardfern, Inveraray, Tarbert and the Sound of Jura on Scotland’s west coast, Mid Argyll boasts some of Scotland’s finest scenery and history including Corryvreckan, the third largest whirlpool in the world; the Crinan Canal, billed ‘the UK’s most scenic shortcut’
and Dalriada, ancient birthplace of the Scottish nation. The founder members, including hotels, bed & breakfasts, shops and activity providers, have created a website, marketing plan and brand: Discover Dalriada in the Heart of Argyl.
Developments include enhanced tourist signage and facilities, dedicated ‘Explore for a Day’ itineraries and a mobile phone app.
“ Some of us have tried to market the area individually, but we’re one lone voice in a very crowded marketplace,” said founder member and co-ordinator Carron Tobin of rural Dimensions. “By working together, we’re getting the message out very loudly and clearly and hopefully hitting a broader range of audiences than each of us could do on our own.”
The Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance has also received support from partners including Mid Argyll Chamber of Commerce, Argyll & Bute Council, VisitScotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and British Waterways Scotland. Carron got in touch with CDS after hearing about them through a contact at Scottish Enterprise. A specialist CDS adviser met with the group to discuss their aims and how they might work together. The advisor explained the benefits of a consortium co-operative, which would allow the members to collaborate while retaining their individual businesses and brands.
The CDS adviser helped prepare a Memorandum and Articles of Association – which sets out procedures such as meeting, voting and election arrangements – and a Members’ Agreement, which explains how the members agree to work together, including the purpose of the co-operative and members’ obligations.
£6,000 funding support came from the local Dalriada Project and the EU LEADER Programme. Future income will come from membership subscriptions and project finance.
Each member of the core group has been assigned a geographic and sectoral area of responsibility. Board members share membership and funding tasks. The members meet every second Thursday to discuss progress and strategy.
- Influence – the co-operative will be able to influence policy and attract funding by representing the local tourism industry in consultations and funding bids.
- Credibility – “By being an open membership co-operative, it is guaranteed to reflect the genuine voice of the sector.” Robert Pollock, Head of Economic Development, Argyll & Bute Council.
- Visibility – the Heart of Argyll branding, proposition and website provides a central gateway for visitors and is attracting increasing interest and enquiries.
- Support network – business owners, especially those based in rural areas, can keep in touch, network and share ideas through the co-operative.
- Community benefit – “More tourists in the area using local facilities such as Lochgilphead swimming pool helps keep them open for local people too.” Andrew Wilson, HoATA Vice Chair and owner of The Square Peg.