Very Rural Tourism

Very Rural Tourism

Our major cities and towns, which are blessed with a plethora of well-established tourist attractions have benefitted from significant support and funding over the years. This is fully understood and generally accepted as being vital to the Scottish tourism economy.

These attractions have helped maintain Scotland as one of the world’s top tourism destinations. This magic, fame and the fairy book appeal of Scotland, does wonders for the cities and major towns which boast of blossoming tourism related economies, but the resulting benefits remain centric to the cities and the Scottish purse.

This has sadly had only a micro level impact on rural Scotland that remains as the “Oliver” always asking for more and sadly the smallest of very rural communities don’t even enjoy the benefit of crumbs at the table in a financial sense.

In many parts of very rural Scotland it is common to stand at the side of the road and count in excess of 40 buses per hour, packed with tourists flying past some of Scotland’s hidden gems. These gems are often contained in quaint little villages or in glens and side roads and only the locals ever have the chance to fully appreciate them. The same is equally true in some of Scotland’s coastal villages in deepest Argyllshire and other parts on the West coast seen only by those who live or work there or by the crew of cruising yachts.

Iona Island Jetty and beach

For those tourists in four-wheeled land yachts that happen to stop for a comfort break or to grab a snack – if parking and facilities exist, the awesomeness of their discovered surroundings is tangible and the local tour guide sometimes with a pint in hand or out dog walking, extolls the virtues, the history and heritage in a simplistic manner that is mostly well received. However, in very rural Scotland, resources on localised tourism are almost non-existent. This is a massive missed opportunity and a great potential revenue loss to the very rural communities.

Communities fighting back

Many villages recognise the problems and are doing great things to fight back. Despite the lack of support from their governing authorities, some communities have taken matters into their own hands and developed an action plan and strategy that is directly aimed at community and tourism development as is so often the case, these are interlinked. Local hubs are being created to encourage local enterprise and to replace the severe shortage of Tourism information offices that have been recently closed.

The new Banffshire Tourism Hub Banff

Just like local bank closures, people have been forced to travel to find alternative financial facilities or as many more are doing, to go online, to conduct their business.

So it’s good when a former bank closure results in the creation of a new Tourism Hub as in the Aberdeenshire town of Banff run by the great insight of Michelle Cameron and supported by Smart Village Scotland.

Many very rural communities are poorly informed, poorly connected, poorly supported and are fighting for survival, so great initiatives are evolving and many of these can have a very positive effect on very rural tourism.

Smart Village Scotland – Growbiz Scotland and Digital Scotland are deeply engaged in this evolution working with very rural communities in a bottom-up approach on rural development and wherever it is possible to promote the hidden gems and all tourism related assets. To help in this endeavour, a digital portal is provided to help communities become better informed, better connected, and innovative, inspiring rural enterprise to flourish.

Local hubs are becoming information centres for tourism, co-working environments and community cafes, venues for entrepreneurial skills to be developed on craft skills and other cottage industries.

The benefits of Smart Village are wide and varied and after initial support and help, the application is very much driven by the community that it serves.

Smart Village Scotland is rolling out a network of new smart communities with the support of Scottish Government, with live pilots in selected regions which will lead to a national roll out across Scotland

. Cairndow Argyll & Bute

Cairndow in Argyllshire is another village where the local community enthusiastically led by Debbie Donald and Team are creating their own Smart Village to support some great initiatives on tourism and rural development including a new Child Care centre.

New Pontoons and heritage trails are also planned as well as tying in the business communities at the head of loch Fyne.                                             

Heart 200 Tourist Route

With local initiatives like the route 500 in the far North and the shorter “Heart 200” mile tourism route through the heart of rural Stirlingshire and Perthshire, are designed to boost rural communities in a top-down approach.

Building rural communities that are able to cope and host new visitors is vital to sustaining local economies.

The interests of the business community and the interests of those who live there or are regular visitors need to be very carefully balanced.”

The infrastructure also needs to be fully considered in areas such as food /drink outlets, toilet facilities, disabled access, parking and accommodation. Sometimes the very good ideas come before the impact assessment and the often the communities are quite unprepared.

Whilst these initiatives are generally warmly welcomed they need to enjoy wide consideration and support to make them successful.

So in very rural Scotland, tourism is very important and the communities are fighting hard to enjoy the new opportunities that exist or that they are planning for the future.

This is just part of the many benefits to be enjoyed through Smart Village Scotland’s support to rural Scotland.

Kenny Higgins

Director

Smart Village Scotland

kenny@smartvillge.scot

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