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Visit Inverness and Loch Ness (VILN) tourism talks as new Scottish Government Minister for small business Richard Lochhead MSP visits

By Alasdair Fraser

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The roundtable meeting of Richard Lochhead MSP and tourism leaders
The roundtable meeting of Richard Lochhead MSP and tourism leaders

Tourism leaders from the Inverness area have held talks with Scotland’s newly-appointed minister for small business, innovation and trade.

Richard Lochhead MSP, who has a responsibility for tourism, met with members of Visit Inverness Loch Ness (VILN) on Wednesday this week.

The round table event at the Kingsmills Hotel included a meeting with VILN chief executive Michael Golding, and brought together experienced tourism leaders from across the region

They came from a variety of tourism sectors including accommodation, attractions, hospitality, golf and adventure tourism.

The visit came as it was confirmed the minister would be taking over responsibility for co-chairing the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group (ILG) from Ivan McKee, the MSP and former tourism minister.

The ILG, set up to champion Scotland’s ambition to be a world leader in 21st century tourism, is co-chaired by Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Small business minister and Moray MSP Mr Lochhead said: “It was great to visit Inverness to meet local business leaders and hear first-hand about the opportunities for the sector as we strive to become a world leader in 21st century tourism.

“Our discussion touched on many of the challenges currently facing the sector but also highlighted the dedication, quality and excellence of businesses operating in Inverness and the wider region.

“The tourism and hospitality sector plays a crucial role in our everyday lives and contributes to a wellbeing economy by creating jobs and sustaining communities.

Richard Lochhead MSP and Michael Golding, CEO of VILN
Richard Lochhead MSP and Michael Golding, CEO of VILN

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the sector to ensure that we deliver on the aims of our national tourism strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030, and the wider aims of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.”

Mr Golding said: “We all know how important tourism is to Inverness and Loch Ness and we were delighted to bring together business leaders from a cross-section of the industry to discuss the challenges and opportunities we are facing now.

“For the newly-appointed minister to choose Inverness and Loch Ness for his first tourism meeting in this role speaks volumes about our region’s contribution to Scotland’s tourism economy as a whole.

“There is no substitute for speaking directly to those running a business in tourism to really understand their priorities and, crucially, how the Scottish Government can help.

“I know that both our members and the Minister found this meeting extremely valuable.”

Represented at the business round table event were: Marina Huggett from Achnagairn Estate; Freda Newton from Loch Ness by Jacobite; Jane Slaughter from Pinewood Steading; Stuart McColm from Cabot Highland; Tony Story from the Kingsmills Hotel; Gail Cleaver from the National Trust for Scotland (Culloden Battlefield); Mike Dunthorne from In Your Element; David Shayer from Aye Stay; Anna Low from Foyers Lodge; Willie Cameron from Cobbs Group; with Michael Golding from Visit Inverness Loch Ness chairing the event.

A wide range of themes and topics were addressed, including controversial issues such as short term let licensing, the local visitor levy and changes in rateable values.

Other pressing matters included staffing challenges, housing and planning, the proposed alcohol advertising ban and the rising cost of operating a business.

Also discussed was A9 dualling, airport development, inflation, rising energy costs and the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

One of the business leaders in attendance, Freda Newton, managing director of Loch Ness by Jacobite, added: “Tourism businesses are facing a lot of challenges at the moment, and I welcomed the opportunity to share our experience with the Minister.”

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