Stromness Museum is amongst the many visitor attractions featured in a new national tourism body.
Scottish Community Tourism (SCOTO) is a new network of around 100 community owned tourism organisations and enterprises, with community tourism organisations in Orkney and Shetland among those backing the initiative.
SCOTO’s aim is to promote and represent the growing number of community run tourism ventures across Scotland.
It wants tourists to make a conscious choice to seek out accommodation, activities, and food and drink services offered by businesses that are owned and managed by local community bodies, where every pound spent is reinvested in local priorities, from the environment to jobs for young people, housing to wellbeing services.
The new body formally launches today ,25 April, with a series of promotional activities planned by members throughout the week.
A new interactive website has been designed to showcase Scotland’s wide range of independent, community owned cafes, community pubs, distilleries, accommodation providers, shops, cultural centres, outdoor attractions, festivals and other service providers including toilets and ATMs.
Members will be offered a free listing on the website and venues joining the network will receive SCOTO place-markers to identify them as community owned enterprises.
Local members include Stromness Museum, one of Scotland’s oldest independent museums dating back to 1837, Bressay Development Ltd, which runs a café, creative studios and exhibition spaces and shop, and Wild Skies Shetland, a volunteer run project which encourages visitors to appreciate the many wonders of Shetland’s ever changing skies.
Catriona Waddington is chair of Wild Skies Shetland and a director of SCOTO.
“The scope and variety of community tourism in Scotland is quite extraordinary. Our own project in Unst is creating memorable experiences for visitors to the island while also generating income and employment for the community. There are so many examples around Scotland and so much experience to share. However, the concept of community tourism – although not new – is still little understood, and we need to change that. SCOTO will not only be a forum for sharing ideas and promoting our many success stories; it will ensure that the independent, community tourism sector is given the support it merits.”
Chair of SCOTO Russell Fraser added:
“There are dozens of examples of communities in Scotland taking ownership of local services and facilities and transforming them into successful community run tourism enterprises, but until now there has never been a dedicated body that represents their interests. SCOTO will provide that voice.
“Our members are unlike other tourism providers because they are owned and operated by the communities they serve. Every penny spent with our members is aninvestment in our landscape, our culture, our people and their future.
“Our vision of sustainable, regenerative tourism ensures that the benefits of tourism are felt across the community – through sustainable development, employment, improved connectivity and the natural environment. We want visitors in Scotland to make a conscious choice to support local tourism enterprises, knowing that their support will have immediate and long-lasting benefits for that community.”
The new organisation has received funding from the Scottish Government Tourism Leadership & Recovery Grant and has been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and the Social Enterprise Academy.
Membership of the new body is open to community owned tourism projects and businesses, organisations and individuals with an interest in the sector.
For more information, visit scoto.co.uk
Stromness Museum has a wide range of amazing exhibits: