Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative Ltd (AITC) is the strategic Destination Management Organisation for Argyll & The Isles on the West Coast of Scotland.
AITC was formed in 2012 as a cooperative with its membership being the local marketing and sectoral groups – representing in the region of 1200 business interests. AITC is supported by VisitScotland, Argyll and Bute Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland, Calmac Ferries, Scotrail, Loganair, Enterprise rent-a-car and West Coast Motors.
We work at a local and national level promoting Argyll & the Isles as a must visit destination to domestic and overseas markets and build capacity within our industry.
Argyll & the Isles extends to 690,000 hectares and is the second largest area in Scotland, after Highland. We sit immediately to the west of the city of Glasgow and as well as a vast mainland area with numerous peninsulas we have 23 inhabited islands, each with their own identity and culture. Our coastline is over 3,700km long and 80% of our population live within 1km of the coast and 96.5% are within 10km of the coast. Just over 17% of our population live on our islands.
By working together since 2012 we have created a strong place brand presenting our destination as Scotland’s Adventure Coast.
Our destination organisations cover: Mull and Iona; Tiree and Coll; Islay, Jura and Colonsay; Oban and Lorn; Kintyre and Gigha; Inveraray, Kilmartin and Knapdale; Bute; Cowal and Loch Lomond and the Clyde Sea Lochs.
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AITC Performance and Economic Impact
AITC is influencing policy decisions affecting the wider area and is recognised as the strategic delivery partner by the Argyll & The Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership.
The Cooperative has pulled together partnership funding for core costs, capacity building, product development and marketing exceeding £1.8 million between 2011 and 2020.
An independent assessment was undertaken late in 2016 to review AITC and tourism growth over the previous five years. This assessment reviewed Government statistics and concluded that Argyll & the Isles had comprehensively out performed Scotland as whole in terms of tourism growth in recent years and that AITC had a positive impact on the economic well-being of Argyll & The Isles.
AITC’s efforts to raise the branded profile of the region were highlighted together with our achievements in providing leadership, organisation, governance and facilitating investment in people. AITC also leveraged its core funding by a factor of 4 over this period. (source GHRL, Dec 2016).
Since 2016 tourism performance continues to be measured based on STEAM data which is provided annually to Argyll & Bute Council.
STEAM quantifies the local economic impact of tourism, from both staying and day visitors, through analysis and use of a variety of inputs including visitor attraction numbers, tourist accommodation bed-stock, events attendance, occupancy levels, accommodation tariffs, macro-economic factors, visitor expenditure levels, transport use levels and tourism-specific economic multipliers.
Year on year tourism performance in Argyll year on year is presented in terms of :
- Visitor numbers per year
- Visitor days per year
- Direct expenditure (£m) per year
- Economic Impact (£m) per year
- Total employment (FTEs) per year
While growth cannot be attributed to AITC alone, GHRL in 2016 stated that it would be difficult to argue that had AITC not existed, then tourism performance in the region and the economic benefits which have accrued would have been the same as the record shows.
Economic Impact of Tourism
Source: STEAM model
As of November 2019, the AITC board currently consists of eight directors representing destinations:
Iain Jurgensen – Cowal & Isle of Bute (Chair)
Emma Clark – Islay, Jura and Colonsay (Vice Chair)
Gavin Dick - Heart of Argyll and Kintyre
Neil McKay – Oban and Lorn
Andy Roger– Loch Lomond and Clyde Sea Lochs
Vacant – Mull & Iona, Coll and Tiree
In addition we are delighted to have two co-opted directors for specific sector experience and strategic networking purposes.
Fiona McPhail - Carry Farm / Tighnabruaich Sailing School
Calum Ross - Loch Melfort Hotel
The Duchess of Argyll
Carron Tobin provides freelance development management support, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Dick and Lynne Dowe provide product development support, contact email@example.com
Daniel MacIntyre provides digital management support, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For general visitor enquiries, contact email@example.com
Jean Ainsley of Ainsley Smith and Co, 21 Argyll Square, Oban, PA34 4AT, provides accountancy services.
AITC has a team of freelance development agents who have been working with our members to grow capacity at a local level. For contact information for the individual local agents please email firstname.lastname@example.org
AITC collects membership fees and has received funding support from many agencies and partners with Argyll & Bute Council and HIE providing the core funding which has then been supplemented by support from VisitScotland Growth Fund, Calmac Ferries and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Additional funding is also sourced on a project by project basis from Forestry Commission, Scottish Canals, Sustrans and key travel partners.
AITC has secured funding for three phases of development since 2012. The Stronger Together campaign was rolled out from 2012-2014 developing the umbrella brand and communication networks for the industry. This was funded by Argyll & Bute Council, HIE, VisitScotland Growth Fund and Leader.
The second phase of activity between 2014 and 2017 focused on industry capacity building with a network of local development agents appointed.
AITC supported the roll out of Digital Tourism Scotland across the area and including Arran with over 470 people undertaking training workshops and 30 businesses receiving 1-2-1 mentoring.
With Customer Care also being a priority, in 2016 AITC agreed to pursue World Host accreditation for local businesses in partnership with Business Gateway and by June 2018 over 520 individuals had been accredited in The Principles of Customer Care.
Tourism Argyll & The Isles 2020
AITC, working with partners devised the Argyll & The Isles response to the national tourism strategy– Tourism Argyll & The Isles 2020. This forms the basis to the work of the Argyll & The isles Strategic Tourism Partnership Group which consists of A&BC, HIE, VS, Calmac, Scotrail, SNH, FCS, Business Gateway and AITC.
For the period 2017-2020 AITC prioritised adventure tourism, food and drink tourism plus events and festivals for product development, plus industry leadership and collaboration.
In addition to supporting the industry through our development team, our funding has allowed AITC to undertake strategic marketing with partners and to attend VisitScotland’s annual EXPO and other travel trade events. We also host an annual tourism summit in the region where we report on our progress and explore next steps with the industry.
Funding for 2020/21
We will have a strong focus on product development and campaign activity while the Board implement a new direct membership model.
This work programme was established prior to COVID-19 crisis and is being reviewed to best serve the industry as it faces the biggest challenge it has ever faced.
Wild About Argyll 2017
During 2017 AITC rolled out the Wild About Argyll campaign with funding support from A&BC and VS Growth Fund. This year long campaign was primarily digital and aimed at raising awareness of Argyll & The Isles as Scotland’s Adventure Coast. The campaign is aimed at a much younger, more active market than we traditionally enjoy and is the first genuinely pan Argyll campaign rolled out at any scale. The campaign was video led and featured a 12 day epic adventure across the region with Mark Beaumont - who smashed the world record for circumnavigating the globe on a bike in less than 80 Days in 2017.
Heart & Soul 2018
AITC entered a formal partnership with Glasgow Life and key transport partners – Scotrail, Calmac Ferries, Loganair, West Coast Motors and Enterprise rent-a-car, and secured a VisitScotland Growth Fund grant to promote Glasgow and Argyll as the Heart & Soul of Scotland.
This video led digital campaign presents the area as one amazing destination for short breaks with micro adventures in the city and on the coast.
West Coast Waters
West Coast Waters is a collaboration of all west coast DMOs and tourism organisations collectively representing over 2,500 tourism interests across the west coast of Scotland. It is supported by the key public agencies and travel partners in the area.