Tourism in Scotland is a highly important part of the economy, and the rural economy in many places increasingly relies on tourism as the major industry. The ‘Winter Months’ however are, for most, the lowest point of the year, and with this in mind it was that Scottish Land & Estates started the Ayrshire Country Sports Tourism Group.
The Sporting Seasons tend to be predominantly in the quiet winter months, so as well as being a good revenue stream for the land-manager, these pursuits fit within the quietest and most financially-challenging periods of the tourism year. Bird and ground game seasons are from August through to February, whilst deer stalking varies for species and gender, but covers July through to April. These pursuits therefore drive a tourism offering which can be exploited by all sectors of the tourism industry during these quiet winter months. The fishing seasons tend to cover the more ‘buoyant’ months but still drive a considerable trade.
The Ayrshire Tourism Group, supported by the Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Team (from the three Ayrshire local authorities) is made up of Sporting Estates and agents, accommodation providers, local food and drink providers and local tourism attractions. The group initially worked on gaining a much better understanding of the sector, so that providers and tourism partners understood the needs of each other and that of their clientele. Then, working with the Scottish Enterprise Tourism and Scottish Enterprise Innovation teams, a bespoke workshop was facilitated to identify some key objectives and outcomes which the group would work towards.
The first objective, completed in December 2015, was the publishing of the first edition of the Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Brochure. The next step is to consider the formation of a consortium for the group to take forward the marketing role of the group, whilst expanding its membership.
The group is an important driver for the sector which directly and indirectly provides employment and revenue, which is particularly important in the more barren winter months in the tourism sector. For the many accommodation providers, restaurants, food producers, tradesmen and local shops, bringing tourism to some of our remote, fragile communities can be absolutely vital to their survival. The momentum of this group will see it grow in size, influence and success.