Industry experts debate west coast tourism trends at CalMac conference

The future growth of west coast tourism will be under the microscope next week when the sector’s leading experts gather in Oban for a major conference.

Organised by multi award-winning ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, the inaugural CalMac Travel and Tourism Conference at Corran Halls, Oban on Tuesday 28th October will provide a forum for travel and tourism industry operators and stakeholders to be briefed on CalMac’s plans to further enhance its west coast services and discuss the important contribution the area makes to Scotland’s economy.

Following a landmark year for Scottish tourism with the success of the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland celebrations, the sector as a whole is already turning its attention to 2015 which the Scottish Government has designated as the Year of Food and Drink.

During the conference delegates will have the opportunity to hear more about CalMac’s marketing and commercial strategies. These include ambitious plans to transform key areas of its business via a programme of improvements to enhance customer contact activity including the introduction of a state-of-the-art ticketing and online booking system as well as new digital platform.

Delegates attending the conference will include national tourism organisations such as the Scottish Tourism Alliance, VisitScotland, Historic Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, transport operators as well as other key partners and stakeholders from across the west coast and the mainland.

Guest speakers at the event include: Marc Crothall - CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Marc will highlight key areas of the national tourism strategy including next year’s theme of the Year of Food and Drink; Neil Rogers – an adventure and sustainable tourism specialist, Neil will speak about travel trends, experiential tourism, destination management and sustainable travel and Huw Williams – the planning director of travel and destination marketing experts Souk Response will look at how the islands and west coast are ideally placed to capitalise on the consumer demand for authentic travel experiences

With collaboration being a key theme of the event, CalMac will reflect that by focusing on the strong partner relationships it has established with industry bodies and operators.

As a taster for Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015, lunch will include some of the great produce from local producers including the Mull and Iona Food Cooperative, Argyll Food & Drink, Forteiths and Taste of Arran. Use of local produce and freshly prepared meals onboard is a key part of CalMac’s strategy and delegates will have a chance to sample some of the great produce for themselves.

As part of the event, conference delegates will also get the chance to travel further than normal on a journey through the solar system to experience the stunning Dark Skies of the west coast.

In association with Coll Development and Cosmos Planetarium, attendees will be able to experience an astronomical voyage of discovery in a 360-degree indoor planetarium for an immersive multi-media experience which forms part of the recently launched Coll and Cosmos stargazing weekend programmes.

CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester said: “Scotland has enjoyed an absolutely fantastic tourism year, attracting global attention for its success in staging world class events which have given the sector a terrific platform to highlight the quality tourism offering which this country has to offer visitors.

“With the islands and the west coast being such key contributors to the success of Scotland’s tourism economy, it is vital that we continue to build on this success by exploring innovative ways to engage with customers and promote collaboration within the industry.

“Our aim in staging the CalMac Travel and Tourism Conference is to share our future plans with key partners and to provide a forum for debate on how the west coast offering can be further developed through collaboration and innovation.”

In August, CalMac announced plans to introduce a new ticketing and online booking system with the award of a contract to Worldline, the European leader and a global player in the payments and transactional services industry.

Earlier this month, CalMac was named UK ferry operator of the year at the National Transport Awards 2014, the first time the prestigious awards have included a ferry category. The award was made in recognition of the services CalMac delivers to coastal and island communities across Scotland.