Rallying call for local tourism industry

More than 130 delegates attended the tourism industry conference organised by Destination Dumfries & Galloway (DD&G), in partnership with Swalwell Holiday Group, at Auchenlarie Holiday Park on March 5.

Attracting 15% more delegates than the tourism industry conference held in March 2011 in Dumfries, the high attendance was indicative of the growing groundswell of local tourism businesses ready and willing to support DD&G, their industry organisation, and play their part in establishing Dumfries and Galloway as a rural tourism destination. The conference theme of Let’s All make D&G a Tourism Destination was a rallying call answered by businesses from throughout the region, and from every tourism sector.

Marshall Swalwell, managing director of Auchenlarie Holiday Park, and Sean Paul O’Hare, general manager of the Glenkens Community & Arts Trust, made keynote speeches. Presentations were made by Wilma Finlay (DD&G chairwoman/MD of Cream o’ Galloway), Duncan McConchie (DD&G vice-chairman/MD of Laggan Outdoor) and Robbie Parish (VisitScotland director of digital media).

Many delegates had their first sight of the new Dumfries & Galloway tourism brand during Darren Richardson’s (Gardiner Richardson), presentation of the Dumfries & Galloway tourism brand journey. Met with universal support from industry, a number of individual businesses and tourism related groups are keen to start using the tourism brand in order to lend a collective and consistent voice to marketing of the region to visitors, aiming at attracting new visitors and also building the profile of the region as a rural tourism destination.

A series of interactive breakout sessions focused on visitor research, customer service, tripadviser and D&G’s wildlife product. Delegates were provided with opportunities to network, ask questions of all presenters and to have their own “magic minute” to address the whole conference about their business or an idea or even an issue.

During the magic minute session, Duncan McConchie said this would be Wilma Finlay’s last conference as chairwoman, as she intends to step down in 2012. Recognising the volume, quality and passion with which Wilma dedicates on a voluntary basis for DD&G (while still managing the Cream o’ Galloway), delegates broke out into a spontaneous applause, which only ended when Wilma insisted that the conference had to move on to the next part of the agenda.

Inga McVicar, project manager of DD&G, said: “This was certainly the most positive tourism industry conference we have organised in the region, all of which is entirely due to individuals with tourism businesses making the choice to work as part of DD&G to bring more visitors to our region. The very enthusiastic thanks delegates gave to Wilma Finlay for her voluntary work as chairwoman of DD&G is a tribute to the stalwart leadership Wilma has brought to this role. The new D&G tourism brand will be an important step forward from this conference, with DD&G leading and supporting our region’s tourism industry to tackle D&G’s low profile with tourists.”