A £3million fund to help improve marine tourism facilities has been launched by Crown Estate Scotland.
It will provide sums of £350,000-£750,000 for projects such as new shore-based and harbour developments.
Alan Rankin, chief executive of Sail Scotland, said the cash boost comes at a “critical time” for many rural coastal areas and islands, where boat-based tourism is the “life blood” of communities.
It is the first of three challenge investment funds, totalling £9m, to be launched by Crown Estate Scotland, which manages Scotland’s seabed and around half the foreshore.
Andy Wells, the organisation’s director of property said: “It was always our intention to launch this fund as part of our wider commitment to support Scotland’s blue economy, but with so many communities suffering from the pandemic’s impact on tourism and hospitality, we hope this is a timely announcement.
People come from all over the world to enjoy Scotland’s seas and coastline, and we want to do all we can to help Scotland’s coastal communities fully benefit from a revived tourism sector.”
Mr Rankin said: “Marine tourism will play a key role in the sustainable recovery of the national economy and is recognised as the life blood of many rural coastal and island communities.
“This specific fund is most welcome and will drive vital investment into infrastructure and help build the quality of the world renowned boating and marine experiences around our shores.”
Crown Estate Scotland is encouraging applications from “those who can demonstrate an ability to make a positive impact on boat-based tourism and have a strong record of partnership.”
The launch of the fund was welcomed by Scottish tourism minister, Ivan McKee.
He said: “I’m very happy to hear of this investment from Crown Estate Scotland to support coastal communities in improving their local tourism infrastructure and I would greatly encourage applications from those who could benefit.
Many of these communities have been strongly impacted by the pandemic and this initiative will support long-term economic recovery of coastal communities, increasing opportunities for enhanced visitor spend.”
A Scottish Marine Tourism Strategy aimed at growing the sector was launched last year.
Previous research, commissioned by Crown Estate Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Canals estimated the value of the sector to the Scottish economy could increase 50 £167m-a-year by 2024.
Crown Estate Scotland is also planning to launch two more funds for local partnerships and innovation.