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North-east tourism companies urged to tap into ‘critical’ support programme

Sarah Stephen at Barra Berries, Barra Castle, Oldmeldrum.
Sarah Stephen at Barra Berries, Barra Castle, Oldmeldrum.

Tourism businesses in north-east Scotland have been urged to sign up for a programme to help boost growth as the effects of the pandemic recedes.

The £500 fee to take part has been waived “in recognition of the current trading climate” although businesses have to act fast – the deadline to apply is Monday, 13 December.

The Game Changer for Tourism Business programme is offered in partnership by VisitAberdeenshire, Opportunity North East (ONE) and Scottish Enterprise.

The programme consists of seven day-long interactive workshops, mentoring, collaborative work and case studies and runs over four months.

Mike Wilkes of Macdui Bike Tours took part in the Game Changer programme. Picture by KATH FLANNERY

There are 14 spaces are available in the 2022 programme. Additional funding from the Scottish Government’s North East Economic Recovery and Skills Fund is supporting additional spaces on the programme as well as more mentoring and market insights, and offers potential for small development grants.

Game Changer has already supported 30 tourism businesses across the region since it launched in 2019.

Wish I’d done it sooner

A recent participant, Sarah Stephen of Barra Castle, said: “For any company seeking to grow and expand, the Game Changer programme gets my unconditional recommendation and in hindsight I should have done it sooner.

“I have learned how I can adapt my approach and interactions to get the best out of me and other people, enabling me to become a more effective leader.”

Mike Wilkes of Macdui Bike Tours, who completed the Game Changer programme last month, said: “The Game Changer programme has been a real inspiration to me.

“The course content helped me accelerate plans for my business and the course leaders provided extensive business insight.”

Chris Foy, chief executive of Visit Aberdeenshire. Picture by Heather Fowlie

Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “As the tourism sector continues to emerge from the challenges of the past two years, the Game Changer programme provides crucial support for local small and medium size businesses, enabling them to come out stronger and more resilient.

“It’s one of the ways we are helping to ensure the region’s position as a thriving, sustainable tourist destination which offers an exceptional visitor experience, delivering business growth and creating employment.”

Tourism key to region’s economic diversification

Jennifer Craw, chief executive of ONE, said: “North-east Scotland provides unique visitor experiences across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, from adventure tourism on the coastline and in the mountains to cultural attractions and world-class food and drink at source.

“Tourism is a significant sector in our economy with a key part to play in long-term diversification and sustainable business growth.

“This programme helps businesses to adopt a consumer and customer led approach to their development and growth.

“This is particularly important as the sector targets recovery in 2022.

“ONE is providing additional funding for the programme, secured from the North East Economic Recovery and Skills Fund, to support the new cohort of businesses.”

The next Game Changer programme will run from January to April 2022 and applications close on December 13th, 2021.

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