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The Food Tourism Action Plan: Taking Scotland’s Food & Drink Experiences Forward to 2030

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The Food Tourism Action Plan: Taking Scotland’s Food & Drink Experiences Forward to 2030

The Food Tourism Action Plan: Taking Scotland’s Food & Drink Experiences Forward to 2030
December 13
08:26 2018

Marc Crothall: ‘We want to inspire businesses to help Scotland to become a globally renowned destination for food and drink tourism’

When a group of key figures from the Scottish Government, tourism and food and drink organisations launched the Food Tourism Action Plan (FTAP) earlier this year, it set in motion an ambitious new strategy aimed at growing the industry into a £1bn super-sector by the year 2030. However, such is the diverse nature of the thousands of businesses involved, the 25-page document – while wide-reaching in its approach – inevitably raised as many questions as it answered. 

CateringScotland.com met Marc Crothall, a chief architect of the plan, and asked him a few searching questions from the producers’ perspective…

CS: What practical support is there for operators to ensure they are working towards the common 2030 goal?

MC: It’s hugely important for us that the food tourism message reaches every part of the industry, including operators who are at the coalface day in, day out. Our job is to firstly communicate the essence of the plan, what it’s about, why it’s important and why we would encourage operators of all shapes and sizes to be part of it. We want to inspire, motivate and encourage them to be ambassadors of the plan, align their activities with it and to get excited about being part of the country’s first ever bid to become a globally renowned destination for food and drink tourism.

As part of this, one of our key actions is to provide practical tool kits to guide businesses in their food tourism development and we will provide market insight to help them adapt their business according to visitor needs, demands and trends.

In recognition of the current gap, we will also be launching a national food tourism website that aims to provide a one-stop shop on the subject. This will make it much easier for operators to identify products and experiences on the ground and to tailor their customer offering accordingly.

CS: The FTAP document mentions the importance of operators joining forces to capitalise on respective strengths. What are the most effective ways of achieving this?

MC: Generally speaking, the most successful food tourism destinations in Scotland are ones where tourism businesses are closely connected with local suppliers and producers, not just from a provenance point of view. We can’t over-emphasise the importance of businesses working together; quite simply, it is the only way we are going to achieve our ambition. This has been key to the success of our food and drink and tourism sectors thus far, and we know that this will be the same for this action plan. Through an annual industry forum we will do all we can to connect businesses, regions and sectors in order to bring people together. One of the FTAP’s commitments is for Scotland to become recognised internationally as a leader in product development and we would like organisations to be part of this and to think ambitiously about what they can do together. So, we would encourage businesses to get out there, connect with others, be open and think big.

It also comes down to the whole marketing-through-storytelling concept; that is, being able to tell the story of the local producer and to link that back to what lies at the heart of Scotland’s tourism strategy – the ability to deliver a high quality, memorable experience by a skilled and enthusiastic workforce. Our visitors are looking for more than mere great food and drink; they’re looking too for stories and for deeper, wider experiences than merely finding a place to spend time.’

CS: How do you plan to inspire businesses to expand and diversify?

MC: We need to help organisations to realise the economic opportunity that comes from investing in food tourism and to reassure them that diversification can lead to growth and ongoing success. Our tool kits and practical information – including best practice examples from around Scotland – aim to both inform and inspire businesses about what investing in food tourism can mean for their business’s success. We want to give operators confidence about the tangible opportunities that exist and to help them take advantage of these.

By sharing case studies of destinations that have successfully linked food and tourism together, we can inspire businesses to feel confident and optimistic about the growth opportunities available.

CS: How can we educate operators to market themselves outside their immediate comfort zones?

MC: Again, it’s our job to spread the food tourism message and to demonstrate that being innovative and ambitious will reap benefits. Our advice, market intelligence and success stories from other businesses and destinations can help them to take that leap and provide the confidence to take risks.

When people connect locally, they’re able to bring their destinations, businesses and stories alive and this is what today’s tourists are looking for. We have so many outstanding producers across Scotland and it’s important for tourism businesses to have the tools to connect with them and becoming more involved in creating a food tourism package that defines a destination and sense of place.

By connecting businesses in a given destination we can ultimately connect the visitor to that place. To bring the personality and unique identity of a destination alive is so important and it’s something that drives tourism the length and breadth of the country.

CS: How do you think we can improve Scotland’s reputation so that the entire nation is one day defined by its food in the same way as are Italy and France or China and India?

MC: Scotland is justifiably recognised for the quality of its produce but aside from certain pockets of success – Edinburgh’s restaurant scene, for example, or fish and seafood from the Orkney and Shetland isles – it’s true that the country’s overall reputation as a food tourism destination still has some way to go. We know that there is a significant trend towards people travelling for food tourism experiences around the world – and indeed choosing where to travel on that basis alone – and that visitors to Scotland are looking for just such experiences.

Our aim through the FTAP is to significantly increase the amount and quality of local produce available, the depth and range of food tourism experiences, and ultimately to market these to the world. Of course, all this won’t come together overnight but we are confident that if we continue to collaborate we can make it happen in time for the deadline of 2030.

Marc Crothall is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Chair of Food Tourism Scotland.

To find out more about the food tourism action plan, visit here. 

 

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