Seafood businesses urged to go ‘beyond the boat’

- By Donna Fordyce, Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland

In January Seafood Scotland piloted a new programme ‘Beyond the Boat’ to encourage Scottish seafood businesses to take advantage of the growing interest in food tourism.

The idea is a simple one: to help them tap into the growing interest in food provenance – and apply the same principles to selling Scottish fish and shellfish.

The programme is designed to help inspire and ignite seafood tourism in Scotland; a market we know has massive growth opportunit­ies for the industry. Ultimately, all ideas should aim to generate additional revenue.

Looking at the growth of tourism in similar sectors such as agricultur­e - where farms have diversifie­d to include farm shops, cafes, glamping and farm visitor experience­s - there is huge potential for the seafood industry to capitalise on tourism opportunit­ies, particular­ly as so many of our seafood businesses are located in and around Scotland’s popular tourism destinatio­ns and routes.

For the pilot – expected to run for six months - we are looking for seafood entreprene­urs who have been harbouring – pun intended! - a nugget of an idea for business growth within the tourism sector, something that they haven’t had time or resources to explore before now

The spectrum of opportunit­ies for seafood tourism are varied. They might:

• Provide an authentic or innovative experience for tourists

• Tell their story via an engaging and immersive experience

• Answer a question that customers regularly ask

• Give the opportunit­y to purchase, eat and enjoy locally caught seafood

We have clearly struck a chord as we’ve had an enthusiast­ic response, with lots of ideas filtering in from Scotland’s coastal communitie­s. These range from projects that have already started, to fledgling ideas that are still a glint in someone’s eye. It is fantastic to see the industry embracing diversific­ation and the emergence of new ideas that will create growth.

The programme is designed to help businesses take these first crucial tourism steps, with the support of Seafood Scotland and a cohort of leading business mentors who will be on hand to help them explore their ideas and fast track plans to fruition – all free of charge - thus reducing the financial pressures and risk. These experts will come from legal, financial, planning, communicat­ion and marketing background­s, with each pilot business invited to cherry pick the support they need to take things forward.

They will be supported to polish their ideas into strong business concepts and to develop strategies to capitalise on the emerging seafood tourism market. We will encourage the pilot businesses to form a network that will naturally support each other as the sector expands and diversifie­s.

We hope that this initiative will provide real life exemplars of businesses embarking on a seafood tourism journey and bring these learnings to the wider seafood community in Scotland.

The pilot is just the start. We have plans to extend this even further. Watch this space!

And of course our day job continues. We are busy promoting Scottish seafood to global markets, and have plans in place to visit the US and Spain this year, pandemic restrictio­ns permitting.

Our new business improvemen­t training programme - in conjunctio­n with Skills Developmen­t Scotland and the National Transition Training Fund - is also proving popular helping upskill businesses and teams to give individual­s the skills they need to have rewarding careers in the seafood sector.

With so much natural resource in our Scottish waters and an engaged and dynamic seafood industry, we are looking forward to the future and the new opportunit­ies open to us.

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