Urgent meeting as tourism body ‘neglects region’
Visit Aberdeenshire accused of being too focused on city attractions
TOURISM chiefs have been told their fascination with the bright lights of Aberdeen is preventing large parts of Aberdeenshire from getting the visitors they deserve.
Community leaders in Banffshire have been called to an urgent summit to thrash out a means of shining a spotlight on the county. The meeting is being arranged by Banff councillor John Cox and is backed by Des Cheyne, owner of the Spotty Bag Shop and one of the town’s most prominent businessmen.
Banffshire boasts attractions including Duff House, the Macduff Marine Aquarium, the village of Pennan, pretty harbours and fine walks.
But Mr Cox said Visit Aberdeenshire was more focused on “the cruise ships coming into Aberdeen and the new exhibition centre” than showcasing its delights to the world. “What we want to do is raise the profile of this county and get everyone behind the potential of tourism in this area,” he said.
Last night, Visit Aberdeenshire chief executive Chris Foy said it was “committed” to promoting attractions to visitors coming to the north-east and stressed Banffshire is part of that drive.
He said: “We fully recognise the fantastic visitor experiences on offer on the Banffshire coast, from great accommodation, to heritage attractions, wonderful food and drink and unique events.”
Tourist chiefs have been accused of overlooking huge swathes of the north-east as they prioritise selling the bright lights of Aberdeen to the world.
Visit Aberdeen shire’ s efforts to promote the Banffshire coast and its many attractions have been dismissed by dismayed business leaders and Banff councillor John Cox.
He is calling for an urgent summit to ensure his home town and the surrounding area do not become an afterthought.
Leading visitor attractions, retailers and publicans have all been called to a “brainstorming” meeting in two weeks’ time.
Mr Cox fears the loss of the dedicated local tourism body he helped found – the Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership, which was wound up in 2017 and merged into Visit Aberdeen shire–has hampered the area’s ability to promote itself.
Visit Aberdeen shire has said it was fully committed to promoting and developing the “fantastic visitor experiences on offer on the Banffshire coast”.
The organisation is involved in the marketing of Banffshire’s most prestigious event, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy.
It attracts participants from around the world each year and in excess of 16,000 spectators.
Mr Cox, however, wants more done to entice visitors into places like historic Duff House, the Macduff Marine Aquarium, the village of Pennan, into its beautiful harbours and on to its stunning coastal paths.
He believes the destination management organisation is too focused on projects like cruise ships landing at Aberdeen harbour and the £333 million The Event Complex Aberdeen (Teca).
The councillor said: “I’m not being critical because, of course, Visit Aberdeenshire has a job to do.
“But they seem to be more focused on the bigger things such as the cruise ships coming into Aberdeen and the new exhibition centre, which will draw people away from this area.
“We want to do the reverse of that and say ‘if you are coming to Aberdeen, we are a short distance away and we have so much to offer’.”
Mr Cox hopes to bring the community together at a meeting in the next fortnight in the belief it will prove useful to have ideas from those operating businesses in the area.
“I will be having a meeting of a few folk with some brainstorming and I’m sure we will have some good ideas,” he said.
“What we want to do is raise the profile of this and get everyone behind the potential of tourism in this area.”
Banff-based entrepreneur Des Cheyne said he will be going along to the gathering and believes now is the time to give tourism in Banffshire a boost.
He said: “It is my intention to attend because it is important to keep the Banffshire coast on the tourism map.
“It is definitely the right time to reinvent ourselves as a place for tourists to come to and it is good of Mr Cox to do something like this.”
Chris Foy, chief executive of Visit Aberdeenshire, believes the organisation is working for the benefit of Banffshire.
He said: “We are committed to promoting and developing tourism assets across the whole of Aberdeenshire.
“We fully recognise the fantastic visitor experiences on offer on the Banffshire coast, from great accommodation, to heritage attractions, wonderful food and drink and unique events.
“Our campaigns encourage visitors to go a little further to explore the north-east, and our team work very closely with businesses based throughout the region to help connect them to visitors and tour operators.
“We have a dedicated resource for the north of Aberdeenshire.”
“Get behind the potential of tourism in this area”
ON THE WATER: Banff harbour and its picturesque marina is one of the attractions for visitors exploring the Banffshire coast region