Shetland Amenity Trust (SAT) has been awarded an initial two-year contract to operate new tourist organisation Promote Shetland, it was announced on Thursday.
Earlier this year, the SIC decided to break away from VisitScotland and set up its own body at a cost of just over £450,000 a year. It has now decided to award the contract to the amenity trust after what economic development chairman Josie Simpson described as a “competitive” tendering process.
Visitor information services will continue to be provided by VisitScotland from its Market Cross premises, while the new operation – which will create new employment opportunities – will be run from the Shetland Museum and Archives at Hay’s Dock.
Mr Simpson said there had been “a range of outstanding candidates” interested in developing what he described as an “extremely important service” for the isles, but the council had been impressed with the amenity trust’s approach and the team it had assembled to manage the service.
Promote Shetland will be overseen by amenity trust general manager Jimmy Moncrieff, who said his organisation was “honoured” to be given the opportunity and he is looking forward to the challenges ahead. “We see this as a tremendous opportunity for us to work in partnership with all local stakeholders and the national tourist board, so that both Shetland and Scotland’s interests are met,” Mr Moncrieff said.
“We’re delighted to be awarded the contract. We’ve been working hard for the last 26 years developing heritage tourism projects, promoting Shetland, and its great strengths, the environment, culture and heritage, for folk to visit and folk to live in. The Shetland brand is a very strong and powerful one.”
Mr Moncrieff said it would help to distinguish the isles from some more national marketing campaigns but he also stressed the importance of working together with VisitScotland to improve the relationship. He said the SAT was “looking at the potential” for bringing in new staff but it was too early to say how many posts would be created. “We should be able to finalise that in the next few weeks,” he said.
Having started out as a small organisation when it was founded in 1983, the trust’s functions and payroll have steadily grown in size and stature, most notably when taking on the running of the £11.6 million museum and archives when it opened in 2006. The SIC said the amenity trust had an established track record in developing tourism and that the initiative “naturally fits within its remit”.
Mr Simpson said having management organisations within tourist destinations was being viewed worldwide as “the way forward to enable islands and regions to play to their strengths” and, in that sense, Promote Shetland would be “leading the way”.
In a press statement he said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Shetland to promote its inherent strengths as a quality destination to visit, live, work and invest in whilst recognising other aspects of life here such as Shetland’s world class quality produce and enabling it to be given the recognition it deserves.
“While it will concentrate initially on visitor promotion, the service will extend to provide wider promotion for Shetland as a place, working closely with other business sectors and the wider community in order to promote positive aspects of Shetland.
“Successful countries and regions around the world are already actively involved in promoting positive aspects of life in their areas in order to secure a successful future and, in Shetland, this service will give these efforts a real focus as it develops.”