Awakening the Giant was the first Marine Tourism Strategy to be adopted in Scotland. Before being adopted the marine tourism sector had significant potential - having some of the most highly rated sailing waters in the world - but it had failed to unlock its full potential. The sector was operating in isolated groups and was not linked to the broader efforts to drive tourism in Scotland. This is no longer the case.
Awakening the Giant set out to drive “visitor expenditure from £101m to £145m and increase the overall economic value of the sector from £360m to over £450m by 2020” and there has been notable progress. By 2016 the visitor expenditure had reached £131m2 and the overall contribution of the sector – Gross Value Added (GVA) – in 2017/18 reached £411m3. Whilst some businesses have reported a dampening effect on activity since the UK voted to leave the European Union, these mid-period indicators provide a strong endorsement of the impact of the strategy.
There is a wealth of other evidence to indicate marked progress in the sector too. At a regional level, a mid-period review4 of Highlands and Islands investments indicated that £1.5m of public funding drove £8m in investments (over 5:1 leverage ratio) which had created 22 FTE jobs and £1.43m of new turnover by September 2018.
This support continues to grow, HIE has invested £26.88m Grant-in-Aid towards projects in the marine sector since 2015. This includes a mix of infrastructure capital investment; business development; community grants and training towards leadership and capacity building.
A practical insight to the success Awakening the Giant supported and inspired came direct from a charter boat owner who contributed to the consultation:
”A major break-through in developing and implementing the marine tourism strategy has been to bring together the various stakeholders. This is in contrast to the factionalism evidenced a decade or so ago. This harmony has secured the political drive (and funding) necessary to make changes and should be safeguarded as a priority.
The step-ashore investments made to date on the West Coast have been substantial. In the last decade or so I have seen new pontoons or mooring buoys established at many locations including:
Girvan, Campbeltown, Lochranza, East Loch Tarbert, Rothesay, Loch Ryan, Millport, Port Bannatyne, Brodick, Lamlash, Otter Ferry, Portavadie, Irvine, Rathlin Island, Port Ellen, Gigha, Craighouse, Oban, Fort William, Easdale, Loch Aline, Tobermory, Salen, Kilchoan, Arinagour, Rum, Canna, Mallaig, Isle Ornsay, Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton, Portree, Acairsed Mhor, Loch Torridon, Gairloch, Ullapool, Lochinver, Kinlochbervie, Castlebay, Eriskay, Loch Boisdale, Loch Maddy, Leverburgh, East Loch Tarbert (Harris), Scalpay and Stornoway.
The list is not exhaustive, but I have bored you with this list of 46 locations to emphasize the degree and rate of change.”
Case studies also offer a particularly rich insight to the impact of the strategy.