SCOTO Conference 2023

SCOTO Conference 2023

The SCOTO Scottish Community Tourism Conference was held on the 2nd of March 2023 in the Duke of Gordon Hotel in Kingussie within the Cairngorms National Park. The event celebrated SCOTO Network’s mission to build the skills, connections and confidence of people working in community-led tourism while asking the question; ‘Is tourism a dirty word or a force for good for communities?’

SCOTO is a network of community tourism enterprises located throughout Scotland and led by a team of dynamic individuals who each have extensive and varied experience in community tourism.

The conference included inspirational speakers and provided vital insights and valuable perspectives, as well as dedicated “SCOTO Gathering” networking sessions. The event was made possible with generous funding and in-kind support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Community Alliance and the communities of Badenoch & Strathspey.

The session began at around 10am after some breakfast and networking.  Russell Fraser, Chari of SCOTO offered a warm welcome to attendees and an expression of gratitude to the SCOTO team (In particular, Executive Director Carron Tobin) for pulling the event together.

Attendees were then given an overview of the session from MC Marc Crothall MBE and there was discussion around the importance of community and the Scotland Outlook 2030 strategy from the Scottish Tourism Alliance.


This strategy has 4 main components that must be met by the year 2030. These include:


The Vision – STA will be the world leader in 21st century tourism.

The Mission – Together STA will grow the value and positively enhance the benefits of tourism across Scotland by delivering the very best for visitors, businesses, people, communities and environment.

Key Priorities – Scotland’s passionate people, thriving places, diverse businesses, memorable experiences.

Commitments – For each of STA’s key priorities they have an agreed set of commitments. These commitments will ensure that they deliver on their vision to be the world leader in 21st century tourism.


Next attendees heard from the Keynote speaker of the conference, Calum ‘Caldamac’ Maclean on the power of localness and what it actually means to be a ‘local’. Calum discussed the benefits of ‘going off the beaten track’ as a tourist in order to discover hidden gems within communities that are only known to locals. He then asked attendees to reconsider their definition of a local, who Calum say is anyone who cares about the past, present and future of a place and is invested in the community.

Duncan MacInnes then spoke about Sleat Community Trust on the Isle of Skye and their experience with ‘voluntourism’. This was followed by a talk by Youth Worker, Jack Wardrope who provided a youth person’s perspective on community tourism in Callandar. Jack joined the Callandar Youth Project in 2019 as a Modern Apprentice in Hospitality and Outdoor Adventure Tourism. Jack demonstrated a natural ability for youth work, and became involved in the delivery of CYP’s youth clubs and stayed with the organisation to complete a Modern Apprenticeship in Youth Work. He now works in a full time role as part of our youth team and stressed the importance in creating opportunities for young people within the tourism industry.

This was followed by a short break in which refreshments were made available. The next session focused on community-led destination management planning from Natasha Hutchison from Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere. Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere is a community-led and owned non-governmental organisation. Their goal is to create a forum to share knowledge and best practice by working collectively with their communities and stakeholders. Murray Ferguson from the Cairngorms National Park Authority then spoke to attendees about community-led tourism in the CNP.

Once all the presentations were complete, Carron Tobin, the Executive Director of SCOTO spoke about SCOTO’s Game Plan and what they were hoping to achieve in the future. After a panel discussion in which attendees were able to ask the presenters any questions they had accumulated, lunch was served.

The second half of the conference focused on ‘Keeping an Eye to the Future’ with the first talk from Lucy Conway from SCOTO and Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust around creating a manifesto for community tourism in Scotland. This was followed by a presentation by Kathi Kamleitner from Watch Me See which touched on community-led tourism from a market place perspective. Watch me See is a Scotland travel blog packed with inspiring & practical travel resource for trip planning tips, destination guides & adventure travel.

This was followed by a session in which attendees were split into groups and could attend different discussions based around themes that had emerged from the SCOTO Roadshow 2023 concerning community-led tourism. These themes included; toilets, campervans, working with VisitScotland and more!

Attendees also got the chance during this session to learn more about Badenoch: the Storylands, a tourism experience conceived by Badenoch Heritage (SCIO) who were originally formed as a community group in 2013 to capitalise on the area’s historic attractions and find new ways of promoting tourism through cultural heritage.

As the conference was drawing to a close, there was an opportunity for attendees to provide any feedback and observations about the event and the question ‘Tourism – A Dirty Word or a Force for Good?’