Speakers

 

The SSDA Conference is generously supported by - 

 

09h00 - Registration, Networking & Refreshments

10h00 - Welcome and Outline Of The Day

Welcome

David Ibbotson, Chair SSDA

 

With over 35 years of tourism, hospitality and leisure experience, David is the current owner of Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick, a 5 star ‘Restaurant with Rooms, and a Director of Luxury Scotland. Prior to taking over Knockinaam Lodge in 2003, he held a number of GM positions in hotels in Glasgow and played an active role in the city’s destination development through roles including Chairman of the Glasgow Hotel Association, Chair of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Tourism Group and a Board member of VisitGlasgow. 

Strategy & Ambition for growth

David Hope-Jones, CEO SSDA

 

After graduating from Edinburgh University with a First Class MA (Hons) in Human Geography, David firstly pursued a career working for the British Red Cross before latterly as CEO for the Scotland Malawi Partnership for almost 15 years. During his earlier years David was also a Trainee Officer (OCdt and J.S.M.E.L.), Territorial Army and Mountain Expedition Leader both in the UK and Abroad. He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours list, for services to international development. 

Inspirational Speaker

Bruce Fummey

Bruce is a Scottish Comedian, tour guide and Burns aficionado.

Bruce Fummey hails from Perth and has in his time been a physics teacher, a training consultant and a financial adviser, but started performing comedy in 2004. Since then he’s run comedy clubs, performed at festivals, comedy clubs and dinners on three continents, had sell out Fringe runs. He’s been nominated for Scottish Comedy Awards, Australian fringe awards and been named Scottish Comedian of the year.  

 

In 2006 he started performing educational comedy shows about Scottish history and in 2018 he began his own private tour guide business. COVID meant that he started telling his stories of Scotland on YouTube and now every Saturday morning he preaches the gospel of Scotland by taking folks to our beautiful places and telling our stories. Film and TV appearances have followed, but his passion remails telling the stories of Scotland. 

 

Minister for Tourism welcome

Richard Lochhead MSP

 Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism & Trade

Richard Lochhead was appointed Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade in March 2023. 

Richard Lochhead has represented the Moray Constituency in the Scottish Parliament since 2006. Prior to that, Mr Lochhead represented North East Scotland from 1999 to 2006. 

He attended Williamwood High School in Clarkston and Central College of Commerce in Glasgow, before graduating in Political Studies from the University of Stirling. Immediately prior to his election, he worked as an economic development officer for Dundee City Council. 

Mr Lochhead previously served as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment between 2007 and 2016. 

Read more about Richard Lochhead on the Scottish Parliament website 

Inspire

Visitors to come to the South of Scotland 

We will inspire visitors to come to the South of Scotland by: developing our destination position and profile, bringing our collecting ‘Scotland Starts Here’ brand alive; transforming the south into a year-round destination; inspiring the travel trade; better leveraging our designations; and working with game-changing ambition to attract international visitors.

 

Generously Supported By:

Beeline PR specialises in public relations, crisis & reputation management, brand building.

We can:

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  • provide white-label services for other creative agencies

Developing the Destination Position and Profile & Develop a year round destination

Incoming head of Visit Iceland, Oddný Arnarsdóttir

Oddný Arnarsdóttir has been with Visit Iceland for seven years but has been working within tourism since 2011. Oddný will take over as Head of Visit Iceland from April 1st. At Visit Iceland Oddný has been working on different aspects of promoting destination Iceland such as overseeing some of the biggest source markets on the B2B side e.g. North America, United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain, worked on PR and is the lead manager for the Vestnorden travel trade show that is held in Iceland every second year. She is the liaison in many Nordic cooperation’s and sits on the Board of Nordic Tourism Collective. She has a BA in Political Science, Philosophy and Economics and a MA in International Law and Settlement of Disputes.

Have game-changing ambition to attract international visitors

Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Customer Development Manager, Mary Jane Brett

Mary Jane Brett is the Customer Development Manager for Johnnie Walker Princes Street and the Single Malt Distillery Visitor Experiences in Scotland.  

Mary Jane (or MJ) moved to the Scottish Borders from London in 2014 following a varied career in the Music, Film and Games Industries.  

Combining her passions for scotch whisky and tourism, she first joined Diageo in 2015 as an Experience Ambassador at Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian before moving to her current role where she works with the Travel Industry to promote Diageo’s collection of 13 Scotch Whisky Brand Homes to an International Audience. 

 

Leverage our designations and accolades

Chair of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere’s Partnership Board, Melanie Allen 

Melanie owns and runs Nithbank Country Estate, a 5* luxury tourism business with a sustainable, responsible and local focus.  The guiding light in establishing the business and tapping into niche markets was the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, with a remit to promote living in a way that supports people and nature  - If you live, work, learn or visit the Biosphere then it belongs to you!

As elected Chair of the Biosphere in 2021, Melanie has steered the organisation through its 10-year periodic review with UNESCO, extended the boundary area & marine environment to abut the Isle of Man Biosphere, and steered the development of a new 10-year strategy and operational plan.

She is an alumna of the Communities Leading in Tourism Programme and joined the SCOTO Board in 2022 and is now Vice-Chair.  Melanie sits on the Scottish Government’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group and is involved in the Community Led Tourism and Net Zero mission groups.

Melanie's background spans several specialisms through working in the big corporate world to running a micro business, including: renewable energy, property development, agriculture, marketing and notably tourism and hospitality.  In 2023 Melanie was awarded Tourism Individual of the year at the Scottish Thistle Awards, alongside four other regional and national Thistle Awards. Melanie was also recognised in the top 100 Women in Tourism for 2020 and 2022.

Inspire the travel trade to the potential of the region

Founder Cashel Travel, James Aitken

James Aitken was born and brought up in Edinburgh Scotland. He worked attended Telford college in Edinburgh studying Travel and Tourism which he accomplished with a distinction. 
 
He founded his first company Scottish Tours at the age of 21 in 1983 which he successfully ran until selling the business in 1989. Since then he has worked in incoming tourism in the UK and Ireland at a senior level. He has set up and run three other  companies both on his own and as a consultant. 
 
He founded his current company Cashel Travel in 2000 as a destination management company and incoming tour operator specialising in the UK and Ireland. Cashel Travel has offices in Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Dublin, Mumbai and Sofia Bulgaria. It has over 35 staff and turns over in excess of £12 million per annum. 
 

Cashel also has a groups department, a luxury travel department and in 2018 opened a corporate travel division.In 2017 Cashel Travel  purchased Great British Trips a B2C company based in Manchester. It also owns Cashel Representation which promotes DMC’s around the world and Tiernan Travel a boutique incoming company. 
 
James was President of the SITE chapter in Scotland in 2016 during which time they won Chapter of the Year having increased the membership dramatically. He has also served on the travel trade steering group of VisitScotland, he has also assisted in a voluntary capacity on several committees related to tourism. 

He was co-opted on to the board of UKinbound in 2015 and become Treasurer the following year.  In 2018 he was elected Chairman of UKinbound and stepped down in February this year. 
 
When not working he enjoys salmon fishing. 

Develop

The visitor experience with a focus on quality 

We will develop the visitor experience by: actively supporting businesses to increase the quality of their offering; establishing Growth and Development Hubs; offering clear and consistent visitor information; better connecting our programme of events; ensuring we have the right accommodation and appropriate infrastructure; and attracting scalable, sustainable inward investment.

 

Generously Supported By:

South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) is the development agency for businesses and enterprising communities throughout Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. We are here to help people and enterprises in the South to thrive, grow, and fulfil their best potential.

Every enterprise is different, and SOSE support is tailored to your stage and situation. Services can include training, advice, specialist expertise, and funding (grants and loans).

These are 25 minute breakout sessions where you have the opportunity to explore these themes in more detail with the speaker.

When you book your tickets please select your 2 preferences. If you want to read more about the develop section of the strategy please click HERE

Quality

Mary Jane Brett , Johnnie Walker Princes Street

Paul Ralph, Founder - Partners in Access.

 

Mary Jane Brett is the Customer Development Manager for Johnnie Walker Princes Street and the Single Malt Distillery Visitor Experiences in Scotland.  

Mary Jane (or MJ) moved to the Scottish Borders from London in 2014 following a varied career in the Music, Film and Games Industries.  

Combining her passions for scotch whisky and tourism, she first joined Diageo in 2015 as an Experience Ambassador at Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian before moving to her current role where she works with the Travel Industry to promote Diageo’s collection of 13 Scotch Whisky Brand Homes to an International Audience. 

Paul’s passion for access and inclusion is driven by personal experience of life as a disabled person and many years of working in social services, social enterprise, and the public sector. When not travelling, exploring and story telling Paul is busy leading Partners in Access. A new business he has established to help create accessible and inclusive experiences within tourism and hospitality. 

Paul can often be found supporting the work of Euan’s Guide, the disabled access charity. A rapidly growing charity, whose website features disabled access reviews from disabled people and their friends and families. As well as being a prolific reviewer, he was their Access and Inclusion Director for many years. 

Growth and Development Hubs

Paula Ward, SOSE

Caroline Millar, Scottish Agritourism.

 

Paula Ward joined South of Scotland Enterprise in February 2022 after serving the region for 11 happy years specialising in Visitor Economy as VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director. 

Since joining SOSE last year she has led on the development of the South of Scotland Cycling Partnership Strategy and the accompanying 10-year priority action plan with a particular focus over the next eight months as UCI Delivery Manager for SOSE.  

Paula has a driven sense of partnership working and finds it to be the most rewarding part of her role. She firmly believes that alone you can achieve great things but together you can achieve greatness. 

It is her burning ambition to see South of Scotland become the UK’s leading cycling destination, a place where bikes are embedded into the daily fabric of our residents and the experiences of our visitors and the bike is preferred choice of transport for shorter everyday journeys. 

In addition to her working life, she is a member of the Board of Directors at Scottish Cycling, volunteers for Moffat Mountain Rescue and can regularly be found up a hill, on a bike or in a wetsuit enjoying South of Scotland’s incredibly natural playground. 

Caroline lives in the county of Angus, in Scotland on the family farm located just north of the City of Dundee.  The farm produces Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and malting barley. The farm has 120 cows and 250 breeding ewes and covers 950 acres of hill and arable land.  

Caroline and her husband Ross also run a 5-star accredited tourism business on the farm called The Hideaway Experience which provides luxury escapes for couples.  This business has been running since 2005. The farm also offers farm tours to day visitors and the guests staying at the Hideaway. 

In 2012 Caroline undertook the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme and along with three others, developed the concept of “Go Rural” to help encourage City dwellers into the countryside and on to farms. At the same time, Caroline undertook a Nuffield Scholarship to study agritourism in 10 countries.  The report was presented at the Oxford Farming Conference in 2014 and has been shared wildly to stimulate debate on the development of agritourism in Scotland. 

Following her Nuffield Scholarship Caroline has worked to promote the importance and opportunities from agritourism, lobbying government and others to recognised its significance. A strong network of agritourism businesses exists in Scotland and this was  formalised in June 2020 by the creation of Scottish Agritourism. Caroline is currently the Sector Lead for Scottish Agritourism. Go Rural is the consumer facing brand.  

Caroline won the Nuffield Bullock Award in 2021 for the Nuffield scholar who has made the biggest contribution to agriculture and the rural economy from their study 10 years on.  

In addition to undertaking voluntary work to develop the sector, Caroline has run her own business consultancy specialising in facilitation, business support and family business mediation since 2007.  

Caroline was elected on to the Board of NFU Scotland as the East Central Chair in February 2021.  She also represents the agritourism sector on the Scottish Tourism Alliance Council and is a former director and Chairman of the Oxford Farming Conference. Caroline was recently elected as the lead for Western Europe for the new Global Agritourism Network organisation which is launching in April.  

Caroline and Ross have two children, Finlay who is 18 and Sophie who is 16.  

Visitor Information

Julia Jakoubek, Vienna Tourist Board. 

Oddný Arnarsdóttir, Visit Iceland

Vanessa Wegstein, SSDA 

Julia Jakoubek, Responsible for Online Communication and Digital product Development at @viennatouristboard. 
Ivie, available on iOS and Android, presents Vienna's diversity from a new perspective and inspires you to experience the city full on by casting familiar sights in a new light and providing secret tips. In addition to this, the digital city guide and travel guide has themed city walks and handy information for everyday urban life.

Oddný Arnarsdóttir has been with Visit Iceland for seven years but has been working within tourism since 2011. Oddný will take over as Head of Visit Iceland from April 1st. At Visit Iceland Oddný has been working on different aspects of promoting destination Iceland such as overseeing some of the biggest source markets on the B2B side e.g. North America, United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain, worked on PR and is the lead manager for the Vestnorden travel trade show that is held in Iceland every second year. She is the liaison in many Nordic cooperation’s and sits on the Board of Nordic Tourism Collective. She has a BA in Political Science, Philosophy and Economics and a MA in International Law and Settlement of Disputes.

Vanessa Wegstein

Marketing manager for SSDA, Vanessa started her career in sales at small group tour operator Rabbie’s in Edinburgh . She went on to gain a MSc in Tourism Marketing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, focusing on authenticity in tourism products and community involvement in developing destinations. Her marketing career later took her to Abbotsford House before joining the Midlothian Borders Tourism Action Group in 2019, leading on the group’s ambitious digital plans, and coordinating everything from the social media presence to the successful launch of Scotland Starts Here. 

Passionate about building advocacy and brand recognition through storytelling – storytelling and South Scotland are just made for each other. Vanessa loves the beauty of South of Scotland landscapes and engaging people around the world in its stories.

Events & Accommodation

Rachel Cowper, COO, The Crichton

Anna Fergusson, Estate Director, Queensberry Estate.

Gwilym Gibbons, CEO The Crichton Trust

Rachel has been with The Trust for circa 2years now as their Chief Operating Officer.  Throughout her career Rachel has split between economic regeneration - leading on the Rural and Islands Fund in 2019/2020, and working within the third sector.

The Crichton was  a pivotal partner in delivering the UCI World Cycling Championships last year in Scotland, hosting two full days of the Para Road Races from the estate. In addition to sporting events, we also had The Doonhame Music Festival, with year us looking forward to amongst other matters the European Lunar Symposium.  From large events and festivals to conferences and gigs the Crichton delivers and supports a wide range of local, national and international events.

Anna Fergusson joined The MDS Estates Ltd. in 2001 and is responsible for all aspects of managing both the Queensberry and Boughton Estates.

Beginning within the finance department of Buccleuch, Anna became Rural Financial Controller covering various enterprises across all four estates, including property, sporting, visitor services, forestry, and agriculture. Within this role, Anna also brought in key events to the Queensberry Estate, including filming, festivals, and endurance challenges.

Anna’s understanding of finance and ability to work sensitively with tenants, communities, and colleagues earned promotion to Estate Director for Queensberry Estate.

Gwilym joined the The Crichton Trust in April 2018 and is enjoying the challenge of leading the development of The Crichton to ‘connect people, place and the past to shape the future’. Gwilym describes himself is a creative leader, producer, social enterprise grounded arts person, lifeboat crew member and former Park Ranger. He led the build and the opening of Mareel, Shetland’s £14m music cinema and creative industries centre which opened in August 2012, he also completed as part of his role as CEO of Horsecross Arts the £16.6m redevelopment, restoration, and transformation of the renowned Perth Theatre, Scotland. He is Chair of Creative Entrepreneurs Club and Tourbook CIC and a former Board Member of Creative Scotland. Gwilym has 25 years experienced in open-air festival and commercial venue (music, cinema and theatre) management with turnovers more than £7.5m.    

Self-educated while growing up in communes throughout the UK, after two experimental years in school, Gwilym found his way into the arts through a youth arts project in Milton Keynes, beginning his career as a freelance drama and circus workshop leader and street theatre performer. He was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University of Highlands and Islands in 2014 for his outstanding contribution to arts and education. 

Infrastructure & Inward investment

Luke Fisher, Tweed Forum

Phil McCreadie, Head of Enterprise and Business, SOSE

Luke leads on the development and delivery of Destination Tweed. Destination Tweed aims to create one of the great long-distance routes in the UK as well as conserving, celebrating and promoting the Tweed from source to sea. Luke brings a range of project management experience, having worked for NLHF as a Senior Grants Officer and as a Senior Consultant for one of the UK’s leading management consultancies. Luke's post is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) and a range of project funders.

Phil McCreadie, Head of Enterprise and Business, South of Scotland Enterprise. Phil has worked in SOSE since 2020 and leads the team of business advisers and specialists who provide a service across the whole of the south. Phil also has responsible for delivery of SOSE’s Inward Investment service in the region. Originally from Dumfries, Phil worked for Scottish Borders Council before joining SOSE. He has also run a number of his own businesses all based in the south of Scotland so is very aware of the opportunities and challenges rural businesses face.

14h05

Support

Businesses to succeed   

 

We will support businesses to succeed by: building new destination-wide collaborations; actively listening to, representing and acting on the views of communities and local businesses; building a skilled, valued, motivated local workforce; and better using data insights to help businesses succeed.

Generously Supported By:

Formally known as Bruce Stevenson, is an international insurance group made up of talented experts with the freedom and support to do what we do best. We are united by a shared passion and no-limits mindset, and we collaborate to create a powerful international team that can rise to any challenge. Together, we are working to change the insurance narrative – supporting our clients while using insurance as a tool to increase resilience for individuals, businesses, and communities.

Typography is the art and technique

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing (leading), letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space within letters pairs (kerning).

Generously supported by Howden 

Formally known as Bruce Stevenson, is an international insurance group made up of talented experts with the freedom and support to do what we do best. We are united by a shared passion and no-limits mindset, and we collaborate to create a powerful international team that can rise to any challenge. Together, we are working to change the insurance narrative – supporting our clients while using insurance as a tool to increase resilience for individuals, businesses, and communities.

These are facilitated small group sessions to enable you to explore all the themes as well as network with other delegates

Collaboration and Support

 

 

We want to make it easier for businesses to thrive. Key elements of support will include helping businesses be digitally discoverable and bookable, improving quality, contributing to, and accessing, data and supporting businesses on their Net Zero pathway.

Representation

 

 

We will have clear systems to ensure these local views are formally represented and acted upon, with channels for sustained two-way dialogue, and public reporting.

Workforce development 

 

 

We need to build a strong visitor economy, proudly at the heart of the community, providing quality year- round employment for a skilled local workforce.

Data sharing

 

 

We need a pragmatic and needs-led approach to data, focussed on the data insights which will genuinely inform decision-making and contribute to success.

15h20

Act responsibly

For long-term collective benefit 

We will act responsibly for long-term collective benefit by: supporting businesses on their journey to achieving Net Zero; ensuring community engagement and benefit; making te the south accessible, inclusive and diverse; building visitor management systems; and protecting our natural capital.

Generously Supported By:

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is very much a part of Scotland’s rural southwest, where the land and its uses remain integral to everyday life. Beyond its central Core Area the Biosphere is home to historic industries such as farming, fishing and forestry; a dynamic variety of micro-businesses and SMEs; and communities that range in size from tiny hamlets to small towns. We and our partners are working together to promote the idea that ecologically sound activity can take place alongside conservation and research. Education, employment, tourism and enterprise can all be sustainable, and through a cooperative approach we can achieve a balanced relationship between people and nature.

 

Generously supported by the Galloway And Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is very much a part of Scotland’s rural southwest, where the land and its uses remain integral to everyday life. Beyond its central Core Area the Biosphere is home to historic industries such as farming, fishing and forestry; a dynamic variety of micro-businesses and SMEs; and communities that range in size from tiny hamlets to small towns. We and our partners are working together to promote the idea that ecologically sound activity can take place alongside conservation and research. Education, employment, tourism and enterprise can all be sustainable, and through a cooperative approach we can achieve a balanced relationship between people and nature.

Community engagment and benefit

Carron Tobin, Exec Director of SCOTO

Carron Tobin is very familiar with the south of Scotland having supported the initial process of establishing the SSDA between 2018 and 2020. 

In addition to running her freelance consultancy ruralDimensions based in Callander, Carron is Exec Director of SCOTO – the Scottish Community Tourism Network CIC which was established in 2022.  

Carron is a leading voice in community led tourism and is a member of the national Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group where she has been leading a mission group focused on this topic.  She also sits on the South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy Advisory Group. 

Accessible and Inclusive Tourism

Paul Ralph, Founder, Partners in Access

Paul’s passion for access and inclusion is driven by personal experience of life as a disabled person and many years of working in social services, social enterprise, and the public sector. When not travelling, exploring and story telling Paul is busy leading Partners in Access. A new business he has established to help create accessible and inclusive experiences within tourism and hospitality. 

Paul can often be found supporting the work of Euan’s Guide, the disabled access charity. A rapidly growing charity, whose website features disabled access reviews from disabled people and their friends and families. As well as being a prolific reviewer, he was their Access and Inclusion Director for many years. 

Net Zero

Martin Valenti

Director of Net Zero, Nature & Entrepreneurship, SOSE

Dr Valenti an award-winning sustainability practitioner and serial disruptor, with extensive experience of strategic business engagement and innovation.

For over 30 years he has worked in a variety of senior management roles shaping and delivering inclusive growth initiatives and directing major collaborative projects.

He has successfully delivered high profile projects for the Scottish Government on climate change and sustainability.

Dr Valenti worked for SEPA for 17 years where he held a number of senior positions.

He played an instrumental role in setting up Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group and co-created the award winning 2050 Young Leaders Climate Group.

In 2018 he created the Vacant and Derelict Land taskforce to transform how Scotland deals with its post-industrial legacy to make more use of land for commerce and communities. 

His most recent role was a secondment at Scottish Enterprise as Head of Climate Enterprise and strategic lead for COP26.

He joined South of Scotland Enterprise in July 2021 as Director of NetZero, and is leading the economic and community development agency’s efforts to help the region to just transition to a NetZero economy.

Visitor management & Nature/Natural Capital

Cara Gillespie CE, The Southern Uplands Partnership

Cara Gillespie is an experienced non-profit manager and leader and a graduate of Edinburgh University and the Open University.

Cara is passionate about sustainable development and has extensive strategic experience in delivery, including previously as Group Co-ordinator (Chief of Staff) for the Scottish Green MSPs 2003-2007 and as Foundation Scotland’s Community Engagement Manager for South Scotland 2013-2019, where she developed and delivered a portfolio of community benefit funds.

She has run her own consultancy, specialising in third sector governance, strategy, business planning and stakeholder engagement, and currently chairs the Scottish Land Fund Committee. Cara has lived in rural Dumfries and Galloway since 2009, and enjoys engaging with the great people and beautiful landscapes of the Southern Uplands every day. 

Motorhome visitor experience

John King, Economic Development Officer, D&G Council

 

16h30

Inspirational Speaker

Bruce Fummey

Comedian, Tour Guide and host of Scotlands Histories 

Bruce Fummey hails from Perth and has in his time been a physics teacher, a training consultant and a financial adviser, but started performing comedy in 2004. Since then he’s run comedy clubs, performed at festivals, comedy clubs and dinners on three continents, had sell out Fringe runs. He’s been nominated for Scottish Comedy Awards, Australian fringe awards and been named Scottish Comedian of the year.  

 

In 2006 he started performing educational comedy shows about Scottish history and in 2018 he began his own private tour guide business. COVID meant that he started telling his stories of Scotland on YouTube and now every Saturday morning he preaches the gospel of Scotland by taking folks to our beautiful places and telling our stories. Film and TV appearances have followed, but his passion remails telling the stories of Scotland. 

Generously Supported By: