Scottish parks meet again for major tourism conference

Addressing delegates, tourism minister Ivan McKee MSP said holiday parks play a vital economic role

DELEGATES from Scotland’s 200-strong holiday parks industry gathered in Edinburgh this November for their first annual national conference since 2019.

It was the first opportunity since the start of the Covid outbreak for park owners and managers to meet for the summit in person, and to discuss the challenges ahead for the tourism industry.

Held at Edinburgh’s Our Dynamic Earth, the conference also heard from a line-up of guest speakers including Ivan McKee MSP, Scotland’s business, trade, enterprise and tourism minister

The annual summit is organised by the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (Scotland) whose chairman is Scottish holiday park manager Elspeth Sutton.

Welcoming delegates to the event, Mrs Sutton said that Scotland’s holiday parks had shown exceptional resilience in coping with a myriad of pressures over the past three seasons.

These ranged from shutdowns ordered during the pandemic resulting in a huge loss of income, plus a barrage of rising costs and supply shortages across many areas of their businesses.

An exhibition of park supplies and services ran alongside the conference

But, said Mrs Sutton, the holidays provided by parks – from simple camping sites to major holiday centres – had continued to prove as popular as ever with families and couples.

In his address to the assembly, Ivan McKee MSP acknowledged the vital role played by holiday parks in supporting Scotland’s tourism economy:

“The holiday park sector offers visitors to Scotland both great value and high quality accommodation, providing options to suit all types of visitors while helping sustain employment in some of our most remote and rural areas.

“Holiday parks will continue to play a vital role in the success of Scottish tourism, enhancing the benefits across Scotland as set out in our Tourism Strategy: Scotland Outlook 2030,” said Mr McKee.

Delegates to the conference heard too from speakers on a range of different topics impacting on park businesses, many of which in Scotland are long-established family enterprises.

Speakers included former BH&HPA director general Ros Pritchard OBE who urged parks not to become the victims of change, and showed how collective action in the past had won significant political and judicial victories for the industry.

Following Ros was Stephen Leckie, chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and CEO of Crieff Hydro hotels, who examined the challenges of recruiting, training and retaining staff.

Also taking the speaker’s platform was Janie Neumann who is the sustainable tourism manager for VisitScotland, and who described how tourism providers can help to tackle climate change.

Sustainability was addressed too by Richard Clarke from offsetting income specialists Highland Carbon, and Jeremy Thompson from Forest Direct.

The all-important topic of mental health was covered by Penny Mallory, the first and only woman to drive a World Rally Car, and a leading authority on mental toughness

Running parallel to the conference was an exhibition featuring suppliers of goods and services to Scottish holiday parks.

Elspeth Sutton, who manages Sandgreen Caravan Park in Dumfries and Galloway, thanked delegates for their tremendous show of support for the conference.

Welcoming the minister (centre) to Dynamic Earth were (from left) BH&HPA Scotland director John Kirkaldy, BH&HPA Scotland chairman Elspeth Sutton, BH&HPA Scotland director Keith Campbell, and BH&HPA Scotland policy director Jeanette Wilson