Leading travel & tourism expert appointed to help South Scotland become a world-class visitor destination

New CEO of South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) Ross McAuley

SSDA announces new Chief Executive and marketing platform to put the South of Scotland on the tourist map

A LEADING travel and tourism expert who directed successful destination management initiatives in the Middle East has returned home to Scotland to lead the South of Scotland’s plans to become a world-class destination and support the region’s economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

Ross McAuley, a Scot with more than 20 years international commercial, entrepreneurial and marketing experience, has been appointed as the first Chief Executive of The South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), the body which now brings together Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders as one destination.

McAuley will drive forward the SSDA’s ambitious destination development plans, which include increasing tourism spend in the region to £1bn by 2030 and creating 6,500 new jobs, while enabling the region’s tourism and hospitality industry to recover and flourish in the wake of Covid-19.

The new appointment comes as the SDDA also unveils the next phase of Scotland Starts Here, its destination marketing campaign and information hub which is built around a website and app that promotes the very best of the South of Scotland’s local businesses, products and experiences to visitors.

McAuley has a strong track record in destination management and tourism having previously led ground-breaking global tourism initiatives in the Middle East including nine years at luxury hospitality brand Jumeirah Group, followed by building a successful global travel and tourism consultancy business.

Commenting on today’s announcement, McAuley said: “The South is the hidden gem of Scotland, overlooked in the past as a destination but with a proud history, stunning landscape, great people and enormous potential to engage and inspire. By bringing Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders together, we’re creating a new destination with the scale to bring tourism spend to local communities, and that really excites me.

“Clearly, the impact of Covid-19 has been felt far and wide through local businesses and communities while at the same time completely disrupting the travel market. However, I believe that tourism will bounce back strongly – I can’t wait to join the team and help develop a sustainable tourism strategy in a way that leads to opportunities for both businesses and communities as well as attracting investment. Scotland Starts Here is our first step on that journey taking the South of Scotland to new audiences.”

David Ibbotson, Chair of SSDA, said: “This is an exciting time for the South of Scotland. The South has always been the poor relation to other regions in terms of awareness and visitor numbers, but now we can’t wait to show Scotland and the world the magical region we have on our doorstep!”

VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “We’re delighted to welcome Ross Macauley as the inaugural CEO of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance. His appointment comes at an important time for tourism in the South of Scotland, as the industry faces the difficult challenge of recovering from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After a year of job losses and business closures, it will take time, significant investment, funding support and strong leadership to rebuild this vital part of Scotland’s economy. With the right support and partnership working between agencies and industry tourism and events can lead the economic recovery and boost inward investment where it is needed most.

“There has been a renewed commitment to the south of Scotland in the past three years and the South of Scotland Destination Alliance now has the opportunity to build on this activity with the launch of the new-look Scotland Starts Here campaign and promote the wealth of experiences on offer across the region.

“Tourism is a force for good and if managed responsibly, sustains communities in every corner of Scotland, creating jobs, tackling depopulation and improving the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

“We look forward to working together with Ross and the SSDA to support the recovery of this vital part of Scotland’s economy.”

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