Speakers at the 2016 Conference
Director of Visit Loch Ness Director of Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards & Founding Member of the Cobbs Group
After 25 years in financial services, latterly as business development manager for a leading building society, Willie went into marketing for tourism destination Loch Ness, whilst running the Drumnadrochit Hotel with business partner Fraser Campbell. In 1994 Willie established Loch Ness Marketing, a marketing service for film, tv and media. He was Director of the Highland Feast Food & Drink Festival for 10 years.
Willie is Director of Visit Loch Ness, Director of the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards; Board member of the fund raising Archie Foundation; Founding Director of the Cobbs Group of companies and now their Business Development Director, which was voted Highland Business of the Year 2014. The Cobbs Group has 4 hotels, 14 coffee shops, 1 pub and 1 cakery, with a total £9m turnover, employing approximately 200 people.
Highland Tourism Ambassador of the Year (2005); Member of Scotland Food & Drink, Inverness Chamber of Commerce and Destination Loch Ness; sought after after-dinner speaker; MC; auctioneer; voice-over; storyteller and tour guide. He is also a charity fundraiser for Highland Hospital; creative writer and odd ode composer; Burns Supper aficionado; Italianophile with apartment in Lake Garda and house in Local Hero village of Pennan. Willie is known for his frequent TV and radio appearances talking about a certain elusive lady.
John was appointed to his post on 1 April 2016. He has significant industry experience, he became Europe’s youngest 5 star hotel manager when appointed Managing Director of the Savoy Group’s Lancaster Hotel in Paris at 27. Following five successful years in Paris, he then led a number of hospitality businesses to success including Blakeney Hotels of Cliveden, East Sussex National Golf Course and Fitness & Leisure Holdings.
John sat in the House of Lords between 1995 and 1999 and from 2001 to 2015 was MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross. He was awarded a “Catey” for services to Tourism in 2003, was made an honorary DBA by Oxford Brookes in 2004, is a Master Innholder and a Fellow of The Institute of Hospitality and is President of the Tourism Society. In 2014 he was made a Privy Councillor by The Queen.
Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance
Appointed as the first CEO of the STA Marc has been at its helm since its inception in 2012.
Prior to taking up his current post he spent 35+ years working in the front line of the Hospitality, Event, Sport & Leisure industries in various countries around the globe and knows what it’s like to be at the sharp end!
Marc first came to Glasgow in 1990 a city he refers to as home! He is a lover of all things Scottish especially his Glaswegian wife, his 5 children 25 years to twins of 8 who have all been born in Scotland and of course Scottish food drink and great hospitality. Despite his rather English accent he has traced his Scottish ancestry and can now rightly claim to be more than just an adopted Scot!
Chris McCoy MBE
Equality Diversity Manager & Head of Accessible Tourism Programme Project, VisitScotland
Recently awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her contribution to social equality. Chris heads up Equality & Diversity and Accessible Tourism for VisitScotland, implementing a business focused diversity strategy enabling VS to fulfill its corporate business objective of enhancing the visitor experience.
For the last 4 years Chris has managed the very successful Accessible Tourism Programme for VisitScotland. Working in the Civil Service for 30 years, and latterly prior to her career in VistScotland, also in the private sector, Chris has extensive expertise in the field of diversity and equality. Chris’s priority is to create a flexible inclusive & accessible tourism product for VisitScotland, working in partnership with disabled people, and listening to them.
Ring Farm & Boss Lady” of The Rings (A Farm Diversification) / Chair of LTA Cupar & North East Fife Tourism Association
Moira grew up on the West coast of Scotland. Undiagnosed dyslexia made school difficult but now knows thinking “outside the box” is a gift. She married David in 1980 and they moved to Fife. They have four adult children & three grandchildren. Moira has had careers in nursing, farming and most recently Accessible Tourism. An “ordinary” woman, she has had some steep learning curves in life, her passion to provide accessible accommodation has been no different. Working closely with Visit Scotland she is developing Accessible Tourism Fife and is also Chairperson of Cupar & North East Fife Tourism Association.
Chief Executive & Founder, Rabbie’s
Chief Executive and founder of Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, a multi-award winning small group Tour Company based in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Dublin. Robin established Rabbie’s in 1993 and carries customers from all over the world to all corners of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. Rabbie’s has grown to be the UK’s most successful independent small group tour company winning multiple awards including 6 Scottish Tourism Thistle Awards, Scottish Business in the Community’s SME of the Year (2010 and 2012), 3 Vision in Business for the Environment awards (2009-2013), UK’s Gold Star Green Tour Operator of the year (2013), Edinburgh Chambers of Commerce Best Performing Business 2014 and Europe’s Outstanding Example of a Sustainable and Responsible Tour Operator (2011).
In 2015 Rabbie’s was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade and in 2016 Robin was awarded the prestigious Silver Thistle award for outstanding contribution to Scottish Tourism. In 2014 Robin became chair of a new business start-up Mara Seaweed, taking one of Scotland’s unsung natural products and turning it in to a high quality, healthy and tasty seaweed seasoning, and loved by a number of celebrity chefs including Paul Hollywood. Robin gives his time voluntarily to a number of Tourism Groups in Scotland; has and continues to hold “office” in a number of different tourism groups ie ETAG; the Edinburgh Capital Group; Edinburgh Festivals Forum, North Highlands Initiative Tourism Board, Scottish Tourism Alliance Council, Edinburgh 2020 Tourism Strategy Implementation Group and Chair of The Hospitality Industry Trust Rhubarb Club and helped establish the not for profit organisation Climate Change Scotland.
Head of Valuation Service, Lothian Valuation Joint Board
Nick is a Chartered Surveyor and has extensive knowledge and experience of Business Rating valuation. Nick holds the post of Head of Valuation Service for the Lothian Assessor and Chair the group responsible for providing the guidance to all Assessors in Scotland on how Self-Catering Units will be valued for the 2017 Revaluation.
Consultant, Davidson Asset Management
DAMgoodpensions are a Scottish-based employee benefits firm who have helped hundreds of businesses in the hospitality sector. Steve Torbet from DAM has worked in the pensions industry for 30 years and spends most of his time helping employers address their pensions challenges. Steve is based in Edinburgh but travels the length and breadth of the country meeting clients.
Operations Director & Lead Developer, MyRentals Ltd
As founder of MyRentals, Martin was awarded a place within the UK’s leading business incubator – Entrepreneurial Spark, which provided the perfect environment for innovation in the tourism sector.
A career that spans twenty years in Marketing and Communications for both B2B and B2C sectors with a focus on hospitality. Spending the last ten years primarily working within tourism, Martin is committed to seeing tourism positively affect every community within Scotland. Previous key roles held have been Marketing Director of vacation rentals firm RentIn Group and Communications Director for an NGO.
Carlos Villaro Lassen
Secretary General, European Holiday Home Association (EHHA)
Carlos is working intensely in the holiday home industry to create a greater understanding among politicians, decision makers and the public of the industry’s contribution and importance as well as to provide the best conditions for the companies and tourists in the sector. With a Master in Economics from the University of Copenhagen and with a background as director of communication at the Danish Chamber of Commerce together with experience in the political sector in several European countries and in the European Union, Carlos’ aim is to unify the short term rental industry internationally.
ASSC Executive Committee & Director, Gael Property Care Ltd
Les, born in Inverness, has lived and worked in and around the city for most of his life. After 20 years in the motor trade he started Gael Property Care in 2007 from his home in Culbokie on the Black Isle. Originally a holiday rental property management company, as the business developed it evolved into Gael Holiday Homes to act as a booking agency and marketing manager as well as continuing with the property management side of the business. With the addition of Booking Admin, a company that provides online booking and payments to clients who run their own marketing activity, Les and his wife Sheila, now run the business from offices in Dingwall in Ross-shire in the Highlands.
Development Director, SuperControl
Robert is a self-caterer with a real passion for technology and web marketing. Along with his wife Melinda, he owns and runs Orroland Holiday Cottages – two farm cottages and a large traditional lodge overlooking the Solway Firth, near Kirkcudbright. Robert’s inside knowledge of the self-catering industry has been key to the success of his online booking system, SuperControl. The system handles bookings for more than 27,000 properties belonging to over 1,500 clients in the UK and across the world. Robert enjoys contributing to the ASSC committee.
Director, My Favourite Holiday Cottages
Rick is a Director of My Holiday Marketing, a ‘Concierge-style’ cottage agency and owner of My Favourite Holiday Cottages and My Cottage Holiday, both websites for independent owners. He also runs and manages his own holiday cottage on Exmoor in his spare time. A one-time (strictly amateur) rugby referee, and theatre manager with a love of photography, he will happily seize any opportunity to spend more time in Scotland (preferably at Murrayfield).
Digital Marketing Consultant, Social Media Evangelist & Technology Public Speaker
In 1988 Stephen Whitelaw founded Buchanan International Inc in Silicon Valley and 10 years later spun out Actis Technology Ltd in the UK. He has a proven track record with 30 years of business experience in managing and growing technology businesses through strong financial and personnel management skills and has often been described as a rebel without a pause! His highly energetic nature and deep knowledge of the internet has enabled him to travel the world engaging with large corporations offering consultancy and training on many of the technologies, including SEO, Digital marketing and the “Future of the web”. Based upon his experience Stephen is a regular keynote speaker to Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Coca Cola, & Microsoft.
David’s main occupation is farming, but 25 years ago, before e-mail and the internet, he diversified usefully into self-catering by developing on-farm cottages. Passionate about the wider self-catering and tourism industry in Scotland, David has chaired the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers ‘roughly since foot and mouth’ ensuring the sector is promoted and represented. He also currently chairs the Perthshire Tourism Partnership. A practical self-catering enthusiast and advocate, his holidays are always self-catering whether in Scotland, UK or European cities. It is the real holiday experience.
Chief Executive, ASSC
Fiona was appointed as the ASSC’s first Chief Executive in February 2015. She owns and runs Mansefield House, a four star self-catering house in Argyll, while developing two other successful businesses concurrently. Until recently she sat on the board of the local
Community Development Trust. As a member of the ASSC for 13 years, she is proud to be a part of the critical role that the organisation plays in supporting self-catering in Scotland.
*Programme, Speakers and Panel subject to change