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SCOTO - Scottish Community Tourism National Gathering & Learning Exchange

29 February & 1 March 2024

PRESS PAUSE: Recalibrating Scottish Tourism to deliver for our communities and environment first

Welcome to the much-anticipated return of the Scottish National Community Tourism Gathering!

Following the resounding success of last year's event, hailed as the 'friendliest' conference by many attendees, we're thrilled to announce that this year's gathering is heading to the "Queen of the South", Dumfries.


Meet us at the Cairndale Hotel, Dumfries where we'll celebrate SCOTO Network's mission to build skills, connections and confidence in people working in community-led tourism.


Thursday 29 February



Friday 1 March



The theme of the conference this year is 'Press Pause' - we want communities to take time out to consider what is working, what isn't working and how things could be done better/differently to ensure tourism helps make your community an even better place to live, work and visit.

Your participation is not just an event attendance but an opportunity to share insights, experiences and innovative ideas that can contribute and empower the SCOTO Network.


Whether you're a community tourism activist or simply interested in knowing more about community led tourism in Scotland, this gathering is perfect for you.

Connect with like-minded individuals from across Scotland, share ideas, and discover new ways to develop and promote responsible tourism, which brings real benefits back into the host community.


You can book now through our Eventbrite page.

For community led tourism practitioners, we provide discounted tickets to help individuals afford the cost of attending.  There is also support for accommodation and travel.

2023 Conference
“Thoroughly enjoyed the two days in many, many ways. Friendly, professional, and informative. A real sense of understanding out on the site visits of how communities overcome and work together to solve problems"
2023 Conference
"The fact that the SCOTO event came across as above all other events of this nature in terms of being a genuine community based organisation. Down to earth, practical, supportive - and a real mix of people and experiences to learn from."
The SCOTO Gathering 2024 and Learning Exchanges have been made possible with generous support from South of Scotland Enterprise and Scottish Community Alliance.




We've chosen Dumfries as the venue based on feedback in Kingussie and the Cairndale as our venue as it is a family-run enterprise with a strong record in working with their local community, and it offers everything we need for the 2-day event on one site. It's also very close to Dumfries Train Station, and we have timed the programme to tie in with the train timetable from Glasgow. There's also plenty of onsite parking for those not readily able to use public transport but able to car share.

Cairndale Hotel, English Street, Dumfries DG1 2DF,  just minutes from Dumfries Train Station.

Click here for the location of hotel

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Scottish Community Tourism Gathering

Thursday 29 February - DAY 1 Programme

Our 2024 conference programme is based on the theme of 'Press Pause' - Recalibrating Scottish Tourism to deliver for our communities and environment first. There will be inspirational speakers providing vital insights and valuable perspectives, "SCOTO Gathering" networking sessions and a networking dinner.


09:00 - 10:30 Pre-Conference Workshops -


For those travelling the day before or local early risers we have three free, fun and interactive workshops to whet your appetite for the day.  Supported by Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere you can choose from:

Empowering Community-Led Tourism: Collaboration with Your Local Climate Hub - Joan Lawrie, Hub Manager from the Highlands and Islands Climate Hub CIC will join Steven Clark from the D&G Climate Hub to explore how you can work with your
local climate hub to help address the climate emergency at a community level. Hands on re-use activity by EcoArt included!

Discover Dark Skies in Your Community – Join the team behind the month-long Wester Ross Dark Skies Festival and Elizabeth Tindall freelance dark sky ranger to explore what you could be doing within your own community to celebrate and enjoy the dark skies above you with locals and visitors.

Unlocking Scotland's UNESCO Designations for Community Tourism Success – Scotland has two Biospheres. Natasha Hutchison from Wester Ross Biosphere and Esther Tacke and Marie McNulty from Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere will share their experiences of unlocking the UNESCO designations potential for community tourism, including a deep dive into the sustainable event charter and hearing more about Scotland’s UNESCO Trail which profiles all our designations.


09:00 - 11:00  REGISTRATION OPEN

A warm welcome from the SCOTO directors and the Cairndale with coffee, tea and pastries to set everyone up for the day ahead.


11:00 - 12:00 A Warm Welcome and Setting the Scene

We start with a welcome from Melanie Allen – SCOTO’s Vice Chair from nearby Nithbank, Chair of the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere and winner of the Scottish Thistle Tourism Individual of the Year 2023.

Then Marc Crothall MBE and CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and co-chair of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group returns as our host for the day and will share insights on progress with Scotland Outlook 2030 and community tourism

Press Pause across Scotland – learn all about SCOTO’s innovative Press Pause initiative and hear which SCOTO communities have taken time to “Press Pause” – initially piloted with the North Highland Initiative last summer and now being rolled out across the country. What are these communities getting up to?! Is Press Pause for you?

12:00 - 13:00 Innovation and Inspiration from Dumfries & Galloway

Four insightful stories from four exemplar initiatives in Dumfries and Galloway with a panel discussion - The Stove Network arts charity in Dumfries, Spring Fling annual arts and crafts open studio event across the region, The 10-day Wigton Book Festival in Scotland’s National Book Town and the Whithorn Way – a new 143 mile walking and cycling route from Glasgow to Whithorn..

13:00 - 14:00 NETWORKING LUNCH

14:00 - 15:00 Taking Time to Press Pause

Perspectives on community tourism – our provocative post lunch slot will share different perspectives on community tourism – a city perspective, a tour company’s perspective, an industry leader’s perspective …. and a dog’s perspective! What’s your perspective?

15:30 - 16:30 Coffee and Cake Discussion Groups

This year’s afternoon Coffee and Cake Conversations will explore a number of themes with a focus on making and finding money for your community tourism enterprise and raising awareness– led by an expert and facilitated by the SCOTO team this is your chance to take a deep dive into topics at the top of your own agenda.

16:30 - 17:30 Time to Recalibrate

The day will close with Reflections and Game Plans – focusing on what we can all be doing differently to recalibrate tourism as a force for good in our community.


Informal networking activity starting with drinks in the bar and followed by dinner and a Mostly Ghostly storytelling experience.
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SCOTO Community Tourism Gathering Learning Exchanges
Day 2 - Friday 1 March 2024

Funded by the Scottish Tourism Alliance, last year, 45 participants took part in our learning exchange day.

We have specially designed the learning exchanges for community organisations. Six different exchanges exploring different parts of Dumfries, Annadale and Nithsdale, visiting at least two different enterprises and with a networking lunch.

Each exchange has a different theme:








Choices will include visiting and meeting the teams at the Devil’s Porridge Museum in Annan, The Moffat Dark Skies Observatory, Crawick Multiverse near Sanquhar, The old School in Thornhill, Loch Arthur Farm Shop and Café, and The Usual Place in Dumfries.

All visits will conclude in time for catching the train back to Glasgow and/or onward travel.

Options will be made available after booking the main conference. 

For more information click below


Booking and Bursaries

Our primary audience is community led tourism practitioners and community activists, and we provide discounted tickets to help individuals afford the cost of attending. These bursaries are specifically to allow people to travel and stay over to participate in the Learning Exchanges on Day 2. If you are eligible for a bursary please select the relevant 'Add Ons' when booking on the Eventbrite booking page  and we will follow up with you.

*There are now limited spaces at the Cairndale Hotel. If the hotel becomes fully booked, you will be able to use your bursary against any accommodation in Dumfries up to £100.

We also have an 'add-on' for non-bursary bookings to request accommodation at the Cairndale.


Gathering Tickets:

The Gathering 29 Feb General Admission - £120.00
The Gathering 29 Feb COMMUNITY DISCOUNT- £42.50

The Gathering Supper 29 Feb General Admission - £27.50
The Gathering Supper 29 Feb COMMUNITY DISCOUNT - £10.00

Learning Exchanges 1 March General Admission - £32.50
Learning Exchanges 1 March Community Discount - FREE



For community led enterprises we have discounted rooms which will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you have booked, we will put you in touch with the hotel to pay £25 single / £35 twin or double (we cover the rest).

Places are limited, and once booked, we can offer a limited number of grants to book your own accommodation (a receipt will be required). Please note that the bursary discount is only for the 29th Feb. Additional nights will cost £125 single occupancy and £135 twin/double occupancy B&B.

If you don't have a bursary but would like to book a room at the venue on 28/29 Feb and /or 1 March please state on the Eventbrite booking page and we will put you in touch with the hotel. Rooms are limited and in the event these are fully allocated there are various options in close proximity to the hotel. The delegate rate for the 29th is £125 single occupancy and £135 twin/double occupancy.



When registering, you can also apply for the travel bursary, which comes under four area categories:

South of Scotland - £15
Central Belt - £25
North Mainland - £40
Islands - £100

If you are car sharing, it would be good to limit the number of bursaries claimed so we can support more people attending.


Book now through our Eventbrite page.

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Do you want to be a SCOTO Networker, Supporter or Enterprise?

Find out more about how you can join SCOTO

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