'In the Isle of Man, we dont just say it - we do something about it.'
Ranald Caldwell chairs the Visit Agency, which oversees the work of Visit Isle of Man. He shares his views on what our Biosphere status means for visitors, the potential for more ecotourism - and why he cherishes life in the Isle of Man.
Explain the work of Visit Isle of Man?
The purpose of Visit Isle of Man is to establish and promote the Isle of Man as a quality visitor destination amongst our key target markets and we aim to do this via:
Promotion and marketing: Promoting all-year-round tourism to the Isle of Man through innovative and omni-channel marketing campaigns, highlighting the distinctive visitor proposition with targeted engaging content.
Policy development: Ensuring that existing policies are updated and new policies are created to support the growth of the visitor economy and visitor infrastructure.
Product innovation: Championing new investment and product development in line with the needs of our target sectors.
Creating an exceptional visitor experience: Working with industry partners to ensure that we give visitors a high quality and memorable experience.
Developing partnerships: Strengthening relationships with industry partners and stakeholders.
Enhanced research and measurement: Creating and maintaining a programme of research and market intelligence to direct strategy and measure achievement.
The Visit Agency, an Executive Board that oversees the work of Visit Isle of Man, is made up of representatives from the tourism and hospitality sector who act as a conduit between government and the sector, championing, guiding and reviewing the delivery of Visit Isle of Man’s strategy and operational plans.
What does the UNESCO Biosphere recognition tell our visitors?
I believe it demonstrates the care and commitment we have as an Island to create a uniquely special place to both live and visit. We don’t just say it – we are doing something about it!
It also tells our visitors that we are a responsible nation with a desire to take care of not only our nature and wildlife, but also our heritage and culture, all of which are key to promoting the Isle of Man as a quality visitor destination.
Is there potential to grow eco-tourism in the Isle of Man?
Sustainable travel and eco-tourism is a fast growing sector. More than ever before, in today’s world, conservation issues are at the front and centre of the public’s consciousness.
It is a natural step for destinations as they look to move with the needs and wishes of target audiences. The growth of eco-tourism has resulted in the growth of protected natural areas around the world and this is something we feel could have real benefits to the Isle of Man.
We already have the product and are working with a number of stakeholders within the wildlife and conservation community to identify areas the Agency can help develop further in order to share more with visitors and spread our credentials to the wider public. We are also ensuring that we develop all our propositions (especially those within the cycling/walking and sporting areas) in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Part of our growth strategy over the next five years is to diversify our market segments and the ‘Adventure Playground’ (as we like to call it) we have on our doorstep is critical to this and it is critical we sustain this.
This goes hand in hand with our UNESCO messaging and offering.
How can our accommodation and attraction providers contribute to and help promote our Biosphere?
To be successful as a Biosphere, our tourism activities and experiences should be compatible with the characteristics outlined in the Biosphere Pledge as well as championing Biosphere within the community.
Biosphere is not about stopping progress, but providing a framework for the development of businesses and ensuring that by making small changes, such as introducing energy-saving measures, supporting local produce on menus and minimising waste, businesses can contribute to providing sustainable social, cultural and economic development.
The Refill Isle of Man scheme, which was recently launched to reduce consumption of single-use plastic water bottles, is a prime example of a scheme our tourism businesses can sign up to do their bit.
What is special about the Isle of Man to you?
I was once told I will never be called a Manxman as I was not born here, but after living here for 25 years I feel Manx and take great pride in the Island I call home.
The people are what make the real difference – that blend of ‘Manxies’ and come/stop overs who always have time for each other and will stop for a yarn and always happy to offer an opinion.
We all know how lucky we are to live in such a special place and once you land on these shores, more often than not you never leave.