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The Beginnings of the VILN Tourism Bid

Here you will find more information on the structure of the Visit Inverness Loch Ness Tourism Bid and background information on its development.

In 2012 the then chair of Destination Loch Ness (DLN), Freda Newton and Executive Director Graeme Ambrose, were approached by Mike Smith, Manager of Inverness City Centre BID to determine whether DLN would be interested in taking forward a Tourism BID for Inverness and Loch Ness. The idea had immediate appeal to DLN for two fundamental reasons. First, because they recognised that Loch Ness and Inverness were interdependent for tourism success and would benefit from collaborating more as one destination. Secondly, because it was increasingly clear to the Board of DLN that the destination management organisation economic model was flawed in that it relied on voluntary contributions from the private sector which was unsustainable in the long term.

As a result, it was agreed that DLN would take the lead on the development of the Tourism BID with the understanding that if it were successful, DLN would cease trading and be replaced by the new Tourism BID organisation.

How The VILN TBid Was Formed

BID History: Background information on the development of VisitInvernessLochNess Tourism BID –

In 2012 the then chair of Destination Loch Ness (DLN), Freda Newton and Executive Director Graeme Ambrose, were approached by Mike Smith, Manager of Inverness City Centre BID to determine whether the organisation would be interested in taking forward a Tourism BID for Inverness and Loch Ness. The idea had immediate appeal for two reasons. First, because many tourism operators recognised that Loch Ness, Inverness and the surrounding area were interdependent for tourism success and would benefit from collaborating more as one destination. Secondly, because it was increasingly clear to the Board of DLN that the destination management organisation economic model was flawed in that it relied on voluntary contributions from the private sector which was unsustainable in the long term.

As a result, it was agreed that DLN would take the lead on the development of the Tourism BID with the understanding that if successful, DLN would cease trading and be replaced by the new Tourism BID organisation.

The first step in the process was to bring together like-minded tourism operators from Inverness, Loch Ness and surrounding area to form a Steering Group that would drive the development of the  Tourism BID. Subsequently, in March 2013, the Steering Group appointed Graeme Ambrose as the Tourism BID Project Manager and together with part-time assistance from Sharon Mackay as Project Administrator and Ailsa Cullen for Marketing and Communications.

Over the next year, the Project Team with support from the Steering Group undertook and met all the necessary legislative requirements of becoming a BID (contained in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2006, and Planning Regulations 2007, 2008) including extensive consultation with businesses that would become levy payers. This ensured that as the ballot date approached in March 2014, the Steering Group and Project Team were confident of success.

The ballot result was a vindication of all the hard work by everyone that went into the process. With an electorate of 361 businesses, of the 152 that voted, 123 voted in favour and only 29 against. The Non – Domestic Rateable Value figure was equally impressive with £6,203,250 value in favour and £565,750 against.

Immediately following the ballot success, a new not-for-profit organisation was established, the Steering stepped aside and a Board of Directors were elected to operate the BID and ensure that the commitments of the Tourism BID organisation as contained in Business Plan 2014-2019 would be delivered. Initially, the name of the organisation was Uniqueness Tourism BID Ltd but in 2015 the name was changed to VisitInvernessLochNess Ltd.

The Board appointed Colin Marr, CEO of Eden Court as chair of the Board, Graeme Ambrose as the CEO and subsequently Sharon Mackay as Business Development Manager (P/T), Sabine Macdonald as Administrator (p/T) and in November 2014 Alan Rawlinson as the Business Tourism Manager

Over the past four years, the Board and Management Team have worked tirelessly to deliver on the promises made in the Business Plan and in March 2019 once again will go to ballot to seek support from members for a second five-year term.

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The VILN Ballot

On Friday 14 March 2014 tourism businesses in Inverness, Loch Ness and the surrounding area backed the plans to establish the first Tourism Business Improvement District in the UK.

The results of the ballot are as follows:

Electorate: 361
Votes cast: 152
Votes in favour: 123
Votes against: 29
Rateable Value of those voted in favour: £6,203,250.00
Rateable Value of those voted against: £565,750.00
Turnout by headcount: 40.82%
Turnout by rateable value: 56.95%

From 30th January to 13th March 2014 each eligible business was asked to cast their vote for the Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism BID in a formal, confidential ballot. Highland Council was responsible for managing the ballot to ensure it was conducted fairly. All eligible voters had one vote or where an eligible voter has more than one business that individual was eligible to cast more than one vote but they are required to pay the levy for each of the properties that they occupy.

A ballot paper (together with a copy of the Business Plan) was sent to each eligible business. The ballot paper should have been signed by the person named on the ballot paper and returned by 5pm on Thursday 13th March 2014.

If a business has more than one rateable property they would have received a ballot paper for each property. Each paper counts as one vote.

It is important that every paper received was completed and returned. Where the property is vacant the ballot paper was sent to the owner of the property as the eligible person entitled to vote. Ballot papers received after 5pm on Thursday 13th March 2014 were deemed invalid and void.

The Tourism Bid Ballot Result

The Inverness and Loch Ness Tourism BID ballot met the following criteria:

A minimum 25% turnout by ‘headcount’ is achieved

A minimum 25% turnout by rateable value is achieved of the votes received,

A numerical majority by number of ballots must vote in favour

Those voting in favour must represent a majority by rateable value of the rateable properties exercising their vote

The result was announced on Friday 14th March 2014 and following the successful ballot the Tourism BID will commence on 1st April 2014 and will operate for a period of five years until the 31st March 2019. A renewal ballot will be conducted and completed prior to the five-year term being up.

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