GCU experts reveal role of tourism in development of waterways

30 March 2015

Scottish Canals is working with GCU

Scottish Canals is working with GCU

Experts from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are to reveal the role of tourism and visitor development in the survival and growth of the waterways and historic canals in Scotland, following initial findings from a collaborative Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Scottish Canals.

Professor John Lennon, Director of GCU’s Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, Richard Millar, Scottish Canals' Director of Heritage, Enterprise and Sustainability, and Andrew McKean, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate, will deliver a keynote paper and presentation on waterways and heritage transformation at the ‘Waterscapes and Historic Canals as Cultural Heritage’ international conference.

Taking place in May, the conference is organised by the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Civiltà dell’Acqua International Centre, in cooperation with the UNESCO Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti.

The event is an integral part of the set of activities UNESCO is developing and will highlight the crucial importance of waterscapes and historic canals as visible infrastructural networks constituting a significant part of European history.

The enhancement of historic waterways for developing sustainable tourism and leisure in the Scottish context of Fort Augustus, Helix Park and the urban centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow will be the focus of the paper.

GCU has been working with Scottish Canals for six months of an 18-month KTP project to bring visitors to Scotland’s canals through the development of new community, visitor attraction and business opportunities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk and Inverness.

Recent work includes the transformation of the local environment of Falkirk through the award-winning Helix project. The Kelpies, 30-metre high horse-head sculptures, stand next to the new canal extension in The Helix, a parkland project built to connect 16 communities in the Falkirk Council Area.

Fort Augustus is the next development currently facing Scottish Canals, with combined challenges of a rural location, limited operating season and distance from key generating markets.

The paper will examine the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies and Fort Augustus as cases in which different approaches to tourism and visitor development hold the key to survival and growth.

Professor Lennon said: “Such contrasting sites provide a unique opportunity to build a development and operating strategy built on contemporary practice, internally benchmarked as well as externally measured against international competitors. Scottish Canals is an organisation in transition making major changes to strategic direction and growth at a managerial and organisation level whilst growing real appeal in the tourism /visitor marketplace. The lessons provided in organisational and operational change offer useful benchmarks for other heritage waterways in transition and development.”