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Silver celebrations for Speyside Wildlife

Press Release   •   Nov 14, 2016 14:38 GMT

Sally Dowden is pictured with Scott Armstrong

A wildlife tourism company in the Highlands has been collecting its own ‘silver medals’ during this Olympic year whilst celebrating 25 years in business.

An incredible 25 guests of Speyside Wildlife have joined 25 or more of their holidays during this time, with the guest ‘in the lead’ having booked 51 holidays and counting!

Based in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, at Grantown-on-Spey, Speyside Wildlife was set up by Sally Dowden in 1991 to offer a variety of wildlife watching experiences within Scotland and overseas.

Experiences range from exceptional chances to watch badger and pine marten up close in their comfortable hide; hiring a professional wildlife guide for the day for the chance to see capercaillie, golden eagle, red squirrel and mountain hare; or choosing from a range of all-inclusive holidays to overseas destinations including Arizona, Costa Rica, Croatia and Slovenia, Extremadura, Finland, India, Nova Scotia, Yellowstone and China.

An exploration of Scotland will see their guests cross the water to Mull, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, Shetland, Fair Isle, or stay inland in the heart of Speyside.

The company’s focus has always been on the guests’ experiences and where they want to go next on holiday. In the early years, it was their ‘house party’ style holidays in Nethybridge, Mallorca and New England that topped the list, but listening to their guests’ feedback and as the desire for adventure developed over the years, other corners of the world have come into the portfolio with Mongolia, Patagonia, Georgia and Spitsbergen frequently making it on to the schedule.

Throughout the year the company has been marking its achievements and ensuring their guests are a large part of the celebrations. The first 25 to book for 2016 received a surprise £25 book token, with further specially-commissioned giftsfollowing, for guests who have booked 25 and 15 holidays or more over the years.

Speyside Wildlife has long been an established exhibitor and is now an associate sponsor at the annual British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water, where celebrations continued this summer with locally baked anniversary cake on offer to all their guests.

The company’s ethos has always been to cater for small friendly groups of like-minded people, where everyone is treated as an individual and not one of a crowd. Guests Lyn and Dave Maslin (members of the ‘25-ers’ club) summed this up: “Since that first trip in 2000, we have experienced wildlife watching as we never would have ever imagined, in so many different countries…it’s not only the wildlife, it’s also the guests who make a Speyside Wildlife holiday memorable as well. Some guests you meet on more than one trip, but you all have something in common, as everyone helps to point out the bird that you can never quite seem to find just by yourself. The guides are all brilliant, making sure each trip runs smoothly and helping each guest to see the elusive bird they’ve always wanted to see. You have a general feeling that you are part of a ‘family’ and this always helps to make a great trip.”

Sally Dowden, founder of Speyside Wildlife, said:

“There is nothing more motivational than to receive the feedback we get from our guests after each holiday. Their charming comments and enthusiasm for the holidays we produce, coupled with their unending loyalty over the years, permeates everything we do. It’s a real privilege to develop new holidays to exciting destinations for them.”

Speyside Wildlife is a 4 Star Wildlife Experience Quality Assured (QA) business and has been involved in the QA scheme since 2006. It was one of 40 wildlife businesses to be assessed under VisitScotland’s pilot scheme for Wildlife Experiences, achieving 4 Star status for its day tours – an accolade they have kept each year since.

They have also recently been involved in VisitScotland’s Business Development Mission to France - an event used by travel trade and to negotiate business, generate sales and build a solid database of potential clients in other countries.

The company, which is one of 20 across Scotland and one of only six in the Highlands to have earned its 4 Star Wildlife Experience award, not only has its own team of professional wildlife guides who take their guests around Scotland and overseas, it also uses local experts at many of its overseas destinations ensuring its clients have access to the best naturalists available.

Developed and improved for over 30 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but exceed them

QA can open the door to new customers. It is a powerful marketing tool and works well with online review sites in using an independent perspective to measure visitor experience against tried and tested criteria, so visitors know exactly what to expect.

Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:

“I am delighted, though not surprised, that Speyside Wildlife is celebrating its 25th year. From the very beginning, Sally had a vision to offer unforgettable wildlife watching opportunities to her guests – both in the Highlands and other parts of the world. She has successfully achieved this and the company continues to go from strength to strength.

Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.

Tourism is at the heart of the Highlands’ economy – generating sustainable economic success, jobs, and inclusive growth opportunities. Without tourism many remote communities would not be sustainable and businesses sectors like food and drink, outdoor activities, retail or construction would be severely impacted.”

For more information visit www.speysidewildlife.co.uk

For more information on VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, please visit www.visitscotland.org/quality_assurance.aspx

Notes to Editors

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit www.gov.scot or follow @scotgovESIF
  • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to http://www.visitscotland.org/media_centre.aspx, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to http://www.visitscotland.org/
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  • For holiday information on Scotland go to www.visitscotland.com
  • For information about business events in Scotland go to www.conventionscotland.com


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  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design started on 1 January 2016 and will end on 31 December 2016.It will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
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