Lord Thurso has been appointed as the new Chair of VisitScotland replacing outgoing Chairman Mike Cantlay. Announcing Lord Thurso’s appointment Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said, “I am delighted to welcome John Thurso as the new Chair of VisitScotland and wish him well in his new post. Scottish tourism goes from strength to strength and I’m sure VisitScotland will benefit hugely from John’s experience and expertise in the industry to grow and develop Scotland’s visitor economy.”
Lord Thurso has been involved in hospitality all his working life. He became Europe’s youngest 5-star hotel manager when appointed Managing Director of the Savoy Group’s Lancaster Hotel in Paris at 27. Five years later he became founder General Manager for Blakeney Hotels of Cliveden, and then he became Chief Executive of Granfel Holdings – a small company with three hotels. From 1995 to 2001, he was CEO of Fitness & Leisure Holdings whose main asset was Champneys Health Spa.
John has served as a non-executive on a number of public company boards including The Savoy PLC, Millenium and Copthorne PLC and Walker Greenbank PLC. He is also Chairman of his family company in Caithness and for many years owned The Ulbster Arms in Halkirk. He was Grand Master of the Keepers of the Quaich of which he remains a patron and currently he is Chair of the International Wine & Spirit Competition, a trustee of the Castle of Mey Trust and a board member of IPSA.
Having inherited his title on the death of his father in 1995, he sat in the House of Lords until 1999 and from 2001 to 2015 was MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross. He served on the Treasury Select Committee and was a member of the Parliamentary Banking Standards Commission as well as being a Commissioner of the House of Commons and Chair of the House Finance Committee. He was awarded a “Catey” for services to Tourism 2003, was made an honorary DBA by Oxford Brookes in 2004 and is a Master Innholder and a Fellow of The Institute of Hospitality. He is President of the Tourism Society. In 2014, he was made a Privy Councillor by The Queen.
Lord Thurso comments, “Scotland is an iconic national brand with a world class tourist offering and VisitScotland http://www.visitscotland.com does a great job promoting both. I look forward to joining the team where I hope the skills I have learnt in my hospitality career combined with my career in public service will make a useful contribution.”
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said,“Tourism continues to go from strength to strength in Scotland and I’m sure John’s vast experience, in both the hospitality industry and public sector, will be a valuable asset for VisitScotland in the years ahead as we continue to showcase our country as the perfect place to visit and invest in.”
Stephen Leckie, Chairman Scottish Tourism Alliance, said, “I very much look forward to working with Lord Thurso, Chair to Chair and in my role as Chair of the Industry Leadership Group, to share and inspire industry with the Tourism Strategy 2020 vision and deliver that important milestone of £5.5 billion by the year 2020.
“His breadth and depth of experience and his knowledge and understanding of the hospitality and tourism industries along with his numerous high profile and esteemed roles in the world of politics and business will undoubtedly bring an exciting, impassioned and innovative approach to this hugely important position within our tourism industry.”