Fears have been raised that Aberdeenshire could miss out on £600,000 of tourism cash after vital funding was cut from the local authority’s budget.
The Conservative administration’s proposal that was approved on Thursday, included a number of cuts to various services in a bid to plug a funding gap of £66.8m.
This included a £50,000 slash in support to VisitAberdeenshire.
The tourism agency is funded by the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils, along with economic development partnership Opportunity North East.
However members of the opposition spoke out against the plan and urged the administration to reconsider.
SNP councillor Seamus Logan said reducing its support was “an error in judgement”.
He noted that the tourism industry had been badly hit by the pandemic and was currently in “recovery mode”.
Mr Logan explained that events being cancelled due to covid led to hotels, pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions all “substantially” losing out on trade.
Chief executive, Chris Foy, had previously told councillors the agency would lose out on vital match funding as a result of the cut.
This means there would be a £100,000 drop in VisitAberdeenshire’s budget.
It could see the region miss out on a raft of potential visitors from day trippers and golfers, to cruise ships, tour coach operators and conference organisers.
Mr Logan went on to explain that the firm’s campaigns deliver an estimated £6 into the local economy for every pound spent.
“The direct impact of this cut will be at least £600,000 not spent by visitors this summer at a time when tourism businesses are struggling to break even,” he said.
“Tourism will lose momentum at a critical time.”
Mr Logan went on to say the administration’s plan to cut funding was “counterintuitive, counterproductive and simply wrongheaded”.
He said VisitAberdeenshire was doing its “absolute best” to show off the region, and highlighted that the firm’s recent PR activity had reached 116 million people globally.
Its work has helped to secure 26 national travel features, including two in the Telegraph.
One looked at Aberdeenshire’s role in tackling climate change while the other focused on cycling through the region’s beautiful countryside.
He also praised the Channel 4 show Best of British by the Sea, presented by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott and restaurant critic Grace Dent.
In one of the episodes, the pair took a trip to the north-east to sample the best of the region’s food from fresh locally sourced seafood to shortbread and butteries.
They stopped at Gardenstown, Troup Head, Macduff, Thorneybank Farm Shop in Inverurie and Douneside House out in Royal Deeside.
Meanwhile, leading lifestyle magazine Good Housekeeping even named Aberdeenshire as its top holiday destination for 2023.
However the SNP pledged to protect the funding in their opposition budget.
Group leader councillor Gwyneth Petrie said: “We do that this year with a hope that we can see continued and improved engagement from them with communities across Aberdeenshire.”
The party hoped the funding would go hand-in-hand with ongoing work aimed at improving the tourism offer across the region.
However addressing Mr Logan, council leader Mark Findlater said VisitAberdeenshire “plays a big part in the overall scheme of things”.
But he told the chamber the local authority also had to recognise its work with other partnerships.
These include VisitScotland, regional private sector partners, as well as its own Live Life Aberdeenshire.
The tourism agency recently faced losing out on an additional £160,000 of funding from Aberdeen City Council through its proposed budget cuts.
But the SNP and Lib Dem partnership threw the firm a lifeline and opted to retain its support.