ASVA Welcomes New Chair and Board Members to further support visitor attractions across Scotland

Paul Nixon, General Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh has been appointed the new Chair of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), the body which represents the interests of the visitor attractions sector in Scotland.

The appointment was confirmed at ASVA’s recent annual general meeting.

Having spent the past 20 years in senior tourism roles, Paul has managed some of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions including, Deep Sea World, the National Museum of Flight, the Scottish Seabird Centre, and CairnGorm Mountain. In 2019, he joined the Continuum Group as General Manager at the 5 Star accredited Real Mary Kings Close. 

Speaking of his appointment as Chair of ASVA, Paul said: “I am both delighted and honoured to be stepping up into the role of Chair to support the ASVA Board and executive team going forward. Whilst many members are still healing from the implications of the pandemic and with the continuing challenges within our sector, I am very confident that ASVAs mission and strategy will continue to provide our members with the support and guidance needed, to enable us all to develop and grow.”

The organisation has also welcomed three new ASVA board members to enhance ASVA’s voice and reach across various regions in Scotland. Joining the board are Isabel Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer for Gretna Green Ltd, and Iain Hawkins, Regional Director at the National Trust for Scotland for the Northeast, two individuals with an unparalleled knowledge of the industry, who are passionate advocates for their respective regions.

Isabel Rhodes has over 20 years of previous experience in senior executive leadership roles within the retail industry and has recently led a multimillion-pound transformation of the Famous Blacksmiths Attraction developing an immersive storytelling experience for tourism visitors to Scotland, showcasing the history and heritage to both UK and international visitors.

Iain Hawkins joined the National Trust for Scotland in 2016 and is based at the region’s offices in the Crathes estate. Iain is responsible for a diverse portfolio of properties across Aberdeenshire and Angus including J M Barrie’s Birthplace, Barry Mill, Castle Fraser, Craigievar Castle, Crathes Castle, Drum Castle, Fyvie Castle, Haddo House, House of Dun, Leith Hall and Pitmedden Garden. Before joining the National Trust for Scotland in 2016, Iain spent 22 years working for global visitor attraction operator Merlin Entertainments.

As well as the appointments of Iain and Isabel, ASVA has sought to recognise the important contribution that young people make within the attractions industry, by introducing a new Board position specifically for talented individuals under the age of 30. The organisation is delighted to welcome Erin Flett, Head of Business Development at Aberdeen Science Centre, to the Board in this role, one of the industry’s most talented young professionals.

On becoming the organisation’s youngest board member, Erin said: “I’m delighted to be joining the ASVA Board at what is a very exciting, albeit challenging, time for the visitor attractions industry. As the youngest board member to date, I hope to be a different voice around the table, and I look forward to working with my fellow Board Members and the executive team over the next few years.”

Welcoming the new ASVA Chair and board members, Gordon Morrison, CEO of ASVA said: “I am delighted to welcome Paul Nixon as the new Chair of ASVA. Paul has many years’ experience of working in visitor attractions and is acutely aware of both the challenges and opportunities for our sector over the coming months and years. I am also delighted that ASVA has further strengthened our Board with new, distinct, strong voices from the Northeast and South of the country. Both Iain and Isabel have their fingers on the pulse of tourism in their regions, and I am really looking forward to working with them to further benefit attractions in these beautiful parts of Scotland. 

Recognising the importance of young people to our sector is something I am passionate about. Having worked in tourism & hospitality myself since my early 20s, I know that this industry presents great opportunities for career development for young people and that young people bring so much creativity, energy and new ideas to our sector that help us to consistently exceed visitor expectations. I am therefore really excited that ASVA has appointed its youngest board member to date, Erin Flett.

I have no doubts that all these new voices around the Board table will be huge assets to our organisation as we continue to support and inspire Scottish visitor attractions to deliver outstanding experiences for each and every visitor.”