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5th April 2024

Chair of SW Scotland’s UNESCO Biosphere moves to new role on Isle of Man

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership has announced that Melanie Allen, Chair of the organisation’s Partnership Board since 2021, is standing down.

Ms Allen leaves to take up the position of Director of Marketing & Communications for Visit Isle of Man, under the auspices of the Isle of Man Government. This represents the next chapter in a career dedicated to sustainable tourism development; amidst more than two decades of work in strategy, governance and stakeholder engagement, Ms Allen has served as Company Secretary of the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers, interim CEO of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, and a Director of the Scottish Community Tourism Organisation. With her husband John, Melanie owns Nithbank, a country estate and luxury B&B near Thornhill which has been the family home since 2016. Nithbank is accredited through the Biosphere Certification Mark scheme and has won multiple VisitScotland Thistle Awards for exceptional accommodation and hospitality, with Ms Allen herself named Scotland’s Tourism Individual of the Year in the 2023 Thistle Awards.

On becoming Chair of the GSA Biosphere’s Partnership Board in autumn 2021 Ms Allen spoke of her ambition for the organisation to be “bold and creative” in sharing its stories and seizing opportunities to put the south of Scotland on the global map. During her time in post the GSA Biosphere has successfully completed its ten-year Periodic Review and seen its geographical boundary expand to take in new territorial areas plus twelve miles of the marine environment. The UNESCO region has attracted international acclaim for its tourism offer including being the only Scottish destination to feature in National Geographic Traveller’s prestigious annual ‘Cool List’ for 2024.

In the interim Melanie Allen will be succeeded by the current Vice Chair, farmer and business owner John Thomson, who has sat on the Biosphere’s Partnership Board for twelve years. A new permanent Chair will be elected at the organisation’s next AGM in the autumn.

In a statement announcing her resignation as Chair, Ms Allen spoke of her “deep personal connection” to the Isle of Man, and her “profound sense of both sadness and optimism” in stepping down from the GSA Biosphere role. “During my tenure as Chair, Vice Chair and Partnership Board member, I feel privileged to have worked alongside remarkable individuals who are deeply committed to the GSA Biosphere and everything that it stands for. I extend my sincere gratitude to all trustees of the Partnership Board and commend our exceptional team for their unwavering dedication and tireless efforts, with many outstanding achievements recognised over the past few years and even closer working relationships with the UK Man and the Biosphere Programme and the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

“The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere and UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man (the world’s only ‘entire nation’ Biosphere) share synergies that offer promising opportunities for future collaboration. I am optimistic about the possibilities that lie ahead as the UNESCO Biosphere ethos continues to be a guiding light in my professional life.”

Ed Forrest, Director of the GSA Biosphere, said, “Melanie’s leadership has helped steer our organisation through a transformative period which included the UNESCO region nearly doubling in size last year through the inclusion of the marine environment. Her expertise in destination management has helped Galloway and Southern Ayrshire reach new national and international audiences and inspired a huge range of local businesses to innovate and create, not only through Melanie’s enthusiasm as Chair but by her own story as a tourism start-up. Despite the loss to the GSAB Partnership, Melanie’s new post represents an exciting opportunity for partnership working with our sister designation, UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man, and we look forward to keeping in touch and making the most of this connection.”

John Thomson, Acting Chair of the GSA Biosphere, said, “It’s my great privilege to take the reins from Melanie Allen and steer the GSAB Partnership through the next few months. We have an exciting time ahead, awaiting the outcome of the joint bid for a Galloway National Park while further developing the many diverse projects which the Biosphere has underway. Melanie has been a passionate supporter of our UNESCO Biosphere from the moment she and her family arrived in southwest Scotland and we know that her advocacy will continue in both personal and professional spheres. Our very best wishes go with Melanie to the Isle of Man.”

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Partnership is a registered Scottish Charity (SC044137) supported by funders including South of Scotland Enterprise and three local authorities. It works across more than 9,700km² of Scotland’s southwest, leading multi-sector partnerships to deliver projects in conservation, education, sustainable development and climate resilience. More information is available by email request to

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