The Highland Council's Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee will take place at Timespan in Helmsdale next Monday and top of the agenda, is a key Council priority for the economy, tourism.
Area Leader Councillor Deirdre Mackay said: “Tourism is one of the main sectors of employment in the Highlands and it is with this in mind that I felt it would be meaningful to hold the committee in Timespan. 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the first mass clearances of the people of Strath of Kildonan to the Red River Valley in Canada, a settlement later to become Winnipeg.
“The sentiment behind the Bi-Centenary is “bringing people together” and I felt it struck a chord for the democratically elected representatives to meet, in a spirit of co-operation, to make thoughtful decisions on behalf of the people they represent – in stark contrast to the events and decision making of 200 years ago.”
The Timespan Museum and Art Centre has done much work in relation to the Clearances, including academic research and organising community events and has established close links with Winnipeg. The centre has lots of special activities planned for this summer and after the Area Committee ends Deirdre and the rest of the Councillors will Skype Winnipeg to talk about some of the planned events and twinning opportunities.
The meeting will begin with a presentation outlining the importance of tourism to the Caithness and Sutherland area before Members consider how the Council’s work can support the growth of tourism in the area.
Councillor Mackay said: “Sutherland and Caithness are rich in natural assets. We have a high quality, diverse and beautiful natural environment which is the envy of many. Our cultural historical assets are equally rich. We have iconic landmarks such as The Castle of Mey, Dunrobin Castle, the Royal burgh of Dornoch, the Flow Country, which hopes to gain World Heritage status, the most northerly Geo Park, pristine beaches, wide open spaces and golf courses that attract golfers from around the world, archaeology sites and trails and the visits by cruise ships.
"However, as the tourism sector is our biggest employer, we need to look at new ways to maximise existing opportunities and tap into new ones. This involves looking at tourism trends and ways we can extend the season. The tourism market place is a very crowded one therefore we must do everything possible to stand out as a must visit destination.
“I have seen first-hand the success some organisations have had by branding their attractions so I would like to see Sutherland and Caithenss showcase their assets as a distinctive brand. To do this requires tourism operators and the private and voluntary sectors working together underpinned by support from the public sector. The Golf Pass by way of example shows enormous strength can be gained from industry partners by developing a collective and co-operative approach.
“Promoting tourism in remote areas can be a logistical challenge as we depend on businesses, attractions and organisations to market and support each other however I am confident that by working together, tapping in to new opportunities and having the ambition to really push the whole area as a tourism destination to the Uk markets and overseas will stand us in a very good position for the future.”
The Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee agenda is available from the Council's website and the meeting will be webcast