Council to set up Tourism Working Group
The Highland Council has agreed to set up a tourism working group to take a strategic overview and set priorities to support the success and growth of tourism in the Highlands.
The Council has also agreed to identify financial support that allows EventScotland and their partners to bid for future major International events to be hosted in Highland.
Sustainable tourism is one of Scotland’s key growth sectors and is the Highlands’ most important industry, generating significant economic benefits for the area, worth £965m of direct spend by tourists in 2016 and a further £226m of indirect expenditure by the tourism industry purchasing goods and services in Highland. This brings a total economic impact of £1.2 billion, directly supporting over 24,000 jobs.
Tourism has seen a period of sustained growth with the overall economic impact of tourism growing by 34% over the period 2012 – 2016 and 2017 has been another exceptionally successful year. One early indicator, the number of visits to visitor attractions, has seen numbers increase by 8.7% for the period January to September 2017 – double the rate of increase of 4.3% seen in the rest of Scotland.
In addition to providing economic benefits, tourism also brings a range of wider benefits to Highland and many of its communities, supporting a range of local services, an increased numbers of air routes and helping to position Highland as an attractive place which in turn assists in attracting inward investment.
Globally one of the growth areas in tourism has been in event tourism such as mountain biking, golf and music events. Attracting and retaining such events in Highland is not necessarily straightforward, and requires significant resource to support such bids.
Chair of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Allan Henderson said: “The significant success of tourism in the Highlands is to be welcomed. We are a region which is rich in scenery, culture and heritage and it is wonderful to see tourists flocking here to experience our beautiful Highlands.
“Notwithstanding the welcome increase in tourists, the Council recognises the need to resolve a number of infrastructure challenges in order to support the continued growth and success of tourism in the region. Resolving these issues is not something that the Council can accomplish on its own. It will require both a joined up approach between the Council, communities, businesses and in some cases other public sector partners and will also require additional resources. However, the Council is well placed to take an overview of these issues and has the ability to play a significant role in addressing many of them together with our partners and other agencies.”
The pressures on infrastructure vary from place to place and indeed across the year but some key issues include inadequate parking at popular tourist sites; extensive single track roads not designed with this level of use in mind; a lack of public toilets in some locations; irresponsible (and illegal) disposal of waste; increased erosion of paths; and limited electric vehicle charging points.”
Cllr Henderson added: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s recent recognition of the issues and announcement of a Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Details of how the fund might be used and by whom have yet to be announced, but £6 million shared across Scotland over 2 years, will not make much of an impact on challenges of this scale.”