NC500 organisation hits back at claims by Gail Ross over 'irresponsible tourists'
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THE North Coast 500 organisation has taken issue with claims by north MSP Gail Ross over "irresponsible tourists", emphasising that it advises visitors to stay overnight only in designated sites and to book in advance.
It also urges tourists "not to leave waste for others to find or remove".
Mrs Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, had warned of growing resentment and frustration over the behaviour of some visitors. She urged Scotland's tourism secretary Fergus Ewing to act following what she called "disgusting" reports of fires, litter and even human waste at local beauty spots.
She claimed there had been a "complete disregard" for communities and the environment from tourism websites as well as from visitors themselves, and declared: “There is real concern that the North Coast 500 route in particular is being heavily promoted and advertised to campervan and caravan users without any regard to the lack of infrastructure available on the route at present or the impact those who camp irresponsibly are having on the environment and the communities."
NC500 says it has checked its email files and established that on June 29 Mrs Ross was invited to take part in a webinar for North Coast 500 business members on July 3 to discuss these issues, but "she failed to respond".
The organisation further points out that a working group the MSP refers to in her letter to Mr Ewing is chaired by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, not NC500.
It also insists NC500 has been consistent in its messaging throughout the pandemic.
Tom Campbell, executive chairman of North Coast 500 Ltd, said: “North Coast 500 welcomes the Scottish Government’s conditional reopening of tourism. The Scottish Government’s sectoral guidelines are helping to give tourism and hospitality businesses in the north Highlands a workable plan to adapt their premises so that they can be in a position to provide visitors with a warm but safe welcome.
“We are very aware that businesses are part of every community and there needs to be a collective understanding of the need for businesses to open and the concerns that this has to be done by taking safe and measured steps. We have consistently said that visitors should only travel when the Scottish Government says that it is safe to do so.
"We must ensure that there is a clear message about why tourism businesses can reopen to ensure that everyone knows that it is being done on the guidance of the government.
“Whether people are travelling in their own vehicle, or hiring one for their visit, we actively encourage visitors to observe our advice for safe driving on country and single-track roads, overnight parking, access rights and waste disposal, which is all available on our website. If people are camping, in a campervan or have a caravan, we urge people to support local businesses on the NC500.
"Our advice is that visitors should only stay overnight in designated sites and they should book in advance in order that their holiday is planned ahead. Whether people are travelling by car, bicycle, motorcycle, campervan, motorhome or foot, it is their responsibility to dispose of their waste responsibly.
"We encourage people not to leave waste for others to find or remove. It is their waste, their rubbish, and we encourage everyone to take account of that when they visit this wonderful place.”