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Partnership aiming to get tourism industry back on track in Highlands

By Alan Hendry

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Achmelvich beach in north-west Sutherland, part of the North Coast 500 tourism route. Picture: Steven Gourlay Photography
Achmelvich beach in north-west Sutherland, part of the North Coast 500 tourism route. Picture: Steven Gourlay Photography

Tourism leaders from across the Highlands are plotting a collective way forward to get the industry back on track following the pandemic.

They say they want to ensure visitors to the region have "fantastic experiences", while balancing that aim with communities' expectations and the need to care for the landscape.

The recovery bid is being led by the Highland Tourism Partnership (HTP), whose priorities include "delivering a world-class customer experience" and marketing the region as a responsible tourism destination. There is also a focus on skills and collaboration.

The partnership is bringing together destination organisations and public sector partners from across the Highlands. These include North Coast 500 Ltd, VisitScotland, Highland Council, NatureScot, Wester Ross Tourism, Venture North, Visit Inverness Loch Ness, Cairngorms Business Partnership, Visit Moray Speyside, SkyeConnect and Lochaber Outdoor Capital of the UK.

Partnership chairman Frazer Coupland, from Lochaber, said: “The Highland Tourism Partnership has reconvened with a very clear intention. We want to make sure that visitors to the Highlands have fantastic experiences, while also making sure that we balance that with community expectation and care for our iconic Highland location."

As a partnership of destination management organisations, the HTP represents more than 2000 Highland businesses from across all sectors involved in tourism – including hotels, B&Bs, visitor attractions, guided tours and food-and-drink providers.

Tom Campbell, executive chairman of North Coast 500 Ltd, said: “I’m delighted that the Highland Tourism Partnership is demonstrating the strength of activity across all areas of the Highlands to attract visitors who are critically important to the economy, sustainability and growth of communities.

"From small groups in the north Highlands to the large area tourism groups we are, collectively and individually, working together and building on the huge success that has already been achieved in making the Highlands of Scotland a jewel for Scottish tourism.”

The HTP seeks to influence national tourism policy and support sustainable development through the Scottish Tourism Alliance and by working with national tourism bodies.

VisitScotland’s regional director Chris Taylor said: “This past year has been the most challenging ever for tourism businesses across the country. We know, however, that tourism is very resilient and will bounce back, helping to create vibrancy in our towns and cities, supporting businesses and creating much-needed employment in our communities.

"We can only achieve this by working together and I am delighted to be working with tourism leaders across the Highlands, through the Highland Tourism Partnership, to make sure we grab the opportunities ahead of us and manage tourism in a responsible way that creates real benefits for everyone.”

HTP says local communities are at the heart of its approach to "looking after and developing the Highlands for the long-term sustainable benefit of our special area and its people".

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