The Outlook for Tourism in the Highlands
Current Trends – for 2021 and possibly into 2022 much of the tourism into Scotland will be domestic, from the rest of the UK. Trends that have emerged, partly as a result of the pandemic and partly because of the current environmental crisis are:
Outdoor Spaces/Wilderness – there are not too many places in the UK that you could call ‘Wilderness’ – but one thing we do have up here in the North Highlands is space – it is an area of unique beauty and varied landscapes and coastline. Covid has led to social distancing – and it is perhaps no surprise, that so many Britons seek out the North Highlands, as an ideal holiday location, far away from the busy urban areas of the south
Protecting the Environment – Scotland is at the forefront of re-forestation and re-wilding – in renewable energy and in marine conservation. Protecting the environment has never been more important than it is today – so Scotland and the Highlands are seen as pro environment and people like to support that. Also businesses that have ‘sustainability’ as a leading objective – such as restaurants and hotels that champion local food
Supporting Remote Communities – recent tourism trends suggest that people do value the idea of supporting communities that live in fragile and remote areas and are therefore well disposed to spending their money in those areas
North Coast 500 – this marketing phenomenon has no doubt exceeded the expectations of those clever people who came up with the idea! It is popular as a driving route but also with bikers. However it has led to congestion, especially in a few areas on the west coast due to minor roads with passing places. Hopefully this congestion will be eased in years to come. Actually the NC 500 has simply drawn the world’s attention to a very special part of the UK and Western Europe. There are many ways to explore the NC 500 – no need to follow the herd clockwise or anti-clockwise. Stay in one location – and explore the interior roads as well as the coastal routes. Saves time on checking-in and checking -out and packing and unpacking each day
Inward Investment – there have been some very positive investments of late. In industry there has been talk of a hydrogen plant and further renewable power investment in the Cromarty Firth. In the hotel sector, Highland Coast Hotels have recently bought over a number of hotels on both east and west coasts and plan to revitalize hospitality training, with a view to keeping young people in the Highlands. A property group have recently purchased the Gledfield Estate, with a plan to have up to 40 chalets and up to 14 job vacancies. An Eco hotel has been proposed at the Coul Links location and the spaceport in north Sutherland is still on the cards – there are so many reasons to be optimistic about the future!