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New tourism committee established as Highland Council looks to economic recovery from coronavirus lockdown

By Philip Murray

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A NEW tourism committee has been set up by Highland Council to address the challenges facing communities as they look to recover from Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

Its first meeting took place today, when Cromarty Firth ward councillor Maxine Smith was appointed chairwoman. Cllr Gordon Adam was appointed as vice-chairman.

Cllr Smith said: “I look forward to working with fellow councillors, the vice chair, and council officers to address the tourism challenges that face our communities as we come out of lockdown and into the future.

"It is vital that we work closely with local and national partners to ensure that Highland remains welcoming and safe during the economic recovery of the region.”

During the inaugural meeting, members discussed the potential role and remit of the tourism committee which could cover tourism strategy, management and investment and the responsibility of responding to national consultations relating to tourism.

The resourcing of the committee’s work was raised and councillors requested that a terms of reference be brought back to the next meeting of the committee for their consideration.

Chris Taylor, regional director of VisitScotland informed dembers on the work being undertaken to market Scotland for the remaining tourism season and how VisitScotland is supporting and advising businesses and visitors.

He said: “We commend the community spirit that has come through in recent weeks as we work with local community groups.

"The headline figures are that the Highlands remain Scotland’s top of the wish list as the number one destination with the domestic market citing the scenery, landscapes, coastline and open space as their reasons for wanting to visit.

"Our new marketing campaign “Only in Scotland” is appealing to visitors that they can do a lot on their own doorstep which will aid the economic recovery while travelling and visiting safely.”

Members were informed about Scotland’s new National Tourism Strategy and its current proposals and noted the proposals for strategies and destination management plans that will identify tourism priorities across Highland.

A report to councillors highlighted that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the economic circumstances and while some elements of tourism are restarting there is still a large amount of uncertainty around how quick the recovery will be and what tourism might look like in the ‘new normal’ situation that emerges.

Recent work to produce a Tourism Infrastructure Plan to identify gaps in facilities and services for visitors to the Highlands was welcomed by councillors.

Members were updated on 18 applications that have gone through to the third round of the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund including projects across the Highlands at: Gairloch and the NC500, Glencoe, Arisaig, Elgol, Sleat (2), Balintore, Kyle of Sutherland, Dornoch, Kinlochewe, Achintee, Falls of Foyers, Invermoriston, Aultbea, Drumnadrochit, Kilt Rock (Skye), Strathpeffer and Ardnamurchan.

A draft Tourism Infrastructure Plan will be presented to a future meeting of the Tourism Committee.

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