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Highland Council leads effort to reduce negative pressures of tourism across the Highlands as bumper visitor season predicted

By Alasdair Fraser

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Dirty camping can be one consequence of high visitor pressures in rural parts of the Highlands
Dirty camping can be one consequence of high visitor pressures in rural parts of the Highlands

Three Highland Council-led multi-agency groups are working to manage and ease visitor pressures across the region.

The partnership approach between different bodies and key sectors at both Highland and national level involves frequent meetings on matters such as roads, parking, litter and waste, access rangers, environmental health and public toilet related issues.

The local authority has issued an information statement to publicise the work being done.

Among the organisations involved are emergency services including Police Scotland, Scottish Fire & Rescue, NHS Highland and Coastguard

Input from Highland Councillors and communities is shared, while other partners include SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland, NatureScot, Mountain Rescue, HIE, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and local stakeholders.

The three designated groups divided by geographic area are:

Skye, Lochaber and South West Ross Visitor Management Group

The North Highland Visitor Management Group

Inverness Area and Nairnshire Visitor Management Group

Highland Council also participates in a fourth group covering the wider Cairngorms National Park area as part of it falls stretches into Highland.

These four groups meet weekly/fortnightly throughout the main tourism season to share information, plan and work to resolve any concerns, including a round-up of issues and forecasts for the weeks ahead and significant key dates.

A Council spokesman said: “The Highland Council and its partners have invested significant staff and financial resources to support visitors and local communities during the main 2022 season.

“It is imperative that a collaborative approach is in place to ensure that we use our collective resources as effectively as possible. The multi-agency group meetings across Highland, offer a whole-system approach and are an efficient way to approach Visitor Management across Highland.

“The groups aim to make sure that visitors to Highland enjoy the experience while keeping safe and that they are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.

“It also aims to help manage the impact visitors have on the communities hosting them and reduce the associated pressures that can arise when a high number of people visit an area.

“This is particularly targeted at some of the ‘hotspot’ areas such as the Glencoe area, west Lochaber, Skye and the North Coast 500 tourist route.”

Highland Council is also part of a national visitor management group set up to respond to the visitor management pressures experienced during the pandemic through a co-ordinated visitor management strategy.

It includes a collaborative approach with partners including VisitScotland, Scottish Government, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks, NatureScot, Forestry & Land Scotland, Interface, Traveltech and other Scottish local authorities.

The spokesman added: “By working together, the partners not only identify where responsibilities lie for particular issues, but also ensure that the information on rights and responsibilities provided to visitors and communities across Scotland is clear and consistent.

“The group can also identify areas of concern and together, can target resources to best effect.

“The overwhelming majority of visitors want to enjoy the Highlands responsibly and are reassured and happy to cooperate with the support and advice offered by the various services.

“There have been instances when unacceptable behaviour has been challenged and visitors have responded positively to this.

“With a busy summer season expected, people travelling to the Highlands this summer are advised to plan ahead and make bookings in advance of travel, particularly if planning a camping, motorhome or campervan holiday.

“Places fill fast in peak season and parking is limited in rural areas and popular coastal destinations.”

Visitor Management issues can be reported on The Highland Council website at www.highland.gov.uk/report- the online forms are available 24/7.

A team of Seasonal Access Rangers can be contacted by email at accessrangers@highland.gov.uk or by phoning 07881 298503 for the south (Skye, Lochaber & SW Ross) and 07909 051223 for the north (all other areas).

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