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Partnership aims to make improvements on North Coast 500

By Philip Murray

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TOURISM agency VisitScotland and North Coast 500 (NC500) have joined forces to improve quality and information provision along "Scotland’s answer to Route 66".

The partnership hopes to ensure that the tens of thousands of visitors who embark on the NC500 will have more access than ever before to information on what to see and do while on their journey.

VisitScotland and NC500 also plan to stage a series of joint roadshows next year focused on the quality of the visitor experience.

The 516-mile route, which starts and ends in Inverness and loops around the far north coast, has become a global phenomenon since its 2015 launch and is thought to have brought an extra £9 million to the region’s economy in its first year.

However, there has been criticism about congestion on single track roads and bad driving.

News of the link-up between the two bodies came as the Scottish Government announced a new tourist fund of £6 million to help rural areas.

Highland councillor Maxine Smith, who leads the SNP group on the council, said: "While it is fantastic that these areas are experiencing massive successes in terms of tourism and visitor numbers, it comes at a cost.

"This is seen in the wear and tear on the roads and infrastructure.

"Tourists also require added benefits such as public conveniences, places to empty their disposable toilets, water supplies and also places to easily dispose of their gathered litter. This fund can start to address all of these issues."

She urged Highland Council to "act quickly to secure some of this £6 million funding and ensure that a task group is set up as soon as possible to meet with local councillors, the communities and submit relevant bids".

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