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Tourism investment could benefit Highland tourism by £400m per year

By Federica Stefani

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Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag seen from Stac Pollaidh. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.
Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag seen from Stac Pollaidh. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

A new study found that investing around £10m annually in regional tourism across the Highlands could return £400m annually to the region.

The research was carried out by tourism consultancy Stevens & Associates in partnership with Highland Tourism Community Interest Company (CIC) and Highland Renewables and looked at into the potential economic, social and environmental benefits of investment in the Highland tourism sector.

Professor Terry Stevens of Stevens & Associates said: “A £10m total investment empowering Highland Tourism CIC to create an organisation that positions and markets the Highlands to grow the high spend market will generate an additional annual £400m net positive income for the region annually. This is based on a 5 per cent growth rate, which is just a third of the compound annual growth rate forecast for this market segment over the next five years.”

His study used findings from the Walpole Report to underline the importance and strength of creating a high-value tourism ecosystem which generates a "halo effect" for other industries.

It also highlights the increasing commitment across the high-value tourism sector for travellers to reduce their environmental footprint and support meaningful local community projects.

Kate Forbes, MSP and Highland Tourism CIC ambassador, said: “This is an important initiative for the Highlands from the private sector that will bring significant social, environmental and economic benefit to the wider community.

"If you are a business or community leader in the Highlands, I would urge you to get involved with the CIC and see what you can do to support this initiative to ensure we don’t lose this opportunity.”

Yvonne Crook, chair of Highland Tourism CIC and Highland Renewables, said: “Within the next year, an investment of circa £1m of private sector funds will be made through this innovative partnership, aiming to address a series of issues and opportunities that will significantly benefit the Highland economy, communities and environment.

“By 2026 we aim to ensure circa £10m per annum of public and private sector investment as well as new monies from tourism tax are all aligned to invest in premium brand Highlands.”

She added: “There has never been a greater need and opportunity for a private sector led collaboration and investment. Highlands Tourism CIC’s innovative approach to sharing a vision and mission and investing together, with significant support from Tomatin Distillery, in a Highland brand strategy aims to address issues and capitalise on the opportunity to realise £400m net additional economic benefit annually or the Highlands with significant community and environmental benefits.”

Highland Tourism CIC and Highland Renewables form a private sector led community interest company with a shared vision for the Highlands to become a world-leading sustainable destination.

Kate Forbes MSP (right) with Yvonne Crook, chair of Highland Tourism Community Interest Company, at Loch Ness. Picture: Trevor Martin Photography.
Kate Forbes MSP (right) with Yvonne Crook, chair of Highland Tourism Community Interest Company, at Loch Ness. Picture: Trevor Martin Photography.

The CIC is a social enterprise that reinvests profits and surpluses for wider economic benefit and social and environmental purposes. To date, the CIC has invested circa £500,000 of private sector resources in a mission to establish a strategic and aspirational brand strategy for the Highlands as a premium environmental destination.

According to Stevens & Associates, the study reaffirms the scale and importance of this initiative to the Highland economy with benefits across all sectors and communities, as well as "supporting a collective ambition" to achieve net zero and address the nature and climate crisis.

Stuart McColm, Cabot Highlands general manager and Highland Tourism CIC director, said: “The study from Professor Terry Stevens reinforces why Cabot Highlands identified the multi-million-pound investment it has made here in the Highlands, which will ultimately create more than 175 jobs among other local economic and social benefits. The findings also underpin why Highland Tourism CIC has seized this opportunity, and I am proud to be part of the development of Highland Tourism CIC for the greater good of the Highlands.”

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