Strategic tourism infrastructure development plan agreed for the Highlands

Highland Council has submitted a report to Visit Scotland which outlines priority infrastructure improvements at key tourist sites in the region and the proposed future process for implementing many of the actions detailed in the plan.

The purpose of the Strategic plan for the development of tourism infrastructure (STIDP) is to provide medium and long-term tourism infrastructure solutions over the next two to five years and complete the Visitor Management Plan, which includes smaller-scale, short-term project objectives. While some projects are expected to be delivered by the council, the plan also includes a number of projects that may be implemented by partner agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or communities.

Tourism Committee Chairman Cllr Gordon Adam said: ‘The Tourism Infrastructure Development Strategic Plan is a detailed piece of work which sets out key priorities, identifies eight hotspots, but also covers the whole of the Highlands looking at the best way to plan for the future. Tourism is fundamental to economic recovery and we recognize that in order to remain an attractive destination and ensure a welcoming experience, the Council must do all it can to improve areas such as public parking, toilets, rubbish and waste. We need to do this in an environmentally and carbon conscious way and stay focused on impact.

He added: ‘We are acutely aware of the significant increase in the number of campervan and motorhome owners in the UK and the fact that load capacity in the Highlands in high season does not always meet the requests from some popular locations. Travelers to the Highlands are advised to plan and book in advance, understand the limitations and impact on rural communities, and ensure they tread lightly on the earth and only have wonderful memories. and leave only footprints.

The STIDP examines publicly accessible infrastructure, provided either by the public sector or by third parties/commercial actors.

Based on engagement and data collected over the summer of 2021, eight areas are identified as particular hotspots under pressure.

The following eight hotspots identified are:

  • Glen Etive and Glencoe
  • The Islands Route (Glenfinnan to Mallaig)
  • Glen Nevis
  • Isle of Skye
  • North West Highlands (Loch Broom to Durness)
  • Applecross and area
  • Fortrose–Rosemarkie–Chanonry Point
  • The Aviemore Corridor at Glenmore

Although the entire Highlands region may face tourism pressures, the eight hotspots identified above are areas facing multiple pressures at multiple sites. Visitor numbers may not be as high nor the impacts as pronounced in some smaller communities with lower carrying capacity, but they may also be heavily impacted by tourism pressures and to reflect this reality the plan organizes the priorities identified in two levels.

The priorities located in the eight strategic hotspots are also the priorities that could be of national importance and therefore most likely to attract (national) funding from RTIF. Meanwhile, the second tier covers higher priorities locally in the rest of the Highlands region, which are more likely to be addressed by other local funding sources.

Identified improvements include:

  • Improved parking and traffic management on adjacent roads
  • Infrastructure to support non-vehicle access, such as trail and bike path networks
  • Public transport links
  • Park-and-ride
  • EV charging stations
  • Public toilets and garbage cans for motorhomes

It is expected that STIDP approval will open the possibility for Highland Council to apply for design grants.

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