Community, tourism and hospitality business leaders from across Sutherland, Caithness and beyond gathered at Lairg Community Centre on Tuesday 17th May to discuss the development and delivery of destination recovery plans for the region.
Led by Venture North, the destination management organisation that promotes responsible tourism in the far north Highlands of Scotland, the ‘Destination Update’ was the first In-person event following the organisation’s extensive consultations around the region last summer and part of ongoing events throughout the year.
The events are being organised specifically by Venture North for tourism and hospitality businesses within Caithness and Sutherland; local community organisations; development trusts; and key tourism stakeholders that play a key part in tourism development and ambitions for the region.
Venture North was established in 2013 as a cooperative body of tourism businesses and entrepreneurs primarily from Caithness and North Sutherland who sought to increase the tourism footfall to the area.
The organisation also supports member businesses and communities across the region through effective collaboration to maximise the benefits of the visitor economy.
Venture North was tasked to lead the development and delivery of the Tourism Destination Recovery Strategy in 2021, alongside core funding support provided by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and other funding partners over the next three years.
The destination management organisation will now continue to work in partnership with local development trusts, communities and representative bodies and tourism businesses from across the region, to ensure a collective ownership and delivery of the Strategy at regional level.
Cathy Earnshaw, Destination Strategy Manager for Venture North, gave an update on the organisation’s first year as destination management organisation for Sutherland and Caithness, presenting what activity and successes there has been in areas of the Tourism Recovery Strategy, as well as presenting the plan for year two of the Strategy.
Commenting on Venture North’s first in-person event in Lairg, Cathy said:
“It’s great to see such positive progress being made around the development and delivery of the Tourism Destination Recovery Strategy in collaboration with our community and industry partners across the Caithness and Sutherland region.
“As we move into year two of the Strategy, we’ll continue to work with our local communities, stakeholders and partners across the region and nationally.
“We’ll also continue the conversation around the staffing crisis, what net zero means for our businesses and communities, and how best we communicate with the region.
“We’d like to thank all those who presented and to everyone who participated in our first in-person ‘Destination Update’ event on 17th May and look forward to seeing everyone at our next update.
“We’d also like to thank Lairg Community Centre for the perfect venue and facilities, as well as The Golspie Larder for a fantastic spread.”
Chris Taylor, Regional Leadership Director for VisitScotland, provided an industry update, including what the organisation has been doing both regionally and nationally in adaptive and responsible marketing, tourism trends, data gathering plans and working collaboratively with Venture North and other destination management organisations.
Special guest, Ruari Watt, from Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, discussed the Sutherland Bike Plan and how it could deliver a more sustainable and active travel options for both visitors and local communities, as well as how the Bike Plan can be utilised by businesses and communities.
Earlier this year, Venture North staged a pilot series of virtual ‘Talking Tourism’ events for tourism businesses and communities in the Venture North region.
Themes included ‘What does Net Zero and Sustainable Tourism look like for us?’ and ‘How can we encourage people to pursue careers in Tourism and Hospitality?’.
Guest participants and speakers included representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise; University of Highlands and Islands; North West Highland Geopark, Developing Young Workforce; North Highlands and Islands Climate Hub; Highland Coast Hotels and Thistle Lets.
There was very positive response to the online events as they offered more accessibility to organisations and businesses for short periods of time.
Venture North will use this model of a blended approach to stage events throughout the year, as well as to engage and encourage networking as widely as possible.
Venture North plans to hold its next online ‘Talking Tourism’ event with the Venture North Destination Update presentation from 10am to 11am on June 16th for those who were unable to attend in-person event in Lairg.
To find out more about future Venture North community and tourism industry events, visit https://www.venture-north.co.uk/about-venture-north or email email@example.com
More information about Venture North for business and communities in Caithness and Sutherland is available online https://www.venture-north.co.uk.
Businesses and communities can also follow Venture North on social media, including Facebook https://www.facebook.com/venturenorthbusiness and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/venture-north-scot