The Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee have commended the delivery of the Visitor Management Plan (VMP) for 2022 which has supported tourism related services across Highland.
Economy and Infrastructure Chair, Cllr Ken Gowans said:
“Members commended all the services involved in the delivery of the Visitor Management Plan 2022.
“During challenging times for all services, Council staff alongside partners delivered the uplift in services in the height of a busy season that helped inform tourists, enhance provisions, assist communities with visitor management and improve visitor experiences across Highland.
“The work continues throughout autumn and winter with a focus on forecasting and planning for 2023.”
Cllr Gowans added:
“Tourism is vital to the economic recovery of the Highlands.
“Tourism related jobs can represent up to 43% of the workforce in some areas across Highland and it is important that we continue to strive to improve infrastructure and how we manage the growth in visitor numbers in Highland communities.
“Significant data gathering has been collated throughout the busy 2022 season, the useful information will be carefully considered by Members and officers to learn from the 2022 insights and trends and will help assist in prioritising key improvements for 2023.”
The range of projects delivered included:
- Improved visitor signage, passing place signs, road signs, variable message signs and road markings/linings in key locations.
- Invitation to pay in 20 Council car parks.
- 18 seasonal Access Rangers and 4 Visitor Site Wardens delivered – Education, visitor site improvements, maintenance, and improved visitor access at popular sites.
- Public facility improvements and upgrades, 15 new comfort schemes, new payment systems.
- Online and in person delivery of motorhome, waste and toilet guidance.
- Consistent social messaging on tourism related safety including road safety, Scottish Outdoor Access Code, litter and waste and keep the Highlands beautiful campaign
Interim analysis of data collected by the Access Rangers indicates a continuing increase in visitor pressures on popular sites around Highland.
Camping out with designated campsites remains high, however figures indicate a small decrease from 2021 figures, whereas motorhome numbers continue to increase.
A short summary of data gathered by the Access Rangers can be seen below:
- In 6 months, Access Rangers have visited 22,500 sites in 2200 patrols over 3 days per week. A 30% increase on 2021.
- Motorhomes, nearly 36,000, visited all parts of Highland with the highest numbers in North West Sutherland, Skye, & East Lochaber. A 50% increase from 2021 figures.
- 7300 off-site tents (not in a designated campsite) were recorded throughout Highland which has become more dispersed from 2021’s main hotspots of Durness, Assynt & Arisaig. Those areas are showing a decrease for 2022, however Glen Etive numbers increased by 50% in 2022. Loch Ness and other east coast areas also increased by a smaller amount. Overall, off-site tent figures recorded across Highland reduced by less than 15% in 2022.
- Fires, an issue seen in high camping areas but often with motorhomes too, 3311 recorded, very similar to last year. Most frequently in East Lochaber and Loch Ness, with 100 needing to be extinguished.
- Outdoor toileting, 7400 incidents, again an issue with camping but also in busy road laybys. This is most prominent in Lochalsh, Loch Ness and Skye. There was a 33% increase in recorded incidents in 2022.
- 2050 large bin bags of Litter were collected, a 25% increase on 2021. Litter appears to be more of a problem around Loch Ness and East Lochaber.
- Motorhome black waste incidents, indicate a small reduction with 62 recorded. r
- In 6 months, over 121,000 vehicles were recorded parked around Highland, with over 101,600 people observed, a 50% increase on 2021 and over 28,500 people informed or reminded of responsible behaviour, which is an almost 50% increase in engagement by the Access Rangers team from 2021.
In tandem with the Visitor Management Plan, the Council’s Strategic Tourism Development Plan identifies key priorities for tourism infrastructure in Highland over the medium term, broadly defined as being the next 2 – 5 years.
A full VMP report will be presented to a future committee, detailing service activity and spend.