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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Visitor Management Groups Multi Agency Approach for Visitors and Communities

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The Highland Council is working in partnership with key sectors at both Highland and National level to improve and manage visitor pressures experienced across Highland.

Highland Council chair three multi-agency Visitor Management Groups, who meet frequently to address local tourism matters.

A multi-agency partnership of emergency services (Police Scotland, Scottish Fire & Rescue, NHS Highland, Coastguard) and a range of Highland Council services cover roads, parking, litter and waste, access rangers, environmental health and public toilet related issues.

Input from Highland Councillors and communities is also shared, other partners include SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland, NatureScot, Mountain Rescue, HIE, Destination Marketing Organisations (DMO’s) and local stakeholders.

The three designated groups divided by geographic area are:

  • Skye, Lochaber and South West Ross Visitor Management Group
  • The North Highland Visitor Management Group
  • Inverness Area and Nairnshire Visitor Management Group

The Council also participates in a fourth group which covers the wider Cairngorms National Park area as part of the National Park also falls within Highland.

These four groups meet weekly/fortnightly throughout the main tourism season to share information, plan and work to resolve any concerns, including a round-up of issues and forecast for the weeks and significant key dates ahead.

The Highland Council and its partners have invested significant staff and financial resources to support visitors and local communities during the main 2022 season.

It is imperative that a collaborative approach is in place to ensure that we use our collective resources as effectively as possible, the multi-agency group meetings across Highland, offer a whole-system approach and are an efficient way to approach Visitor Management across Highland.

The groups aim to make sure that visitors to Highland enjoy the experience whilst keeping safe and that they are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.

It also aims to help manage the impact visitors have on the communities hosting them and reduce the associated pressures that can arise when a high number of people visit an area.

This is particularly targeted at some of the “hotspot” areas such as the Glencoe area, West Lochaber, Skye and North Coast 500.

The Highland Council is also part of a national Visitor Management Group, set up to respond to the visitor management pressures experienced during the pandemic through a co-ordinated Visitor Management Strategy (VMS). 

It includes a collaborative approach with key partners including VisitScotland, Scottish Government, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks, NatureScot, Forestry & Land Scotland, Interface, Traveltech and other Scottish Local Authorities.

By working together, the partners not only identify where responsibilities lie for particular issues, but also ensure that the information on rights and responsibilities provided to visitors and communities across Scotland is clear and consistent.

The group can also identify areas of concern and together, can target resources to best effect; ranging from provision of additional bins to increased ranger patrols; Police road traffic patrols and speed enforcement.

The overwhelming majority of visitors want to enjoy the Highlands responsibly and are reassured and happy to cooperate with the support and advice offered by the various services. 

There have been instances when unacceptable behaviour has been challenged and visitors have responded positively to this.

With a busy summer season expected, people travelling to the Highlands this summer are advised to plan ahead and make bookings in advance of travel, particularly if planning a camping, motorhome or campervan holiday as places fill fast in peak season and parking is limited in rural areas and popular coastal destinations.

The Highland landscapes are beautiful and are popular destinations for locals and visitors alike.

The environment needs to be cared for, so its natural beauty and habitats last for centuries to come, and for others to enjoy and visit too.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides useful information:

  • Leave no trace – Care for the environment and when outdoors, follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
  • Dispose of litter appropriately.
  • If you see an overflowing bin, please don’t add to it or leave waste next to it – take it home or on to your next stop.
  • You can also assist by using recycling points
  • Do not park in a passing place, it is illegal and you may get a fixed penalty notice.
  • Pick up and remove your dog’s faeces if it defecates.
  • Highland Council operated public convenience location map can be accessed here 
  • If you’re visiting in a motorhome you can also find a list of disposal points at https://www.campa.org.uk/waste-disposal/

To find out more information about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code click here

Visitor Management issues can be reported on The Highland Council website at www.highland.gov.uk/report – the online forms are available 24/7.

Look out for the team of Seasonal Access Rangers who will be happy to assist with any questions you may have about the area and the suitability to wild camp/park etc.

All that is asked is that people are realistic in their expectations and recognise that the Rangers are not an emergency service and are there to educate and engage.

They can be contacted by email at accessrangers@highland.gov.uk or by phoning the Senior Rangers on 07881 298503 for the South (Skye, Lochaber & SW Ross) and 07909 051223 for the North (all other areas).

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