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HomeNewsCampaign to boost tourism in Caithness and Sutherland after visitor spend plummets

Campaign to boost tourism in Caithness and Sutherland after visitor spend plummets

Caithness and Sutherland tourism group, Venture North, the destination management organisation responsible for promoting tourism in the area has launched a new campaign to attract UK-wide visitors to the region in 2022 and beyond called ‘Breathing Space’ after research revealed how much visitor spend had plummeted.

Independent research for Highlands & Islands Enterprise estimated that visitor spend in the Highlands and Islands dropped between £370m -£584m in the financial year 2020-2021 due to the pandemic.

It is estimated that around the Highland Council area, turnover in the accommodation and food services sector decreased by £160.7 million over 2020, disproportionately impacting on Caithness and Sutherland as 15.6% of jobs in the area are reliant on accommodation and food services, compared to 11.8% at the Highland region level.

Venture North’s ‘Breathing Space’ campaign now hopes to take advantage of the staycation market and promote reasons to visit and stay around the Caithness and Sutherland area, helping extend the season and bring business to local visitor economies year-round.

Following local community consultation, the campaign will highlight areas that are less impacted by over-tourism and can accommodate visitors in the quieter season, as well as enable businesses within the area to enhance their targeting reach and attract visitors from across the UK with a coordinated marketing approach.

The initiative will focus on an audience that has spent large periods of the pandemic at home and will promote the long-established relationship between tourism and wellbeing.

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 has now been tasked to lead the development and delivery of the Tourism Destination Recovery Strategy, 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 the 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, said, “The past two years have been a huge challenge for all of us across Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry, so we’re now delivering a forward-looking sustainable and responsible tourism strategy for our area with our local partner organisations.

“Everyone needs to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life. As travel begins to open up again, Venture North believes it’s more important than ever that everyone has ‘breathing space’ from these challenges, helping our mental wellbeing and health for the future.

“Wellbeing can mean different things to different people. From calm yoga retreats to adrenaline mountain bike trails, a mountain top view after a hard climb or sitting, people-watching in a coffee shop with homemade cake. The Campaign is Space to …Adventure, Discover, Explore or Just Be.”

Cathy added, “Our ‘Breathing Space’ campaign will showcase the stunning scenery in Caithness and Sutherland, the wonderful breadth of space, sense of freedom and variety of activities open to locals and visitors all year round.

Eann Sinclair from Highlands & Islands Enterprise, said, “The importance of tourism to the Caithness and Sutherland region cannot be overstated as it is central to our local economy and provides a vital source of employment. Unfortunately, it is also one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We recognise that bringing about recovery in the tourism industry will be challenging but look forward to working with Venture North as part of its Breathing Space campaign, as well as our partners and tourism businesses across Caithness and Sutherland achieve a sustainable future for the sector.”

Angela Johnson, owner of Oldshoremore Retreats near Kinlochbervie in Sutherland, which offers relaxing accommodation and wellbeing retreat, said, “Being part of this campaign is so inspiring. ‘Breathing Space’ says it all because when you arrive in the far north Highlands and you experience the peace and tranquillity, you really appreciate what the region has to offer. It offers you the pause so many people need to recover from their busy lives.

“We’re incredibly grateful that Venture North has given us the platform to bring that important message to so many people.”


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