Highland group expects majority of tourists to return

THE majority of people who put visits to the northern Highlands on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic will go ahead with their plans once lockdown restrictions are eased, according to a new survey.

A visitor survey carried out by the group behind the North Coast 500 tourism route attracted 4000 responses from the UK, Europe and further afield.

It found that, although 20% of respondents had been forced to cancel their trip to the North Coast 500 due to the pandemic, only 6% of those were no longer planning on visiting the region. Around 80% of respondents said they had postponed or rescheduled their trip, or the pandemic had not impacted their plans as their trip was scheduled for next year or beyond.

Around a quarter of respondents were still planning to visit the area during 2020, with more than 50% planning on visiting in 2021 and just over 10% in 2022.

The duration of planned trips had increased from nine to 11 days.

The survey found that the majority of potential visitors – almost 90% – are from the UK.

Tom Campbell, executive chair of NC500 Ltd, the organisation that markets the North Coast 500 route, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see that a significant number of visitors are already rescheduling their plans to visit the NC500 this summer, into 2021 and beyond. This really is a positive sign for the re-emergence of the tourism industry in the North Highlands.

“The breathtaking natural scenery, wide-open green spaces, majestic mountain ranges, sandy beaches and rugged coastline of the NC500 are key factors that will draw visitors back to the region and away from larger towns and cities after lockdown.

“We’re expecting to see more UK visitors heading to Scotland and driving and cycling will be the way people will want to take their holidays. As we all begin to think about what life might look like beyond the coronavirus pandemic, we know that the stunning natural landscape of NC500 remains reassuringly unchanged and will continue to inspire people from around Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond when it’s safe travel.

“As we start to plan for the reopening of tourism in the North Highlands, NC500 will continue to work to help deliver a balance between economic recovery and public safety.”