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Report predicts growth for tourism in Caithness and Sutherland

02 December 2010

A report for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) says that visitor numbers in Caithness and Sutherland could increase by more than 30% over the next ten years.

The study was carried out for HIE to look at current and future leisure and business tourism demand to help accommodation providers in the area plan for growth.

The report presents low and high growth forecasts based on the research undertaken within two categories: hotels; bed and breakfasts/guesthouses.

The variance in figures takes into account the impact of the decommissioning of Dounreay, the growth of renewables for business tourism, the redevelopment of John o'Groats and the expected increase of domestic and international visitors.

Morag Goodfellow of HIE, commented: "The report highlights the likely hike over the next 18 months around Thurso while the bidding process for the parent body at Dounreay is decided. As you would expect it also says that by 2025 the business generated through Dounreay will fall away - however, the development of the energy sector and activity in the Pentland Firth could have the capacity to replace that business by then.

"The report says we are going to see growth in accommodation demand in the area. Most importantly for providers the report says that to take full advantage of this opportunity we will have to see an increase the number, quality and range of accommodation in the area.

"Visitor experience is vital. Are we offering clean, friendly, quality accommodation, do we have wi-fi, can guests arriving late get something to eat? These are all things that modern day travellers expect and some of the feedback from visitors and included in the report indicates that some establishments have work to do in this area."

With the decommissioning of Dounreay, HIE is working with Highland Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, business and the community to deliver change in Caithness and North Sutherland. Tourism has been identified as a key sector which can add to the economy.

"HIE wants the numbers of innovative, customer focused tourism facilities we already have to grow and will support ambitious Caithness and North Sutherland businesses to make more of our resources and assets. For those seeking practical help now we are about to deliver a development programme which aims to stimulate, challenge and encourage the area's tourism businesses."

The 'Ambitious for Tourism Caithness and North Sutherland Development Programme' will provide businesses and tourism related enterprises with a series of opportunities to increase knowledge and understanding of the tourism sector through access to: specialist advice; examples of best practice; and sector intelligence, including signposting resources available to help improve business performance.

Full details of the programme are available by contacting Rachel Skene at Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Download the HIE Business Tourism document here.

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