The North Highland Initiative has unveiled a new tourism campaign for 2020, aiming to encourage visitors to spend more time exploring the region.
Officially launched last week at the North Highland Initiative’s autumn conference, the new campaign, titled ‘Highland Time’, is built around responsible tourism and a drive to increase dwell time in the area.
The Highland Time campaign has been designed to showcase the history, heritage, scenery and activities of the North Highlands, with a particular focus on attractions and experiences away from the main North Coast 500 route.
The campaign aims to position the wild, rugged and varied landscapes of the North Highlands as ‘the ultimate natural remedy to modern life’, by enticing visitors to slow down, explore away from the beaten track and focus on wellbeing experiences, such as walking, hiking and swimming, as part of their travels.
Highland Time also champions the North Highland region as a prime destination for eco-travel, encouraging travellers to be mindful of their environmental impact.
Key messaging surrounding the campaign includes leaving no trace of litter, spending extra time in the region, travelling conscientiously, and stepping away from the car to look for alternate ways to travel.
Visitors are also encouraged to immerse themselves in local communities, experiencing the culture, traditional music, arts and food and drink of each county.
Speaking to conference delegates at Achnagairn Estate, by Inverness, David Whiteford, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, welcomed the company’s new 2020 strategy as ‘a real opportunity to work together to change the face of tourism throughout the region.’
The campaign was launched with a short film by Ullapool-based photographer and videographer Steven Gourlay, showcasing just some of the ways in which visitors and local residents alike can enjoy the North Highland region in greater depth.
A key aim of the campaign is to increase dwell time along the North Coast 500 route.
Published in October by Professor John Lennon, Head of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, the official North Coast 500 evaluation report found that the NC500 route generated more than £22.89 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) throughout 2018, created 180 full time equivalent jobs in the North Highlands within the same time period, and boosted visitor numbers to paid attractions by 41.7%.
The report also found that dwell time had increased from an average of two nights to six nights – findings which Professor Lennon described as a significant factor in counteracting the depopulation of the North Highlands.
David Whiteford, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, said:
“The North Coast 500 has been absolutely phenomenal in bringing visitors to the area, extending the tourist season and boosting the North Highland economy.
“Highland Time, therefore, is a natural progression to the NC500’s success.
“Life often moves at a slower pace here in the most northerly counties of Scotland.
“This does not, of course, mean that opportunities for business growth and development are reduced – quite the opposite.
“However, this slower pace of life is one of the biggest draws for first-time visitors travelling not only to drive the North Coast 500, but to explore the North Highland region as a whole.
“It is also a major reason often cited by those who choose to relocate to the North Highlands.
“The lifestyle we are able to enjoy here is one which I myself, and thousands of others, wouldn’t change for the world.
“While we don’t want to discourage visitors from completing the NC500 route in its entirety, our Highland Time campaign encourages more in-depth exploration of each of the five counties which make up the North Highland region.
“Slow tourism encourages travel at a reduced pace; one that is sustainable and responsible.
“Those are already key messages for the North Coast 500, and messages which we will continue to spread across the North Highlands in 2020 and beyond.”
For more details about Highland Time, please visit www.northhighlandinitiative.co.uk/highland-time
For more information about the North Highland Initiative, please visit www.northhighlandinitiative.co.uk
For more information about the North Coast 500, please visit www.northcoast500.com