North Coast 500 Visitor Survey Predicts North Highland Tourism Will Bounce Back in 2021

Over three-quarters of tourists who put their travel plans on hold in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to return to the iconic North Coast 500 (NC500) in 2021 and 2022, as soon as travel restrictions have been lifted by the Scottish Government, according to a new visitor survey.

The survey asked people about the impact COVID-19 has had on their travel plans for 2020.

Results have shown that 20% of respondents had to cancel their plans to travel the route in 2020.

71% of respondents then went on to reschedule their trip for 2021 and 2022 with 57% planning to undertake their holiday in 2021 and 18% in 2022 or later.

Results also indicated that hotels were the most popular type of accommodation, with over a third of people saying they plan to stay exclusively in hotels during their time on the route.

This is an increase of 8% compared to a survey taken in June 2020.

One in four visitors will stay in guest houses and B&Bs whilst exploring the NC500.

There was a marginal increase in the number of people planning to visit the region by motorhome, campervan or caravan and there remained a heightened interest in glamping and self-catering.

36% of respondents indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic had had an impact on their decision to use a particular type of accommodation.

Of that group, most stated that they had switched to either camping, campervan or small self-catering.

Encouragingly, visitors indicated that they plan to spend an average of 11 days exploring the region.

This figure remains unchanged from the June 2020 survey but is an increase from an average of 9 days recorded in 2019.

This indicates that visitors are committing to a significant holiday on the NC500.

Throughout the pandemic, the NC500 has continued to run a series of regular webinars that actively engages with businesses and local communities to address concerns and work together to find sustainable tourism solutions for the region.

Participants include representatives from VisitScotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Police Scotland.

 Scotland’s world-leading NC500 tourist tourism route marked its fifth anniversary in 2020.

What began as an initiative to bring some fresh opportunities to the area was last year estimated to have boosted the economy by £22.89 million and created around 179 full-time jobs.

Commenting on the results of the NC500 visitor survey, Tom Campbell, Executive Chair of North Coast 500 Ltd, said:

“After an incredibly tough year, it’s very promising to see a significant number of visitors planning to visit the North Coast 500 this year and in 2022 when travel restrictions have been lifted by the Scottish Government.

This is a positive sign for the re-emergence of the tourism industry in the North Highlands.

“The 2020 NC500 Visitor Survey responses are fundamental to driving forward our future strategy.

“We will be utilising our regular webinars to address the feedback given and discuss with key representatives from VisitScotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Police Scotland.

“Once government restrictions have been lifted, we look forward to welcoming visitors back to this beautiful part of the world, however, we ask them all to make sure they check local travel advice as a vital part of planning their holiday.

“Book accommodation in advance, plan your exact route and make sure you have all of the necessary information and equipment to make your time on the NC500 safe and enjoyable.”