TOURISM initiatives that put communities first are being rolled out in two North Highlands areas.
Following successful pilots in Lochcarron and Thurso this summer, Press Pause projects are being launched in Brora and Plockton by North Highland Initiative (NHI) and SCOTO (Scotland’s Community Tourism Network).
Other communities across the region are encouraged to get in touch to find out about launching a Press Pause project in their own area. The scheme is open to those in Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross, Easter Ross and the islands of Orkney, Shetland, Lewis and Harris.
Genevieve Duhigg, Chair of NHI said:
“In the last few years many communities have felt that tourism happens to them – rather than with or for them. The projects we’ve worked on with SCOTO seek to recalibrate tourism and measure what is important to the individual community. This allows communities to take ownership of tourism and steer it in a way that delivers for local people. We’ve already established a funding route via our Community Support Fund and look forward to using this to support the activation of these projects.
“This is a golden opportunity for individual communities to focus on positioning themselves in a way that works for them and is also a way of welcoming visitors as temporary locals, with rich insights into the past, present and future of the community.”
Carron Tobin, Chair of SCOTO said:
“Frankly, it’s an opportunity to get off the hamster wheel and focus on making tourism a force for good. This is something that so many communities have told us they wanted to do.”
“We’re excited to be working on projects in two more North Highlands areas but would strongly encourage other communities to consider this approach and to get in touch as we’d would like to roll this programme out across the region.”
The North Highlands Press Pause pilots to date have provided a research-based study of each area using a system of mystery shopper appraisals of each community as a visitor destination, and face to face workshops for businesses and communities. The ensuing feedback and reports provided recommendations for the development of a Community Led Tourism Activity Plan which include a community owned place brand and visitor proposition for each area as well as practical and achievable next steps. The local area is also provided with a useful measurement template to monitor the impact of future tourism.
Instead of simply measuring overnight stays and visitor spend, these projects allow for groups to work towards priorities that really matter to the area. For some this means encouraging young people to stay or move to the area; for others the conservation of cultural assets may be more important. Others may see the creation of permanent jobs as success. The important thing is that these factors are agreed on locally by the community and, with the help of those steering the project, can then be placed at the heart of any tourism strategy and activity going forwards.
Further grant funding to support the activation of the resulting plans will be supported by both grant funding, via the well-established NHI Community Support Fund, and in-kind support from SCOTO and NHI.
The North Highlands Press Pause initiatives allow communities to pause and collectively reflect on tourism in the local area. This allows for the recognition of shared and chronic issues: from staffing, housing and motorhome impact to the lack of facilities, poor digital content or a fragmented representation of the destination. Groups then explore joint solutions and share best practice and inspiration from elsewhere with overall objective of making tourism a force for good for everyone.
Those looking to find out more about the North Highlands Press Pause community-led tourism projects, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.