SCOTTISH visitor hotspots including Skye, Loch Ness and Tobermory as well as the wider North Coast 500 route are among those to receive infrastructure upgrade backing, creating better facilities and new jobs.
More than £5.8 million in recovery funding from the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) is to be spent improving infrastructure and creating jobs at a number of Scotland’s popular visitor destinations and nature hotspots.
STERG is supporting tourism recovery through three separate funds to help improve infrastructure and the overall visitor experience as part of responsible tourism work being carried out by VisitScotland, NatureScot and a number of other partners across the country.
This includes the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) with the announcement of over £2.4m funding for 10 sites across Scotland; NatureScot’s £3.1m Green Recovery Better Places Fund for 120 projects to improve busy nature destinations across the country; and the pilot Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund, which supports a further 10 applications totalling almost £307,000.
Applications from local authorities and National Park authorities, in partnership with their communities across Scotland, include Point of Ness in Orkney, Tobermory in Argyll and Bute, the Pentland Hills Regional Park, Edinburgh; Loch Ness and Aden in Aberdeenshire – and will see infrastructure improvements including car, coach and camper van parking and accessible spaces, toilet provision and chemical waste disposal points, footpath improvements and electric vehicle charging points.
The pilot Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund will support development plans created by councils in Orkney, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dumfries and Galloway, Perth and Kinross, East Lothian, City of Edinburgh and the Highlands; as well as the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
NatureScot’s Green Recovery Better Places Fund is helping communities to extend car parks; improve paths and accessibility; add more bins, toilets and signage; and to promote responsible behaviour while enjoying Scotland’s outdoors.
The £3.1m fund has created more than 60 new jobs, including 47 new seasonal ranger posts to help manage sites and give visitors the best possible outdoors experience. Projects at 35 locations are already complete and a further 92 projects are currently under way preparing for the coming season.
NatureScot launched its fund in response to the unprecedented numbers of visitors to Scotland’s countryside, coasts and local green spaces following the initial easing of lockdown last summer. While this rush to enjoy Scotland’s outdoors highlighted the considerable benefits for visitors, local communities and businesses, it also presented several challenges, such as littering, parking issues, wildfires, toileting and general damage to nature.
NatureScot said it has spread the investment throughout Scotland, taking in seven islands, including Skye, Barra and Islay; and across seven local authorities, including the increasingly popular North Coast 500, East Lothian’s accessible coasts and the lowland landscapes of Dumfries & Galloway.
Francesca Osowska, NatureScot chief executive, said: “It is fantastic to see so many communities, charities, local authorities and NGOs eager to take pro-active action to tackle the issues and develop positive solutions to managing visitors at popular nature destinations. Investing in nature, including in visitor management, is a key part of a green recovery: providing jobs; addressing nature loss; and tackling climate change.”
Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “As many people choose to staycation this year, we are supporting our rural communities as much as possible to cope with the increased numbers looking to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful countryside.”
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: “The STERG tourism recovery funding is crucial in helping improve vital infrastructure and the overall visitor experience as part of responsible tourism work being undertaken by VisitScotland, NatureScot and our partners across the country.”
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