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What do Inverness business leaders expect from tourism industry in 2024?

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the capital of the Highlands.

Tony Story owner of Ness Walk, an inverness hotel which has won an award
Tony Story says the golf tourist believes major projects will be huge assets to the area. Image: Trevor Martin

Business chiefs in Inverness are gearing up for another busy tourism season.

The Inverness City Centre Business Improvement District (Bid) is among organisations anticipating to see high demand again this year after their busiest ever season in 2023.

And Kingsmills Hotel Group chief executive Tony Story believes there is a lot to look forward to — saying room bookings are “very strong”.

‘Inverness is a thriving tourist destination’ says Bid deputy manager

Inverness City Centre Bid deputy manager Margaret Laws wants to make sure visitors are warmly welcomed to the capital of the Highlands.

Last year, the organisation saw its busiest season yet, with an increase of around 800 coaches using its drop off and pick up zone on Ardross Street.

Ms Laws said: “Inverness is a thriving tourist destination. We are very lucky to have an increasing amount of visitors to the city centre, especially during the summer season.

“Our Bid ambassadors warmly greet coaches arriving from cruise ships docking at the Port of Cromarty Firth, as well as those from various coach tours.

“Last year alone, we extended a warm welcome to passengers from over 3,800 coaches throughout the season from April to October.

Inverness High Street. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“In addition, we have many more people visiting outwith peak season time – indicating Inverness’s growing appeal as a year-round destination.”

Bid ambassador and operations co-ordinator Janice Worthing manages the Ardross Street coach facility.

Around 120 cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in the area this year, as well as an “ever-increasing number” of coach tours.

Ms Laws continued: “We employ additional seasonal staff to cover as required. We pride ourselves in the warm welcome provided to our visitors.

“All receive a guide which includes a map of the city centre and highlights a variety of our amazing independent businesses.

“We are looking forward to providing our visitors with a warm Highland welcome which can make all the difference and will, hopefully, inspire them to return.”

Inverness businesses offer ‘amazing variety’ to visitors

Ms Laws said Inverness boasted a large variety of businesses in its city centre, alongside a range of exciting projects.

She added: “We are fortunate to have an amazing variety of businesses… from small independents to well-known national chains.

“We receive positive feedback from businesses across all sectors from the tourist and clothing shops to hairdressers.

Coaches parked on Ardross Street in Inverness.

“Additionally, many visitors enjoy dining out or having a drink in one of our many wonderful bars, cafes and restaurants.”

“Looking to the future, we are very excited about the upcoming opening of Inverness Castle.

“It will be a major draw for visitors worldwide, putting Inverness firmly on the map.”

Inverness City Centre Bid also has its own eat and drink guide which is distributed to tourism venues throughout the Highlands.

Big projects present a bright future for the Inverness tourism industry, says Kingsmills Hotel Group CEO

Mr Story said projects in Inverness gave his hotel group and other businesses a lot to look forward to.

Kingsmills Hotel Group owns the four-star Kingsmills Hotel and five-star Ness Walk Hotel.

Mr Story said: “There are a few game-changing projects in Inverness, what with the castle renovation and new Castle Stuart golf course.

“Golf is a huge attraction and the only issue we find ourselves with is the shortage of tee-times. A new course will largely help.

“There is also the natural pull of the Highlands itself, which attracts a lot of coverage and attention.”

Kingsmills Hotel employs around 180 staff and benefits from an occupancy rate of about 90% year-round.

Tony Story runs the Kingsmills Hotel. Image: Kingsmills Group

In summer, the hotel adds an extra 30 seasonal staff.

Mr Story hasn’t seen too much of an early extension to the main season this year, with bookings for March marginally up by 1-2%.

But he believes there is an opportunity to extend the season and allow people to experience what’s on offer at a lesser price during quieter months.

He added: “It’s our biggest challenge but I believe there is an opportunity. For this year, bookings are very strong and the demand is there.

“Our costs have gone up drastically, but we don’t want to become too expensive and have people turn elsewhere.”