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Funding boost for NC500 hotels to create 40 jobs for remote communities

Highland Coast Hotels has been allocated £4.45m loan funding from the state-funded Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB).
Highland Coast Hotels has been allocated £4.45m loan funding from the state-funded Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB).

A hotels group with properties along the hugely popular North Coast 500 tourist route has received a £4.45 million publicly-backed investment to boost jobs and training for the local area.

Highland Coast Hotels has been allocated the funding as a loan from the state-funded Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB).

The funds will be used to improve accommodation options for tourists by upgrading four hotels along the route as well as create up to 40 full-time equivalent jobs through investment in the local supply chain.

David Whiteford. Picture by SANDY McCOOK

David Whiteford, chairman of Highland Coast Hotels, also expects the investment lead to the development of a new hospitality foundation course at the University of Highlands & Islands as well as supporting a minimum of 10 apprenticeships over the next three years.

The £4.45m loan will support the upgrade of the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch, the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora, Newton Lodge in Unapool and the Kylesku Hotel in Kylesku. It will be repaid by income generated by the hotels.

One of the remotest hotels in the country, the award-winning Kylesku Hotel, is located on the shores of Loch Glencoul and Loch Glendhu in North West Sutherland.

Mr Whiteford said the funding was significant for both the hotels as well as their local communities.

This investment undoubtedly helps put the North Coast 500 community firmly on the road to a more sustainable future.”

David Whiteford

He said: “We will continue to develop hotels that communities can frequent and be proud of, whilst our aim is to source all produce from as close-by as we possibly can, bringing significant benefits to local supply chain.

“We are already engaging with a number of local artists, artisans, ‘visitor experience’ providers and food producers to build the authenticity of guest experiences, grow local businesses and stimulate the creation of ‘start-ups’.

“We’ve already established community liaison committees for each hotel which will ensure local people and businesses are involved in key decisions that affect their way of life on the North Coast 500.”

Employment and training

He added he was “especially excited” about the training opportunities the funding will unleash.

He said: “One of the biggest challenges that remote areas like this face is a lack of employment opportunities, particularly for young people.

“That’s why we are especially excited that the investment will lead to the development of a new Hospitality Foundation Course at the University of Highlands & Islands and the establishment of a Modern Apprenticeship Scheme.

“We are also hoping to be awarded further valued funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to help the development plans.

“This investment undoubtedly helps put the North Coast 500 community firmly on the road to a more sustainable future.”

Royal Dornoch Hotel and Apartments.

The SNIB was established by the Scottish Government with £2 billion of funding to support a number of community and net zero goals.

The bank said the loan to the hotels group aligned with its “mission to invest in places and regeneration to reduce inequalities and improve opportunities and outcomes for people and communities”.

The funds will also be used to support Highland Coast Hotels’ objective to achieve carbon neutrality.

Eilidh Mactaggart, the chief executive of the SNIB, said: “Our investment will support a vital industry for the Highlands whilst securing quality employment, educational and training opportunities in rural communities.

“The investment will also benefit local businesses through Highland Coast Hotels’ commitment to sourcing food, beverages and other supplies locally, and partnering with other local businesses who can offer activities and visitor experiences to its guests.”

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