Tourists could pay hundreds for the “exclusive experience” of wilderness walks with Aberdeenshire Council’s country rangers.
The local authority is working on plans to monetise the service, with staff potentially ushering coachloads of paying visitors around the north-east’s best-known beauty spots.
The ploy, which would also be open to companies for morale-boosting staff outings, is designed to cash in on an increasing appetite for the great outdoors.
It was backed this week by members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee.
Are proposed Aberdeenshire country rangers charges too cheap?
Councillors heard that the cost for the service would be about £29 per hour, with groups of 10 at a time being taken out and about.
North Kincardine member, Colin Pike, believes officers are looking a gifthorse in the mouth by imposing bargain basement rates.
He reckons the price per hour should be five times that – at £150.
Mr Pike said: “The walks by our country rangers are excellently presented and very informative.
“In terms of turning it into a commercial activity, we need to treat this as an exclusive experience for groups to partake in.
“The council doesn’t have any competitor for this.
“I would suggest if we are going to promote this to cruise companies and exclusive hotels, then we should be looking at this as a privileged experience for visitors.
“I think for a maximum of 10 people per ranger, for every tour, the charge should be £150 an hour.”
The Tory councillor added that firms should have to pay in advance for the service, so that the authority doesn’t suffer as a result of last-minute cancellations.
Charges to be decided later in the year
Sandy Wallace, a Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor, backed Mr Pike’s stance.
Ranger service co-ordinator Fiona Banks had previously explained the scheme to the committee.
She said the six full-time equivalent rangers would work with 10,000 people every year before the pandemic.
And members were told that the council has, in the past, received requests for guided walks from cruise ship companies or hotels looking to arrange activities for conference delegates.
If approved, the Aberdeenshire country rangers charges could come into force later this year.
You can read more about the plans here –