VisitScotland’s chief executive yesterday claimed tourism in the Highlands was “in a very good place” and insisted “Scotland is open all year round”.
Malcolm Roughead spoke to the Press and Journal from high up the Nevis Range on Aonach Mor yesterday.
With the sector worth around £700million a year to the Highland economy and visitors flooding-in, some places such as Skye and Loch Ness are feeling the pressure on infrastructure.
Mr Roughead believes the solution lays in sensible planning and community involvement as “communities are the best place to find solutions.”
He said: “The impact of increasing numbers is an issue. Firstly that is a nice place to be in and I think that is all about responsibility.
“We market Scotland out of season as we want to see people come in the winter months because there isn’t the same pressure around – for us it is about making sure people understand Scotland is open all year round.”
The recently-announced £6million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund could help ease some of that pressure by providing vital amenities like paths and toilets where they are most needed.
Mr Roughead said: “The whole purpose of the infrastructure fund is to look at pinch points to make sure that the visitor experience is optimised. We are looking at potential demand further down the line so we can avoid over-tourism in particular areas.”
A key component in the VisitScotland strategy, he added, was a local presence in decision making because often they have the best way to deal with an issue.
He said: “We are working with local communities across Scotland in rural areas – we have been in Skye talking to Skye Connect, we are here talking about area issues in Ben Nevis.
“And the best solutions are always those that come from the communities themselves – they tend to be innovative and based on reality.”
He gave the example of how a school was opened during the summer on Skye so coach tours could access toilet facilities at almost no cost.
He added: “Currently tourism in the Highlands is in a very good place. You have things like Belladrum coming up and then we have just had the mountain biking world cup. It looks good at the moment.”