Concerns have been raised that tourism facilities in Moray may start to fall behind neighbouring regions after the area did not receive any cash in a recent funding announcement.
Officials are preparing a £400,000 bid to the Scottish Government rural tourism infrastructure fund – but were not ready to submit the application last year.
There were hopes the “coast to country” blueprint would be ready to cope with the expected continued rise of staycations this year with new chemical toilet disposal points and improved footpaths.
It later emerged the application was not submitted last year to give Moray Council officials more time to build a compelling case for the project.
Calls to prioritise Moray tourism funding bids
Now the Moray Alliance Group, which comprises independent councillors Derek Ross, Ryan Edwards and Walter Wilson, have raised concerns there is not enough staff within the authority to take advantage of the funds.
Group co-leader Mr Ross has raised concerns about the potential effect Moray missing out on improved facilities for another year while large amounts of visitors are in the area.
He said: “Our neighbouring local authorities have tapped into this stream of funding and been awarded substantial grants for projects.
“Both Highland and Aberdeenshire have used the fund to develop infrastructure schemes to support tourism, including toilets, motorhome provision, car parking and footpaths.
“We feel that capacity must be urgently found to prepare bids for funding that would enhance our tourism experience.
“Everyone recognises that infrastructure was under enormous pressure during last summer’s staycation due to increased visitor numbers.
“One of our highest priorities must be to prepare high quality bids for the available funding which, if successful, would aid our hard pressed tourist industry.”
Funding helps locations across Scotland
The Scottish Government awarded £3million from the fund this month to help projects across the country, including to improve footpaths at the Old Man of Storr on Skye and to improve parking and toilets at the St Cyrus nature reserve in Aberdeenshire.
The “coast to country” project in Moray, which is being supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Visit Moray Speyside, includes beauty spots across the region.
Improvements have been proposed for car parks at Hopeman, Findhorn and Ben Rinnes with an improved footpath at Bow Fiddle Rock near Portknockie and chemical toilet disposal points at Portknockie, Ballindalloch, Cullen and Portgordon.
All the locations were among the most popular in the region among those enjoying staycations during summer last year.
Moray tourism bid still being prepared
Moray Council has confirmed plans are continuing to be drawn up for the “coast to country” initiative.
It is expected that the Scottish Government’s rural tourism infrastructure fund will open again for applications later this year, although no date has been set yet.
A Moray Council spokeswoman said: “We, in partnership with a number of communities, are developing a funding application to be submitted to a future round of the rural tourism infrastructure fund.
“The idea was not sufficiently developed at the time of the last round to justify submitting a bid, so we are putting together a robust application in preparation for the fund re-opening.”