The SNIB, which was launched in November 2020 to be a development investment bank for Scotland, is loaning the funds to Highland Coast Hotels, saying this will provide more sustainable and community-led hospitality along the popular road trip, underpinning crucial local tourism and employment opportunities.
The 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, which were all bought by the hotel firm last year, while the sum will be repaid by the income they generate. The move is expected to help create full-time jobs within Highland Coast Hotels and up to 40 full-time-equivalent posts locally through supply-chain investment.
The bank said the investment aligns with its mission to “invest in places and regeneration to reduce inequalities and improve opportunities and outcomes for people and communities”.
Additionally, the cash injection is seen as supporting the SNIB’s net-zero mission, enhancing sustainability in each property, and helping Highland Coast Hotels’ bid to achieve carbon neutrality.
SNIB boss Eilidh Mactaggart 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.”
SNIB also said the seven-figure funding boost will enable Highland Coast Hotels to continue providing education and training opportunities for the hospitality sector through the University of Highlands & Islands and springboard collaborations, and a minimum of ten apprenticeships over the next three years.
David Whiteford, chairman of Highland Coast Hotels, said: “This investment from the [SNIB] is not only significant for our highly-talented teams within Highland Coast Hotels, but also the much-valued communities in which we operate.
“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.”
He added that the hotel group is “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,” he added.
The latest investment by the SNIB comes after it provided £6m to Sunamp, the East Lothian-based thermal storage company, and £6.4m to Edinburgh tidal turbine pioneer Nova Innovation, for example.