The move to Wick John o’Groats Airport is an attempt to lure more business to the area. Operators hope to cash in on the well-known name of the most northern point on mainland Britain, an area synonymous with the famous Lands End to John o’Groats trek.
John o’Groats is experiencing a major facelift after years of neglect. It has been transformed in the past year with luxury chalets installed by English holiday company Natural Retreats, with £1.8 million funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Other major developments are in the pipeline for the area, which is situated 16 miles from the airport and is close the Castle of Mey, once owned by the Queen Mother and now the Scottish home of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
The airport will retain the name Wick within its new title, enabling it to keep its International Air Transport Association airport code – WIC.
Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, which operates the airport, said: “We have been actively looking at how we can better promote the northern mainland as a tourist destination which includes rebranding the airport as Wick John o’Groats Airport to reflect its status as the gateway to Caithness and North Sutherland.
“With John o’Groats undergoing a significant transformation, we believe this rebranding will help support efforts to promote the town and the wider area to inbound visitors.”
Highland councillor Gail Ross, civic leader of Caithness and Wick airport consultative committee, said the rebranding, while not a massive change, could enhance the amount of business going through the airport including those on end-to-end challenges and tourist trips.
She said: “I think it’s an excellent public relations idea. Who knows how much business we are missing out on because people don’t realise that Wick airport serves John o’Groats?
“This way the airport still keeps it identity, but it gives a good compromise and I think it’s a good, positive move for the county.”
Former Highland councillor Bill Mowat explained that, historically, many Caithness locations capitalised on the well-known Groats name.
He said: “Back in the Victorian days, lots of things in Caithness were named John o’Groats like Wick John o’Groats Football Club, the John o’Groats masonic lodges and all sorts of things.
“That seemed to have fallen out of fashion especially with the removal of the A9 road to John o’Groats in the 1990s. So this is quite a pleasant reversal of what has been happening.”