THE success of the North Coast 500 tourism initiative could lead to the creation of 200 new jobs in one of the remotest parts of the country, a survey has revealed.
The research asked businesses in the Highlands about the impact of the route, which was recently named as one of the UK’s top road trips by Rough Guides.
The majority of the 221 businesses surveyed reported an increase in trade in the last year, with more than a quarter claiming they will hire additional staff this year due to interest in the route.
In total, the number of jobs expected to be created was 201, a 16% increase in the current workforce.
David Whiteford, Chairman of North Highland Initiative, the creators of the route, said: “Since the North Coast 500 route officially launched in May 2015, it has enjoyed enormous popularity, with visitors coming from all corners of the globe to experience the spectacular scenery, food & drink, and hospitality of the North Highlands.
“It has been a great showcase for the vast array of things to see and do in the area.
“This survey demonstrates that the route has had a measurable, positive impact on the economy of the North Highlands and shows that our collective efforts in marketing the North Coast 500 as a ‘must-see’ destination are paying dividends.”
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) helped develop the NC500’s feasibility and funded the baseline research for the route. The organisation chairs the working group of public sector organisations backing the NC500.
David Oxley, HIE’s director of business and sector development, said: “We are pleased to have played our part in helping make the North Coast 500 a reality.
“Tourism is one of our region’s principal growth sectors. It creates jobs in remote rural locations, particularly jobs for young people, and helps promote the Highlands and Islands across the world.
“NC500 is a great example of a creative tourism initiative. It promotes some of the best scenery the north of Scotland has to offer and its huge consumer reach presents a massive opportunity for many businesses.
“We would encourage businesses on or close to the route to think about how they might capitalise on these opportunities and speak to us or Business Gateway about their ideas.”
The survey findings were announced by North Coast 500 at an event at the Scottish Parliament last night, attended by MSPs, NC500 partners, and tourism businesses from across the country.
The North Coast 500 was created in 2015 by North Highland Initiative in an effort to develop sustainable economic growth across the North Highlands.
The 516-mile route starts and ends in Inverness, can be completed either clockwise or anti-clockwise, and takes in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in the world.
The survey asked businesses to estimate the difference in trade that the NC500 has made to their business.
A total of 60% of businesses reported a positive impact on trade. Another 17% of businesses could not provide an estimate – reasons given included that the businesses had only started in 2016, that data was not recorded, and that it was ‘hard to tell’ as the business has always been busy.
Overall, 57 businesses stated that they would be employing additional staff. In total this would generate an estimated 201 additional jobs, which is a 16% uplift on the workforce in 2016.