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Loch Ness 'ignored for too long'; Wish You Were Here book flags impact of local drive to revitalise iconic Highland destination

By Staff Reporter

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Looking over Loch Ness.
Looking over Loch Ness.

TOURISM businesses in the Loch Ness area have been praised for turning around the fortunes of the once “tired” destination in a new book highlighting 50 of the world’s top tourist spots.

Wish You Were Here by international tourism consultant Professor Terry Stevens has been published as an e-book in two editions – one for consumers and one for professionals – highlighting how good management and understanding hospitality underpin the success of each destination.

Places highlighted include Copenhagen, Cape Town and Barcelona – all before the coronavirus crisis.

He described Loch Ness as one of the world’s most fascinating and best-known places, given the mystery around Nessie, but also notes in the early part of this century it was facing various challenges.

“For far too long, its tourism importance had been overlooked by public agencies,” he stated.

“This resulted in a lack of investment in its basic tourism infrastructure.”

The issues were compounded by the number of small-scale businesses and low tourism spending, making it difficult for businesses to re-invest.

He added: “As a result, Loch Ness had slipped down the tourism agenda “Guidebooks and websites were reporting on the area in negative ways and the destination was underperforming in terms of the economic return to its visitors.

“As a result of this lack of investment, by both the public and private sector, the destination appeared rather ‘tired’.”

It needed a major injection of resources plus renewed energy and interest to begin its regeneration.

“There was a realisation that Loch Ness could not wait for the mythic to turn up and lead its revival,” he said. “It was clear that this destination was about more than a monster.”

Freda Newton at the launch of Loch Ness by Jacobite's Jacobite Maverick.
Freda Newton at the launch of Loch Ness by Jacobite's Jacobite Maverick.

He credits local business owners including Freda Newton, owner of the Jacobite cruising company, and Highland tourism ambassador Willie Cameron for creating a new tourism partnership, Visit Loch Ness, to drive change.

The organisation was also supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Historic Scotland and Scottish Canals.

Mr Stevens said Loch Ness was now a destination loaded with outdoor activities including new walking, cycling and canoe trails. Money has also been spent on creating first-class attractions at Urquhart Castle, the Jacobite fleet has been expanded and new visitor centres have sprung up.

“High-quality lodges and restored castles provide luxury accommodation comparable with anywhere in the world, with great local cuisine by Good Highland Food and Cobbs Bakery and the signature festivals and events continue to flourish,” Mr Stevens concluded. He hopes the lessons from the destinations featured in the book will help inform tourists and those working in tourism to plan for recovery after the coronavirus crisis.

Prof Stevens, who lives in Wales, has worked in 55 countries on a wide range of tourism destination projects. Last year, he was awarded the LUXLife title of the best destination development expert in the world.

A copy of the e-book can be ordered from www.tourism-futures.com

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