Sutherland visitor guide receives funding
Heart of Sutherland Tourism (HOST) was formed initially as a Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, the local anchor organisation, as an initiative to promote the central area within the popular North Coast 500 tourist route. The initiative was to encourage tourists to stay and explore the area to the benefit of local businesses and communities.
HOST has now been operating for four years and has 80 members who benefit from marketing across social media platforms. Member businesses include leisure activity providers such as walking, cycling, wildlife watching, canoeing, shooting and small family-run businesses, local shops, accommodation providers and service providers.
During 2018 HOST members held a strategy workshop that produced a 5-year strategy. The latest campaign is supporting the "Slow Tourism" marketing scheme with the group's strapline of " Stay, Discover and explore" to try and encourage people not to rush their trip around the Northern Highlands but to base themselves in the area and go on day trips to explore the whole region.
At the strategy workshop is was raised that there was limited promotional material for the area. It was agreed to design a tourism information leaflet and map promoting the Heart of Sutherland area to address this. The map was proposed to feature information on the region; services, things to see and do, hidden gems and give the opportunity for members to promote their businesses, activities and services. A similar map was instrumental in the success of the North Coast 500 and HOST members felt that this idea could increase the number of tourists leaving the North Coast 500 route to explore the heart of Sutherland.
Accommodation providers, in particular, were positive about the idea, stating that they had noted that guests rely on their North Coast 500 maps to plot their next few days activities. Previous guests stated had they realised how accessible all of the NC500 sites were from the heart of Sutherland they might have planned their holiday staying in one place with day trips out to the various locations.
The RWE Rosehall Wind Farm Community Fund awarded the project £770, around half the project cost, which funded the initial design and cartography work. Once a template had been designed it was shared with local business who were enthusiastic about the project. The template was designed initially with blank spaces to encourage local businesses to design their own adverts, with help from the designer, and pay for this advertising space. The funds raised from this, along with a quiz night and a fundraising afternoon tea enabled an initial print run of 10,000 leaflets so that the leaflet could be made available locally.
“Unfortunately Covid-19 has halted much of the planned promotion of the map and its distribution. However there has been a positive response from the few local businesses that have received them. Local B & B's have been handing out to guests that have really liked the map and found it a useful item for touring. We plan to hold a press launch with some of our members and gain some publicity in some local newspapers and magazines and social media tourism pages & groups. We help that this will help boost the tourism economy in the local area and help people to recover from Covid- affected season this year."
Tracey Smith, HOST Secretary
It was intended to make the map widely available, however with Covid-19 restrictions in place advertising holidays would have been irresponsible, so HOST has opted to keep most of the copies in storage until visitors are once again welcomed to the Highlands, hopefully in spring 2021. The leaflet will then be heavily publicised along with the opportunity to visit the heart of Sutherland area.
The RWE Rosehall Wind Farm Community Fund supports a broad range of community activity and development of benefit to those living in the Community Council areas of Ardgay & District; Creich; and Lairg, within the County of Sutherland. Grants are available to constituted not-for-profit groups or organisations working to benefit these communities.
“The application process was very easy and straightforward, and payment of grant was processed quickly. We were very pleased that you allowed us and advance payment prior to the group raising the additional funds. This allowed us to proceed with the initial design of the leaflet which meant we had a template to show local businesses which encouraged them to place advertisements to help with the funding process.”
Tracey Smith, HOST Secretary
This excellent community initiative also featured in the Northern Times online in May 2021. Read the article here.