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Members of The Highland Council’s Tourism Committee will continue to work with partners, national agencies and communities to meet the challenges and opportunities that exist in the region for motorhomes and wild camping tourism in 2021.
Councillor Maxine Smith, tourism committee chairwoman, said that while coronavirus and the increased demand for staycations in the UK have played a large part in the massive increase in demands placed on the Highlands from across the UK, evidence shows motorhome ownership and hire has been increasing over recent years.
‘These factors and the relatively cheap availability of tents and mass tent ownership all point to the need for joint management plans to meet tourism needs next season and for future years, she said.
‘We will continue to work with partners in Scottish Government, NatureScot, VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, SEPA, Scottish Water, The Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association (CAMPA) and local groups to ensure we maximise the opportunities for tourism in the Highlands while minimising risks to our communities.
‘The council is also open to hearing from landowners interested in providing simple short stay sites known on the continent as ‘Aires’. These provide basic overnight services for people on longer journeys, bringing economic benefit to local businesses.
‘It may be you are a farmer with a spare field or someone with an extra-large garden, but we need to start thinking more commercially as well as trying to alleviate issues caused by motorhomes.
‘We welcome tourists in the Highlands, but we need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place for them. Anyone with initial queries about ‘Aires’ should email the council’s tourism officer firstname.lastname@example.org.’
Councillors also discussed the problems experienced throughout the Highlands largely since the easing of lockdown in mid-July onwards with a marked increase in the number of visitors ‘informally’ camping in motorhomes and wild camping in tents.
Members noted the legal differences between the two activities and the differing approaches required to address them.
Councillor Smith added: ‘We welcome new research on the economic impact of motorhome visitors to the region expected to take place later this year and look forward to hearing the findings of this work which will be supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
‘We also commend the work of CAMPA which Highland Council has been working with since the 2019 season. They have produced guidance for motorhome hire customers on topics including informal camping, safe driving practices and environmental awareness.’
Members discussed a range of issues experienced in Highland that have been created by informal motorhome camping including overnight parking, waste disposal, refuse and recycling.
Lochinver, Helmsdale, Bonar Bridge and Cromarty have plans to develop more dedicated overnight parking sites for motorhomes through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund such as those already provided at Kinlochbervie and Keiss.
Members also discussed the much-misunderstood legalities and terminology of ‘wild camping’ and the effects of irresponsible behaviours experienced this season.
Members supported further investigations into provision of more formal campsite spaces, bins and toilets; better promotion of appropriate camping behaviour; more advice and guidance; restrictions on alcohol consumption and better parking in certain locations and more robust enforcement of wild camping that is not compliant with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
CAPTION: Highland Council tourism committee discussed various issues, including the boom in camper van numbers. yes-t32 camper vans 1
Councillor Maxine Smith.