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The Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (CRTR) at UHI West Highland in Fort William has been hailed as ‘world leading’ by the body charged with assessment of university research in the UK.
CRTR provides research and consultancy services on subjects as diverse as adventure recreation, marine tourism, tourism product development and digital marketing.
Staff members at the centre work closely on a number of initiatives with the School of Adventure Studies, the UK’s leading provider of adventure and marine tourism education, and other UHI partners, such as the Centre for Mountain Studies.
The centre’s director, Steve Taylor, said: ‘CRTR has always prided itself on the key contribution it makes to tourism in Scotland – and particularly the Highlands and Islands.
‘We were therefore delighted that the Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF 2021- which measures the research of all the universities in the UK) showed that 76 per cent of the research conducted in UHI’s Area Studies submission which includes the centre, as well as the School of Adventure Studies, was classed as being ‘world-leading’.
The UHI Area Studies team came first in Scotland overall and first equal in the UK for research impact.
‘This is a fantastic endorsement of CRTR’s vision to carry out research that has significant impacts on the lives of real people and businesses, in line with UHI’s mission to have a transformational impact on our region,’ added Mr Taylor.
The centre’s research encompasses a range of tourism sub-sectors and issues, a common factor being their objective of trying to promote more responsible tourism development through, for example, encouraging tourists to visit less well-known areas or attractions or stay longer and bring greater benefits to local communities.
Their current flagship initiative entitled The Coast that Shaped the World has been built around community-based research which employs local story gatherers to unearth and curate a broad range of cultural narratives that reflect the coastal and maritime heritage of the west coast.
From the huge bank of narratives that has resulted, hundreds of these stories will be portrayed via digital media, as well as innovative exhibitions at heritage centres up and down the coast, to attract visitors to more far-flung communities and environments.
A previous transnational project, exploring the development and marketing of nature-based tourism products with countries across Scandinavia, has led to the creation of a spin-off company, Slow Adventure Ltd.
Based in Lochaber, the company launched earlier this year, packaging and selling engaging and immersive slow adventure experiences, both within the region and in northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Part of the cost of these experiences is ploughed back into local environmental or community conservation projects, helping to restore some balance between communities as attractions to visit and places to live.