THE popularity of Scotland’s own breathtaking Route 66 – North Coast 500 – could lead to the creation of around 200 jobs in one of the remote parts of the country, research has revealed.
A survey, carried out by North Coast 500, asked businesses in the North Highlands about the impact of the route, which was recently named as one of the UK’s top road trips by Rough Guides.
Out of the 221 businesses surveyed, 86 per cent of hotels, 78 per cent of food and drink businesses, and 70 per cent of activity providers reported an increase in trade in the last year.
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More than a quarter (26 per cent) said they intended to hire additional staff due to interest in the route. In total, the number of jobs expected to be created was 201, a 16 per cent 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 and 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.”