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North Coast 500: A Branding Boost for Highland Commercial Properties

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North Coast 500: A Branding Boost for Highland Commercial Properties

North Coast 500: A Branding Boost for Highland Commercial Properties
February 12
15:22 2020

Pete Seymour

These days, branding plays a key role in economic development and in the north of Scotland this approach has been taken to a whole new level with results that have surpassed all expectations. Providing a significant boost to the hotel and leisure sector in the Highlands, the North Coast 500 route is attracting visitors from all over the world, helping to reinvigorate Scottish tourism and boosting the local economy at the same time. Pete Seymour examines the effect the route is having as it stimulates investment and growth in the Highlands…

Launched in 2015, the North Coast 500 name was coined for a tourist route that begins and ends in Inverness. Bringing together just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery through Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-Shire, the route has become famed for its eye-catching beauty and has become a mecca for cyclists, bikers, motorists, caravanners and motor home fans. A strong example of good branding that builds on an asset – namely Scotland’s iconic scenery – it was, perhaps, poorly promoted in the past but should therefore now be of significant interest to any individual or company thinking of investing in the area.

To illustrate its effect, the success of the NC500 idea was highlighted in a recent report from the BBC which claimed that the route generated almost £23m for the North Highlands economy in 2018. The report, which detailed the findings of a study by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Moffat Centre for Tourism, also identified that 180 new jobs were created that year alone that could be linked to the route.

According to the study, tourism businesses such as tour operators and camper van rental firms reported year-on-year growth of 16% from 2014-2018. Meanwhile, in the commercial property market, branding of the NC500 has had a notable positive impact on the in the hotel and leisure sector.

Stunning Scotland: The NC500 takes in stunning the scenery of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-Shire

At Graham and Sibbald we are currently handling three off-market transactions in the area and we aim to complete them in the first quarter of this year. All are hotel businesses linked to the positive press that has come from NC500. Furthermore, we are also marketing Kincraig Castle Hotel, a luxurious four-star country house that overlooks the Black Isle and is being publicised in a way that highlights its position on the route.

The development of tourism along the NC500 has also generated significant valuation, planning and project management work. As an example, G+S is partnering with a leading hotel group to develop their leisure assets in places that are currently benefiting from the influx of tourists pulled in by the route.

Historically there has been under-investment and a lack of availability of bank debt in the sector since 2008 but nowadays there is more confidence overall and lenders have begun to lend against the market value of businesses rather than mere worst case scenarios. There is no doubt about it – the Scottish tourism sector is showing tremendous strength and resilience and is currently outperforming many other sectors. We have around £9m-worth of deals on our books for Q1 alone.

All of which demonstrates the increasing attractiveness of the areas along the NC500 route for visitors and investors alike.

Pete Seymour is Head of Licensed Trade and Leisure Agency at Graham & Sibbald. Their team of specialist chartered surveyors works extensively in the Scottish hospitality sector, advising and assisting clients on all aspects of commercial property transactions. Visit www.g-s.co.uk for more information. For more details of how G+S can help tourism and hotel businesses, contact Peter.Seymour@g-s.co.uk.

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Catering Scotland

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