TOURISM initiatives that put communities first are being rolled out in two areas in the Highlands.

After successful pilots in Lochcarron and Thurso in the summer, Press Pause projects are being launched in Brora and Plockton by North Highland Initiative (NHI) and SCOTO, Scotland’s Community Tourism Network.

Other communities across the region are being encouraged to get in touch to find out about launching a Press Pause project in their own area.

The scheme covers Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross, Easter Ross and the islands of Orkney, Shetland, Lewis and Harris.

The Press Pause pilots to date have provided a research-based study of each area using a system of mystery shopper appraisals of each community as a visitor destination and face-to-face workshops for businesses and communities.

Feedback and reports provided recommendations for the development of a community-led tourism activity plan which includes a community-owned place brand and visitor proposition for each area as well as practical and achievable next steps.

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The local area is also provided with a template to monitor the impact of future tourism.

Instead of measuring overnight stays and visitor spend, these projects allow groups to work towards priorities that really matter to the area. For some, this means encouraging young people to stay in or move to the area. For others, the conservation of cultural assets may be more important.

Others may see the creation of permanent jobs as success. The important thing is these factors are agreed on locally by the community and, with the help of those steering the project, can then be placed at the heart of any tourism strategy.

The Press Pause initiatives allow communities to pause and reflect on tourism in the local area, looking at shared and chronic issues, from staffing, housing and motorhome impact to a lack of facilities, poor digital content or a fragmented representation of the destination. Groups then explore joint solutions and share best practice and inspiration.

NHI chair Genevieve Duhigg said: “In the last few years many communities have felt tourism happens to them rather than with or for them. The projects we’ve worked on with SCOTO seek to recalibrate tourism and measure what is important to an individual community.

“This allows communities to take ownership of tourism and steer it in a way that delivers for local people. We’ve established a funding route via our community support fund and look forward to using this to support the activation of these projects.”

She added: “This is a golden opportunity for individual communities to focus on positioning themselves in a way that works for them and is also a way of welcoming visitors as temporary locals, with rich insights into the past, present and future of the community.”

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SCOTO chair Carron Tobin said: “Frankly, it’s an opportunity to get off the hamster wheel and focus on making tourism a force for good. This is something so many communities have told us they wanted to do.”

“We’re excited to be working on projects in two more North Highlands areas but would strongly encourage other communities to consider this approach and to get in touch as we’d would like to roll this programme out across the region.”

Projects can apply for grant funding from NHI as well as in-kind support from SCOTO and NHI.

For more details, email

To find out more about NHI see and for SCOTO visit