World Cup 'may dent tourism in Highlands'

Image caption,
England's involvement in the World Cup could affect tourism numbers

The World Cup and the general election could dent tourism in the Highlands, according to a council report.

The paper to Highland Council said most of the region's visitors come from England, whose national team will feature in the cup in South Africa next month.

It also said English tourists may also have stayed at home for the election.

During the recession tourism in the Highlands rose by 3% while globally it fell by 4%, according to the report.

The document's author said predictions for 2010 were for another good year for the tourism industry in the north.

It said exchange rates and uncertainty following volcanic ash disrupting flights could increase the numbers of people in the UK taking holidays in the Highlands.

One of the coldest winters in 100 years has already brought benefits for ski resorts, according to the report.

Cairngorm Mountain has had its best season in 15 years and Nevis Range had hosted 35,000 skiers compared with 16,000 in the winter of 2008.

Aircraft grounded

But the report went on: "Less positively, the UK general election and the World Cup - where our main market England are involved - may have an effect.

"Traditionally more people tend to stay at home while these are on and this may reduce early season business levels, although there may be a subsequent boost later in the year."

The paper was prepared ahead of a presentation by VisitScotland to Highland Council's planning, environment and development committee on Wednesday.

Last week, a VisitScotland boss forecast "unusual and unpredictable" holiday seasons because of disruption caused by drifting clouds of volcanic ash.

Chairman Mike Cantlay said it could result in more people taking breaks at home in the UK.

Ash from volcanic eruptions in Iceland has affected flights abroad with aircraft grounded for safety reasons.

Mr Cantlay said it should see so-called staycations - holidays at home - continuing.

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