Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Visit Nairn Press Release - Is a successor to the vision of Dr James Grigor in the offing?

The Gurn could be accused of laziness but we bring you the entire, unabridged press release from the new Visit Nairn Association who hope to set the heather alight with their new strategy to raise the town's profile in the tourism industry:

The new Visit Nairn Tourism Association puts forward imaginative strategy to attract more visitors to Highland town

Following a lively discussion at January’s meeting of the Nairn Partnership and Ward Forum, the VisitNairn Tourism Association has now produced a comprehensive strategy document designed to mobilise local efforts to improve Nairn’s appeal as a destination for visitors and tourists.

- a successor to the vision of Dr James Grigor?

Recalling the role played by Dr Grigor, the doctor and public figure whose statue now stands in Nairn’s Viewfield, and whose drive and initiative was largely responsible for the development of Nairn as the premier Victorian beach resort in the Highlands, this new strategy argues that tourism defines the character of the town, and has always been the main driver of the town’s economy.

The document, which is to be discussed with local businesses and communities and with Highland Council officials on 25th March, identifies a wide range of distinctive features of Nairn which could be more effectively exploited to attract visitors. As well as the renowned beach, mild climate and world-class golf courses and recreational facilities, the town has an impressive historic and architectural heritage, in the original Fishertown (now a designated Conservation Area), the much-photographed wrought-iron bandstand, and the stylish Victorian buildings of the High Street.

- trends in tourism, and the current economic circumstances, offer opportunities

Changing demographics, a growing interest in outdoor activities, recreation, nature and wildlife, and a search for authenticity and value, are all seen as trends in tourism to which Nairn can respond. The town, like others in the region, has been hard-hit by the economic downturn. But the report’s authors see this as an opportunity. They believe the recession, and the adverse exchange rate, are likely to prompt more holidaymakers to look again at UK destinations, and that this will increase visitor-flows to the Highland region. The strategy document argues that both residents and visitors will gain from initiatives to promote tourism, which will serve as an incentive to the growth of the retail sector and will stimulate employment in local services.

- radical proposals on how Nairn should address the challenges

The strategy document does not, however, underestimate the scale of the task. And it does not pull its punches about the constraints and obstacles that need to be overcome.
It draws attention to the planning blight which has resulted in “neglect, decay and dereliction at the heart of the town”. It questions whether the role of Nairn as a tourist destination has been adequately addressed in the regional plans for development of the A96 Corridor. The strategy calls for the creation of a single Community Council for Nairn which could then engage constructively and effectively with the regional authorities in scrutiny and reassessment of the range of currently-proposed residential developments for Nairn itself. The paper reflects widespread local concern that these plans threaten the fundamental character and appearance of Nairn and will diminish, rather than enhance, Nairn’s appeal to visitors. It quotes a local resident’s remark – that
“…towns which make tourism a priority and oblige developers to work within limits reap the benefits of increased tourist numbers and revenue, improved facilities and – in the longer term – enhanced property values. On the other hand, towns which make housing-development the principal priority become unattractive places to either visit or live.”
The tourism strategy identifies a number of specific proposals for action which are to be considered at a forthcoming meeting of the Nairn Partnership and Ward Forum at which the Highland Council’s Tourism Co-ordinator and representatives from VisitScotland are also expected to be present.
- a collaborative effort
In the wake of the February Ward Forum meeting, the Vice Chair of VisitNairn, Iain Fairweather, said,
“I am encouraged that the Provost and her colleagues on the Council showed such willingness to engage with us and to support our proposals to make Nairn a more attractive visitor destination. We believe that the actions outlined in our strategy will make a major contribution to that objective.
We are keen to involve not only the local government and planning authorities, and agencies like VisitScotland, but also local businesses and potential investors in Nairn. We also want to liaise closely with other counterpart organisations in the Highlands and Moray Firth area, and to work with those responsible for the major historical and heritage attractions of the area.
I appeal to all who want to see Nairn develop and grow as an attractive, prosperous and successful town to join the Association and support our efforts. If we get the decisions right, we can look forward to Nairn once again becoming - perhaps not ‘the Brighton of the North’, as in the old slogan - but rather the premier visitor destination on the Moray Firth.”

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