Tourism is of vital importance to the economy of the Highlands with many world class attractions that attract visitors from across the globe. It sustains many of the region's more remote communities, while remaining important in sustaining the economy of Inverness and the surrounding area, with more than a million visitors per year supplementing local expenditure. Highland tourism and the sector’s marketing benefits from collaborations between The Highland Council, VisitScotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and many private sector partners. The VisitHighlands website acts as an information portal for the region.
The immersion of visitors in the heritage, culture and landscape brings benefits to many business sectors. Tourism trade is vitally important for the growth and development of existing and new visitor attractions, hotels, restaurants, bars, sporting events and tour operators. These businesses employ a large proportion of the Highland labour force, with staff at many destinations supplemented by seasonal employees to meet peak demand.
The region contains diverse and stunning scenery that attracts visitors from across the globe. As the name suggests, the Highlands has extensive mountain ranges and is home to the tallest peak in the British Isles, namely Ben Nevis. The mountain is situated within Lochaber which is known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK due the number of outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy. Home to five of Scotland’s six tallest peaks, the Cairngorm mountain range is incorporated within the Cairngorm National Park that offers over 100 activities for visitors including extensive snow sports opportunities such as skiing and snowboarding. The Highland region also has extensive forest and woodland, sandy beaches and spectacular lochs. The largest of these lochs is Loch Ness which is the apparent home of the world famous monster. Beyond the draw of this creature, Loch Ness also has numerous other attractionssuch as Urquhart Castle, the Loch Ness Visitor Centre, Loch cruises and walking trails.
The Highlands’ long and tumultuous history also provides attractions and activities for modern visitors to explore when in the region. Castles are scattered across the landscape which provides testimony to the need of medieval and later people to protect themselves from domestic and external threats. The region is also historically significant in terms of its role in the Jacobite wars and uprisings that culminated in the Battle of Culloden that occurred on 16 April 1746. The battle site is open to the public while a new visitor centre provides exhibitions and guides that provide information on the battle and the ‘forty-five’ rising. Glenfinnan in Lochaber also has a recently refurbished visitor centre on the site where the ‘forty five’ rebellion began. Fort George near Inverness was built to prevent further rebellion in the Highlands. The complex remains a working army barracks but it welcomes visitors with a museum, gift shop and café (seasonal) among the attractions.
Archive and family history centres at Fort William, Inverness, Wick and Portree allow visitors to explore the documents key to the region’s history. These centres also are key component of the ancestry tourism market as they hold a variety of records that permit people to search for information on their Highland ancestors.
Highland is home to a spectacular selection of wildlife that that attracts tourists from across the World. There are Nature reserves located across the region offer a way for visitors to view and appreciate the wildlife with a minimal impact upon the environment. The Cairngorms National Park incorporates nine nature reserves and includes a quarter of British engendered species. The RSPB operate the Loch Garten Osprey Centre where visitors can enjoy the Osprey and capercaillies within a majestic Caledonian pine forest. Highland Wildlife Park, [HCU21] run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, houses endangered species from Scotland and from tundra regions further afield. Dolphins inhabit the seas off the Highland coast can be spotted near to land at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle, North and South Kessock and Fort George. Boat excursions operate in the Moray Firth and on the west coast that can be used to see these creatures further out to sea.