Global Network of National Geoparks

A Scottish experience: creating and implementing our north west highlands geopark marketing plan

Published :March 19, 2008

T. Harrison1 & I. Macphail2
The Moffat Centre for Development of Travel and Tourism Business of Caledonian University, Glasgow Scotland, UK
2Geopark Officer, North West Highlands European Geopark, Culag Building, Lochinver, Southerland IV27 4LE, Scotland, UK

Keywords: Partnership, community, participation, niche markets, economy

This paper explores the needs and responsibilities of key stakeholders in Scotland's first Geopark. The North West Highlands Geopark has concentrated on two stakeholder groups: the local community and potential visitors. There have been three stages of development:

Creating Awareness
Encouraging Participation
Generating Demand

This Geopark is seen as a diverse visitor destination with geology as one of its strong features, rather than a geology-rich destination with other areas of minor interest. This has informed the strategic direction of the NWHG and has influenced community engagement activities and our approach to potential visitor markets.

Community engagement was the first stage and included a mailing and questionnaire survey to every household in the Geopark; a Geopark Roadshow, schools activities and use of a 'Geopark Postbox'. Special activities for visitors are focused on the shoulder months in spring and autumu. This approach has proved productive in engaging with the local community and visitors. It has also presented challenges in co-ordinating a diverse range of interests.

The paper will present how the NWHG has attempted to share responsibilities across a range of public, private and voluntary organizations in order to make this new Geopark look and operate like a distinctive 'Geopark' destination for both the local community and visitors. Local businesses and the local community are the key 'front-of-house' people in our Geopark since it is a very big area (2,000 sq km) with a very small population (c 2,000 people).