Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Saturday, 20 June 2009 12:17 UK

Tourism 'optimism' in recession

Eilean Donan
The tourist industry in the Highlands is upbeat, according to VisitScotland

Tourism offers "some optimism" in the Highlands amid rising unemployment caused by the recession, local authority officials have reported.

The paper to be presented to Highland Council, paints a bleak picture in the north with a higher than average percentage rise in benefits claimants.

Officers warned that the rate of unemployment was expected to worsen.

But they added that VisitScotland reported the industry was "upbeat" and positive about the summer season.

'Will worsen'

Already this year the Highlands has hosted large numbers of visitors, with a music festival and mountain bike event playing a part.

RockNess on the shores of Loch Ness attracted 35,000 people last weekend and Belladrum in August is also expected to pull large crowds.

More than 18,500 attended the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup, held earlier this month.

The competition is estimated to have generated £14.2m for the Highlands economy since it was first held in 2002.

Meanwhile, the report to Thursday's full council said the rate of unemployment in the Highlands began to rise in late 2008.

Using the uptake of Jobseekers Allowance as a measure, officers said the number of people out of work by April this year was 3,901 - 3% of those of a working age.

The report's authors said the rate of economic decline was slowing, but they added: "It is also expected that the unemployment situation will worsen before it stabilises and recovers."

The council launched a credit crunch task force to tackle the effects of what was then an economic downturn in November.

The authority also announced it would accelerate its £60m capital programme of works for building new schools and affordable homes to keep order books busy.

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