A new initiative designed to bolster tourism across Aberdeenshire, Moray and further afield has been launched.
The Northern HighLights Pass aims to encourage visitors to explore the region, providing them with a range of money saving offers from leading tourist attractions, hospitality providers and local businesses.
It already has the backing of leading tourism bodies VisitScotland and VisitAberdeenshire, along with Aberdeenshire Council.
Those behind the pass are urging more attractions and businesses to sign-up and participate in the scheme, which they hope will support the continued growth of tourism in the region.
Prompted by sightseeing passes available in major cities around the world, the Northern HighLights Pass was conceived by Moira Gash and Sarah Harker of Aberdeenshire business DeeTour.
They were part of the team behind destination management organisation Visit Royal Deeside, before its remit was absorbed by VisitAberdeenshire.
Moira and Sarah were aided in creating the pass by Open Pass, a developer of cloud-based software for the tourism sightseeing sector. The well-established software is already used by other cities, including Edinburgh, York and Derry.
Having undergone 18 months of development, the pass was due to launch in spring 2020 but was delayed due to the global pandemic.
With staycations and short breaks set to be the holidays of choice for many this year, it is hoped the pass can inspire visitors to discover all that north-east Scotland has to offer.
As well as Aberdeenshire and Moray, it takes in Aberdeen, the Cairngorms, Highland Perthshire and Angus.
Valid for two or five consecutive days, each Northern HighLights Pass gives visitors discounted access to a selection of visitor attractions, museums and activities.
Aimed at local, domestic and international visitors, the pass can be purchased online and is available in either digital or physical format and comes with a map of the area and accompanying visitor information. Each pass can only be used by one individual.
Visitors show the pass at participating businesses where the relevant discount is then applied. The card is activated for the prescribed two or five-day period upon its first use, meaning the earlier it is used on the first day, the greater the level of savings that can potentially be realised.
Current restrictions mean that pre-booking at some venues may be required.
Among the attractions already signed up are National Trust for Scotland properties, Grampian Transport Museum, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, Blair Castle, Strathisla Distillery, Peterhead Prison Museum and Macduff Marine Aquarium.
Elsewhere, visitors to Maryculter House near Aberdeen can receive a discount on afternoon tea, and Craggan Outdoors near Aviemore is providing money off the cost of activities.
Co-director of DeeTour Moira Gash said: “The Northern HighLights Pass is something new and exciting for the north-east tourism sector.
“It brings a concept widely used and understood by visitors in major cities around the world to the local marketplace.
“This is a platform for businesses around the region to work together to showcase what it has to offer and provide holidaymakers with an added incentive to visit.
“From our research, it was clear that many visitors – whether here for a weekend, a week or longer – like to explore the region during their stay, visiting castles, distilleries and other attractions.
“The pass is designed to inspire them to do that and entice them to venture into different regions to discover some of what they have to offer. That is why the pass is covering such a big area.”
Sarah Harker, co-director of DeeTour, said: “We are keen to have a conversation with all tourism related businesses across the north-east to explore how they can sign up to the Northern HighLights Pass.
“Each individual visitor attraction, hospitality business, activity provider or shop can tailor the discount they offer to suit their individual organisation.
“Generally, most businesses are offering savings of between 10 and 20 per cent, with some applying the discount to specific products or services.
“This is an opportunity to build a product for visitors to the area that adds real value to both the industry and the tourist.
“With tourism expected to be a growth sector in the years to come, the Northern HighLights Pass is a product to support it for the long-term.”
For further information on the Northern HighLights Pass visit www.northernhighlightspass.co.uk