How to open a tourist economy ?

Given the importance of toursim to to Scottish Economy in particular rural and and island locations we have to be quite disinctive in what we are trying to achieve in a world with COVID 19. We have to make a National plan for rural and islands locations: a plan with input from these locations and an adult conversation with these locations about what will be possible and what will not be possible. A task force of tourism, small hospitality businesses associations, transport, health care professionals and scientists and construction experts should be established

Why the contribution is important

There will be an increase in staycations and a desire from people to travel to remote and rural areas within Scotland. This needs to be thought through strategically about how this would be accomplished safely and with minimum risk to the fragile healthcare systems in these areas but balanced with the maximum opportunity for the economic development of these locations. It cannot be allowed to develop ad hoc : locals and visitors alike would have no faith in the system and would lead to local pressure points. Islanders are feeling quite secure at the moment but if tourist arrivals were to happen with no communications from Scottish Government then we risk seeing the community split with the non hospitality sector rejecting the arrivals leading to potential disharmony

by makaplan01 on May 10, 2020 at 10:59AM

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Comments

  • Posted by Mitchy May 10, 2020 at 11:15

    I feel this topic is one of divided opinion. Living in a port town in the Highlands, our town were relieved when the liners were stopped as our communities are too fragile to deal with any escalation of the virus which I fear will be the case once the liners recommence as there is potential for an additional 2500 people at the same time. That said, I do think some slow introduction to tourism should start once our numbers are controlled but this needs to be heavily monitored to ensure quarantine / social distancing is adhered to. Maybe there could be a roll for local MSPs to become champions for this given they each know their communities. Local councils could be involved to decide what actions are best with an overarching theme from Scottish Parliament.
  • Posted by JLMBD May 10, 2020 at 11:49

    There are many small communities in beautiful places in the Highlands and Islands who have been and are still free of the COVID-19. They are put at huge risk by anyone travelling from another area of Scotland or further afield. Many of them have a lot of vulnerable residents and limited resources which they want to keep for their own. Medical and social care is stretched already and the shops don't have enough to spare for floods of incomers who buy all the goods that local people need. Incomers emptying shop shelves has happened, more than once, and locals have gone without. If there is only one shop serving a community and the shopkeeper is unknowingly affected it would spread to every household in the community because there is nowhere else for people to buy their food and necessities. If a community does not want tourists, camper vans, holiday makers and second home users coming into their home area, and many don't, then they should be allowed to close the area to outsiders until there is less risk of transmission, a better treatment or a vaccine available. My parents in their 90s live in such a community and when camper vans recently turned up in the area there were tears from NHS and social care workers who are working themselves to exhaustion for the people they care for and are frightened of what could happen in their home village and to their friends and family. A negative test doesn't mean someone hasn't since picked up the virus from a shop door or fuel pump. Anyone could be asymptomatic and carry the virus. Anyone could break down or be involved in an accident needlessly infecting police officers, paramedics or recovery drivers who could then pass it on to their households and workmates. Craftworkers are successfully selling goods online. Food outlets are providing take away and delivered food for locals. If you can afford a 2nd home to let then you can afford to have it empty for now. For the moment people should not be travelling long distances to remote communities, it's irresponsible.
  • Posted by MoragP May 10, 2020 at 12:57

    I'm in a very popular tourist destination for liners and many many visitors. It's tempting for government to encourage 'staycation' holidays - it's happening in Italy - but I feel very worried about this. The campervans will be here in no time if Boris' woolly messaging continues. We have barely any immunity at the moment and will be really vulnerable to a second peak. Scotland has to have a clear, separate and calm message - that we're not open till next year. Along with this has to be support for small b and bs , often run by farms who are already finding things tough. People will want to come here precisely because it's empty, clean and quiet - but they have to be reined in until it's safe
  • Posted by SeleneH May 10, 2020 at 13:44

    This is a comment for the islands more specifically. I agree that any loosening of restrictions to allow tourism would have to be done very carefully and strategically. I know our fragile island businesses are struggling but, personally, I feel that it is too soon to be opening up these areas due to the high proportion of vulnerable groups and relatively low health care capacity to deal with such an outbreak in our communities. Ideally we would wait until the 2021 season, assuming the availability of a vaccine and some clarity over the duration of effectiveness of antibodies. Vulnerable groups and individuals should be prioritised for any vaccine if there are any availability issues once a safe, effective and validated vaccine is produced. However, if it is deemed essential, for economic reasons, that tourism traffic to the islands is to be allowed prior to the availability of a vaccine, I would suggest only allowing tourist traffic once a rapid test for antigen/virus to detect those infected with the virus (including asymptomatic carriers and prolonged shedders) has been developed and validated and is available at ferry ports. All that is easier said than done. It goes without saying that no-one who is ill or vulnerable should be travelling at all; the latter to protect our already sparse health-care capacity. For those well and safe to travel, it would mean early arrival of tourists to ports several hours before travel (assuming a rapid and highly sensitive test can be processed in that time). Travel should only be allowed on to the islands if travellers were clear of virus and on mandatory use of the contact tracing app. Those testing positive would need to travel straight back home if safe for them to travel. There would have to be regional planning in port areas to account for those who are not well enough to travel back and therefore stranded, and this would mean extra care capacity in those regions, the costs of which would have to be carefully weighed up against the benefits of opening up any tourism in the first place. I don't really think it's fair to place this extra burden on these mainland and Isle of Skye port communities, however. I would advise against air travel by tourists because of the difficulty of social distancing and the higher potential for transmission of the virus in a tight enclosed space. Air travel should continue to be preserved for essential key worker and essential health/business travel of islanders only. Any tourism should only be allowed from tourists once the UK is at a very low national prevalence of circulating virus nationally or from areas regionally certified as low prevalence; so regular cross-sectional survey blood sampling nationally is obviously necessary. There should be of course, no stopping en route in higher prevalent/higher risk areas if the UK is to take a geographical "risk-zoned" approach. Once arrived on-island, there should still be a good degree of social distancing and a gap of, say, one-week between use of accommodation premises to allow disinfection of premises and of any residual labile virus, to "die". No tourism businesses should feel pressured into re-opening and should be equally supported; many of the accommodation providers are themselves in vulnerable categories so should not be made to put themselves at risk for fear of losing out financially. The eventual production of a safe antibody test and evidence that antibodies are protective may eventually provide some peace of mind for those working in tourism, but of course only applies once they have had the virus themselves and since we are trying to avoid circulating virus on-island, that isn't very helpful in this case. All-in-all, I feel that all of these above conditions would be challenging to meet and opening in 2021 after an effective vaccine is available, as stipulated in my first paragraph, is the wisest and safest course of action. I also feel that we should put any final decision out to the islanders, in a way that avoids causing any friction in our harmonious island communities.
  • Posted by Jay32 May 10, 2020 at 16:33

    Agree with JLMBD, "A negative test doesn't mean someone hasn't since picked up the virus from a shop door or fuel pump. Anyone could be asymptomatic and carry the virus. Anyone could break down or be involved in an accident needlessly infecting police officers, paramedics or recovery drivers who could then pass it on to their households and workmates. Craftworkers are successfully selling goods online. Food outlets are providing take away and delivered food for locals. If you can afford a 2nd home to let then you can afford to have it empty for now. For the moment people should not be travelling long distances to remote communities, it's irresponsible."
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