Support to help rural communities reopen tourism in a safe way

Support to help rural (and other) communities reopen tourism in as a safe a way as possible for the communities, workers and visitors.

Tourism needs to be able to start again before a vaccine is developed if the many business small and large are to survive and thousands are not going to be out of work and lose their homes and negatively their physical and mental health due stress and poverty.

Tourism underpins many rural communities and is essential if these communities are not to fail when lock down is lifted. However when the Government decides it is time for hotels, B&B’s, Self Catering, restaurants, bars etc etc to reopen, many may not.

Not because they are not desperate to, they are, but because they are worried about any back lash they may experience from the local community.
Business are also fearful too, fretful for their families if they clean/ manage accommodation - will they get the virus and bring it home to their loved ones?

Tourist’s, in the main, are not selfish, virus carriers who are coming to infect the rural communities without a care other than their own pleasure. Hospitality, accommodation, activity providers/guides, restaurants, bars owners, shops are not selfish people putting profit over lives.

The very legitimate concerns of rural communities need to be addressed as part of the relaxation of lock down. As clear as the ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ message has been an equally clear, unequivocal message needs to given ( repeated and repeated) at the same time as the relaxation. This message needs to give confidence to the members of the community who are fearful that they are still going to be protected during the lifting of restrictions.

There are many fears but some of the key ones are

*Tourists will bring the virus
*Rural areas will be overrun by second home owners, camper vans, and motorhomes trying to isolate.
*There are either no hospitals in the local area or a very small rural hospital which would be overrun
*There is only one ambulance for a large geographical area
*The small rural shops could not service the local shielding community and visitors
*We have an elderly demographic
*They manage change overs/ house keeping and don’t want to clean for fear of bringing the virus home but need the work. (putting pressure on business to stay closed)

Any support to overcome these issues will need money and probably quite a lot. However it will be far less than the expenditure needed to support families and individuals who lose their business, or job (due to business closure), home etc. Who suffer ill health due to stress and impoverishment, who cannot pay any taxes because they are not earning. Who leave the rural communities to seek work in the urban centres ( a depopulation of skills and vitality).

Some possible suggestions could be - clear rhetoric that the community is not being abandoned, spelling out exactly the practical steps that are being taken.

Protect the vulnerable - a continuation of what is happening currently - organised by the local community councils, charities etc but funded by the government.

*Shielding for the vulnerable should continue until there is a treatment that helps recovery or a vaccine ( however long this takes).
*People should be able self declare they are vulnerable.
*Shielding people should get food and support to pay household bills

Medical support: - provide comfort and reassurance
*Dedicated rural mobile testing units with a guaranteed fast turnaround of results.
*Additional temporary medical staff based within or a short (30 mins) drive away from rural medical centres)
*Additional ambulances base within rural communities.
*Mental health support for the shielding

Tourism Businesses: clarity/ Guidance / communication
*Government makes it mandatory that all travellers ( tourist or business or visiting families) self declare they are clear of covid 19 systems prior to travelling. Accommodation providers could hold the on file ( it’s not a name and shame but to make people ‘think’). If anyone develops the system 14- 0 days prior to arrival they are expected to cancel. Accommodation providers should contact the guests the day prior to arrival to check they are still symptom free and should be able to refuse a guest on arrival if they show symptoms without fear of repercussions via small claim courts etc.
*Potentially ( for a specified limited time) a restriction on ‘non- booked stays’ e.g. mobile homes/ campervans/ wild campers. Only accommodation that can be prebooked and details of the who is staying could open - this could include campsites etc where motorhomes/ camper vans & campers (tents) can book to park and stay and still therefore go on holiday. Whilst this goes against Scotlands right to roam, as long as it is a for a specified short term (e.g. 2020 season) most would be prepared to voluntarily give up their right to park up/ camp freely in return for the ability to re-open the rural areas and enjoy the great outdoors (but stay on a site).
*Shops and services declare if they are able to cope with visitor and local trade. Accommodation providers direct guests only to the business who declare they are open to visitors.
*Government provide clear guidance to how accommodation etc should cleaned between stays, clear guidance to protect the guest but equally the person cleaning. This needs to be sensible and pragmatic - hospitals do not leave beds fallow for 72 hours between guests. A rigorous and appropriate cleaning regime using virucidal cleaners commonly touched surfaces etc should be possible. If business had to close accommodation for days (without any scientific/ medical justification) between guests many would fail ( defeats the purpose of reopening). Appropriate guidance on PPE for cleaners etc that will both protect the worker but not take resource from the medical communities.
*The same for restaurants - how to clean the tables, etc etc safely. All of this should be within the social distancing protocols that the government need to layout ( if they are to be changed from 2m).

Why the contribution is important

Most importantly these messages of comfort, reassurance, clarity and guidance should be communicated via the government but feed through the local community councils, support groups, charities, etc etc. They should be communicated before the lockdown starts to be lifted to start the process of reassurance - it is to be expected that some (locked in fear) will resist any relaxation and they need to helped to come to terms with the fact that lock down is going to end.

Rural communities can successfully re-open both protecting their communities and also providing desperately needed jobs and incomes for the many, it just takes thought, communication, support and a bit of time.

by livingin_hope on May 11, 2020 at 07:24PM

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  • Posted by MatthewSlack May 11, 2020 at 20:32

    There is going to be a fundamental choice to be made, and different parts of the country might wish to make different choices: either leave the 'tourist tap' turned off until there is a vaccine, or learn how to safely live / work / carry on a business alongside low levels of the virus.

    It remains to be seen if community wishes for the first option will be supported by the Scottish Government, let alone by the UK government, or whether there will in effect be a requirement on all areas to adopt the second.

    I hope each area get what it wants, but my feeling is that the second option is highly likely, so getting ready for that would be a good use of the present enforced downtime.
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