Dornoch Area Community Interest Company (DACIC) work for the benefit of the community in Dornoch providing information and support. DACIC also manage the Visit Dornoch website, which is for visitors, and offer an important link between tourism businesses and residents.
Whilst we move toward recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, there are concerns the length of the country about the effects that lockdown easing will have on communities.
In Dornoch, a third of the resident population is aged over 65, so there are understandable fears around the possibility of the virus returning within this particularly vulnerable community.
However, tourism is also a vitally important industry in Dornoch as many businesses and livelihoods depend on the visitor economy, with much of their income generated during the summer season. As such, DACIC have taken a proactive approach to working with the local community through the current crisis.
On publication of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Route map, they ran a survey to understand how people felt about the different phases, including questions about the return of visitors. This is now informing plans for when tourism begins to return to the area, to ensure a safe, responsible approach whilst not losing the benefits tourism can bring.
Feedback from the resident survey showed that some people in the community have concerns about the spread of the virus if visitors come from elsewhere, but others have concerns about a loss of tourism impacting on local businesses and jobs. Some people fear both scenarios, so the need to balance restarting the visitor economy without overwhelming the destination or risking spread of the virus is going to be key.
Although some local respondents feared the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, they also said that ensuring hygiene and physical distancing rules are adhered to by everyone could help alleviate concerns.
In order to balance the needs of the local population, one of the specific actions suggested was a ‘Visitor Charter’. DACIC have worked to create this as a practical resource, for all tourism businesses to use and share with their visitors. It will also be published on their social media channels and Visit Dornoch website.
The Charter includes a promise on the behalf of both businesses and visitors to play their part in protecting one another. Businesses will implement a safe hygiene policy, provide hand sanitiser, and limit numbers in each outlet to enable physical distancing. This puts a joint onus on people to be responsible and makes the guidance very clear for visitors. At this stage in draft form, it is hoped it will be approved by the board of DACIC very soon.
With this collaborative approach, hopefully tourism can return to Dornoch in a manner which is sympathetic to everyone in the community; achieving a balance and offering a safe place for visitors and residents alike. And whilst new measures will be in place when tourism returns, the warmth of the welcome will still be there for those who choose to holiday in the area.