As the tourism industry begins to open across Scotland there can be no doubt that visitors have missed heading out to our glorious mountains and hiking spots and savouring a tasty local bite to eat in our cafes and restaurants.
Lochaber Chamber of Commerce (COC), the Destination Management Organisation which works for businesses in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, has been working hard to make sure that as the reopening happens, it's supporting both businesses and the community.
Lochaber COC has adopted four key themes in managing the destination:
- Know the guidelines - we all need to understand the Scottish Government guidelines and standards.
- Plan ahead - we know what to expect, and we need to let our visitors know what they should expect.
- Show some understanding - our visitors may not be as well informed on the differences between UK and Scottish Government guidelines, and we all interpret messages differently.
- Kindness and humanity - will go al ong way. Support local businesses, welcome our visitors and treat everyone as a local while they are here.
Hear more from Frazer Coupland, CEO of Lochaber COC, on activity to support both businesses and the community as the tourism industry reopens.
Tourism really is the backbone of our economy. In the coming weeks it is likely that we will see the reawakening of our destination, and we need to learn to share again and ensure that this is done safely for residents, employees and our much-valued visitors.
Lochaber, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, is a special place and here at the Chamber, we are working closely with the business community, local marketing groups, the local authority and politicians to ensure that when the time is right, we are ready.
We need to provide our visitors with the right information and manage their expectations. Our visitors need to know which facilities are open, and we need to collectively promote positive behaviours and ensure the right structures are in place to deal with issues as they arise.
We will all have to work together to ensure that the links are in place between communities, landowners, the police and public agencies to deal with any issues that arise. I believe that we still have an opportunity to avert potential problems, and we all need to consider the impact of tourism and the pressures it places on people, culture and the environment.
All of our visitors will want to do the right thing. It is a very small minority who cut down fences, set up a barbecue on our benches or get involved in a wee bit of bother. Litter is a Scotland and UK-wide problem and we have to stamp it out; but it's not just visitors who are responsible, the perpetrators walk amongst us as well as visit the Outdoor Capital!
As your DMO, the Chamber will be working with all of our partners to make sure the message is clear to our visitors before they arrive. Together we need to get the right signage at those 'not so secret' spots and to get toilets open for everyone.
Together we should encourage active travel and understand the importance of regenerating our key hotspots. Together we want to provide reassurance to local communities that their concerns are being listened to and acted upon so we all can welcome back visitors safely and with confidence.
It is going to be different from previous summers. People may not be able to go on their usual summer holiday so we may get more day trippers. We might get more people coming to the countryside who aren’t as familiar with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and access norms. People have been in lockdown for three months and of course will want to get out and about; but all visitors must still follow the Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance.
As we move forward, we need to invest and seek investment - we can develop ourselves out of this problem, and we need to work together to bring these much-needed projects to fruition. Let’s fix the problems that we’ve been talking about for years, and at the same time, kickstart the economy.
We are looking forward to welcoming folk back at the appropriate time as lockdown eases. To our visitors, we ask you to please know the guidelines and plan ahead and to Lochaber folk please be flexible, patient and kind.