It’s been over seven weeks since the reopening date (15 July) was set for tourism businesses across the country. With markers and signage displayed throughout venues, data collection measures and new hygiene procedures being put in place, the sector has been working hard to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of their staff, customers and communities are at the heart of what they do.
Our Regional Director for the Forth Valley, Neil Christison, has been working alongside local authority partners and tourism groups to help put recovery plans in place. And our Industry Relationship Managers - James Sinclair and Lynsey Eckford have been at the end of a phone call or virtually meeting businesses from across Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk to find out about the challenges that lie ahead for the sector and crucially, to provide support.
From left to right - Neil Christison - Regional Director, Lynsey Eckford - Industry Relationship Manager and James Sinclair - Industry Relationship Manager.
We’ve pulled together an update focusing on some of the innovative or otherwise inspirational approaches taken in the last few weeks by businesses towards the challenges of reopening in a changed tourism landscape.
As a result of COVID-19 some businesses have had to completely adapt their business model, particularly the events sector which has been hit hard. Our £6 million Events Support Fund went live recently to provide financial help to the events industry, especially those in the supply chain. There’s been a huge response so far, and it’s fair to say that the sector is eager for the support.
In Stirling, social enterprise – Ceangail – who has been delivering the Stirling Highland Games for the last six years, had to completely pull apart trusty operating manuals, taking a new virtual approach to delivering, what would have been their seventh Highland Games. Not to be stopped, the games went ahead, albeit virtually. Streamed across Facebook and YouTube, visitors who tuned in were given a flavour of what they might expect from a trip to Stirling and the Highland Games, in the future, when it’s safe to do so. With a successful outcome, Ceangail are now preparing their next virtual event - the Frontline Festival Scotland, taking place on St Andrews Day, this year.
Proving to be popular – and almost booked to capacity - Braveheart Live 2020, also took to the screen, hosted virtually. Taking place last week (3 September) and suitably run by the National Wallace Monument, this online event continued to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the European premiere of Braveheart, providing an insight to Sir William Wallace and the film which brought his story to life to audiences worldwide.
From the screen to the... restaurant. Local restaurant owner of Real Food Café, Sarah Heward, and her team have been busy communicating with their customers about what their visitors can expect when visiting the restaurant, whether that’s for food to takeaway or a sit-in experience. They’ve created a short video showing a friendly member of their team, providing much needed reassurance to visitors through a whistle-stop tour of the enhancements the team have in place to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.
As we near the end of the summer season with a busy report from our iCentres team from Stirling there’s a positive sentiment as we head into the autumn, with Halloween not long away. And just in time for this spooky holiday, Falkirk welcomes a brand new and one of a kind attraction - the School of Witchcraft and Potions. From spells, to wand movements and potion making, this new experience, which is said to be the first in the UK, provides another reason for visitors to come and experience the magic of the area.
Local communities coming together has been a lifeline for many as we brave this global pandemic. The good will of neighbours, friends and local communities has been inspiring so far. It’s that goodwill that local attraction Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway - hugely popular with families each year on their winter trip to visit Santa – has witnessed following an Emergency Landslide Appeal to repair damage caused by severe thunderstorms last month. The repair needed is not something that can be done by the Society’s volunteers who make up a huge majority of their workforce, but the response so far has been overwhelming, with their target amount surpassed!
Volunteering plays a crucial role for many businesses across Scotland.
The Japanese Garden in Clackmannanshire employs many volunteers who help care for the moss, rake the gravel into patterns in the dry garden and keep up with the ongoing weeding. Their help means that even in these trying times the garden is as beautiful as ever, and a place of zen and calm for visitors to enjoy.
This pandemic has no doubt had a devasting impact on the tourism and events industry, but as a country, the people and their businesses have come through, though we still have some way to go to get back on track.
We’ve put all our efforts into responding to the unprecedented challenges faced by our sector, take a look at our Moment for Change programme, which provides information, advice and support for tourism businesses.