The COVID-19 pandemic has meant big changes in the way businesses are working. In the Highlands, tourism businesses from three separate glens have joined forces to support their local communities – and each other.
The 3 Glens Reopening Group - which incorporates the Great Glen, Glen Garry and Glen Moriston - was created around nine weeks ago and now has almost 80 businesses signed up.
The group has been successful in securing £5,000 in funding to buy community-based hand sanitiser units and they have also investigated the possibility of buying a shared community PPE kit, including masks, gloves and overalls.
A Charter has been developed as well as a logo and online banner. This provides unity and a clear message in the approach of the businesses working together.
We're collaborating to project positivity, share information and support each other. Our aim is for local businesses to work together to keep our communities and visitors safe.
The businesses aren't asking for direct input from the community as such because we feel that if we're confident, caring and responsible, it will have a positive impact going forward. We respect the local community and hopefully they respect us as business owners to do our best. We're confident that we'll do just that to help protect them in the coming months and years as tourism grows.
It's important for us to communicate to the community what we're doing, so we've been updating them on our progress via a fortnightly newsletter that has been delivered to around 900 households in the three glens.
We're looking at this situation as an opportunity to raise quality, standards and the customer experience as well as increasing collaboration between businesses and the community. This isn't going to be a quick fix but a long-term approach.
The next step is to discuss the opportunity of sharing staff, as there's a concern that some of us may struggle during this short season with sporadic business and not enough staff to plug any busy spells.
Whatever the downsides of COVID-19, the situation has certainly brought the community together. I'm proud to be a part of a business community that's honest and is working together to openly share fears and concerns but also lend support with sharing of information, whether that's HR, checklists, risk assessments, ideas and expertise.
The support is available for every business in the three glens – from the small tea shop to the campsite, hotel, hostel and café – whether they employ 200 people or just themselves – it's all-inclusive with the aim of working together to get through this in a positive way, look to the future and promote responsible tourism.
Our focus is on generating a longer stay, extending the season and promoting activities over the winter period and the community plays an important part in the warm welcome our visitors receive when they are here, so it’s really important that we get this right.