Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba

Moment for change | Working with communities

As lockdown restrictions gradually begin to ease in Scotland, community engagement is vital if we are to successfully navigate our way through the COVID-19 crisis with positivity for the future. The need to listen – to tourism businesses and the voices from the communities in which they exist – has never been greater, to ensure we strike the right balance.

It’s natural for there to be some anxiety about welcoming visitors across Scotland, but this must be weighed up against a tourism industry, which is in a desperate situation and needs to get business back on track. We must have a collective response which starts in local areas and our regional teams will help facilitate these discussions.

People come to Scotland because of the friendliness of our people.  A warm Scottish welcome is crucial, it’s one of the top reasons for visiting, and Scots are proud of opening their arms to visitors.

Read our Chief Executive Malcolm's full thoughts within his LinkedIn blog.

Case studies

The priority now is to reset tourism in a responsible way; to work with communities to ensure that visitors and locals can both have a fantastic experience, with enough resources for both.

These conversations are already happening. Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) are looking at ways to support not just their members, but also the local communities in which these tourism businesses exist.

Here are some examples:

  • Dornoch Sands

    Dornoch Area Community Interest Company / Visit Dornoch

    Dornoch Area Community Interest Company (DACIC) work for the benefit of the community in Dornoch providing information and support. DACIC manages the Visit Dornoch website for visitors offering an important link between tourism businesses and residents. They've taken a proactive approach to working with the local community including a resident survey and visitor charter.

  • Dunkeld

    Dunkeld and Birnam Tourist Association

    Dunkeld & Birnam Tourism Association is a network of businesses who provide facilities and activities for visitors to the area. In conjunction with the local business group, and the Community Council, they've produced clear advice for visitors to help keep the community which they love visiting safe. 

  • Falkirk Community Trust

    Falkirk Community Trust

    Falkirk Community Trust is one of the major tourism bodies in the Forth Valley region. The Trust is working closely with local people to support them throughout the coronavirus crisis whilst also beginning to develop plans in conjunction with the community, looking ahead to when Falkirk and its surrounding areas are open to visitors.

  • St Abbs, featured within the See South Scotland film

    Midlothian and Borders Tourism Action Group (MBTAG)

    Destination Marketing Organisations want to provide warm and welcoming experiences to visitors, when it is safe to do so, as well as protect the communities and people working in the industry. Discover how MBTAG has developed an approach with effective communication at its core and kept communication channels open throughout the crisis.

  • Portree, Skye

    Skye Connect

    The need to listen – to tourism businesses and the voices from the communities in which they exist – has never been greater, to ensure we strike the right balance. Find out how Skye Connect are consulting with local residents to gauge the community’s feelings, fears, attitudes and opinions on how we can ‘reset’ tourism, to allow communities and visitors to live in harmony as we begin to safely welcome tourists again.

  • Meall a Bhuachaille, the Cairngorms National Park

    Visit Cairngorms

    DMOs are ideally positioned to both engage with and support their local communities. One such DMO, which is also the Chamber of Commerce for the Cairngorms National Park, is Visit Cairngorms. Hear how they have been undertaking widespread community consultation, working with a range of stakeholders, including the Cairngorms National Park Authority.


  • Stay safe in St Andrews

    Tourism St Andrews | Stay Safe St Andrews

    As tourism businesses across Scotland prepare to re-open in the coming weeks, they are also facing the challenge of balancing the needs of attracting visitors, with those of local communities. Find out about how Tourism St Andrews has adopted a trailblazing initiative to safely welcome tourists back to the popular coastal town.


Measures of reassurance

It's vital communities feel comfortable with tourism again – they need to love it and to own it – because the benefits tourism brings is immense and crucial to the sustainability of many communities. There are several measures to help give reassurance:

  • Clear guidance to allow for tourism businesses to open in a safe and responsible manner and ensure the wellbeing of staff and visitors.  The tourism industry is taking a responsible attitude to ensuring opening is done in a safe way. Take a look at Get Tourism Ready.
  • The recovery of tourism will come in a phased and gradual approach and won’t happen until we can start to balance supply and demand. We’ll be working with businesses to ensure visitors can access information on what stage they’ll be able to take a local trip or explore further on
  • We won’t be marketing areas until confidence has returned and the science says it’s time to welcome back visitors. Our marketing activity gives further reassurance with holidaying locally a big part of it. Take a look at our strategy.

Tourism is a force for good, providing economic benefits, jobs, and is an integral part of the community – helping to combat depopulation and creating a feeling of wellbeing across Scotland.

The ripple effect of tourism is felt across lots of non-tourism businesses from the local butcher supplying meat to a hotel to the local florist providing table settings for an event.

Building trust, recovering communities – the role of tourism

Our Senior Insight Manager Chris Greenwood looks at the community impact of tourism and points to some of the best practice coming from other countries.

The trends are becoming clearer and are evolving from signals observed over the past few years. The new normal post COVID-19 will find consumers seeking travel with purpose.  Visitors want to support a tourism industry that support communities.

This may be through volunteer tourism at one extreme and visitors demonstrating their commitments to travel impact through their actions such as rewilding initiatives or sustainable travel choices through to recognition of operators preferences to local suppliers, collaborative activities within destinations which encourage longer stays, higher value but lower volume experiences.

It is clear that while we all adapt to the world today and the unprecedented changes we have witnessed, care will be the new service standard and operators and destinations will need to behave as responsible members of society demonstrating care for people in general, not just their own customers.

Read the full blog.