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.

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.

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. 
  • 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've launched a responsible tourism campaign to address some of the issues seen as a result of a new, home grown audience of visitors discovering and enjoying Scotland’s countryside will call on people to respect, protect and enjoy Scotland. #RespectProtectEnjoy

Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the well-being of everyone who experiences it. Tourism makes Scotland richer, economically and socially, and without it Scotland would be a much poorer place.

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.

Community sessions | April 2021

We are undertaking a programme of regional round tables which complements our ongoing activity with local community groups, councils, and businesses.

The sessions, taking place virtually across the country, have been devised to facilitate discussions with key partners, share plans and activities and to provide reassurances around the restart of tourism.

We’re listening to attendees to hear the views on the ground, while sharing information including our marketing plans, the We’re Good to Go scheme and our visitor management activity.

We're also highlighting our responsible approach that takes into account experiences and learnings from last year – including our recently launched responsible tourism campaign, encouraging people to follow the outdoor access code and be respectful of communities when travelling. 

Community engagement

In addition to our own work with communities, there are excellent initiatives taking place across the country which we are involved in as part of our partnership approach.

Regionally collaborative approaches including DMOs (Destination Management Organisations), councils, businesses and communities, are helping with preparations and reassurance ahead of reopening, many with a particular focus on visitor management.

They are looking at ways to support not just their members / businesses, but also the local communities in which these tourism businesses exist.

Here are some examples of what happened prior to reopening in June last year.

Case studies

  • 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 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 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.

  • Islay Community Recovery Group

    The effects of the devastating Coronavirus pandemic have been far reaching and even places where there have been no confirmed cases, the impact is being felt. 

    Find out how the Islay Community Recovery Group has been set up to address the challenges posed by the pandemic. Many aspects of life are represented on the group from churches, education, health, transport, landowners, fishing, farming and of course tourism. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 3 Glens Reopening Group

    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. Find out how the 3 Glens Reopening Group have pulled together to "project positivity, share information and support each other". 

Building trust, recovering communities – the role of tourism

In June 2020, our Senior Insight Manager Chris Greenwood looked at the community impact of tourism and pointed to some of the best practice coming from other countries. Some of which is still relevant today.

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.