Cau­tion urged for re­turn of tourism in Scot­land’s Western Isles

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environmen­t -

A cau­tious ap­proach is re­quired to re­open­ing the Western Isles, an is­land chain off the west coast of main­land Scot­land, to tourists as lock­down eases, some is­lan­ders have warned.

The is­lands have seen just eight con­firmed cases of COVID-19 since the out­break be­gan — the lat­est just this week, BBC re­ported.

Health chiefs have cred­ited lock­down re­stric­tions and is­lan­ders’ ad­her­ence to so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures for there be­ing so few cases.

But with tourism due to re­sume in the com­ing weeks, and stay­ca­tions ex­pected to be pop­u­lar, some in the isles are urg­ing fur­ther cau­tion in the days and weeks ahead.

In the Isle of Har­ris, weaver Re­becca Hut­ton’s Har­ris Tweed busi­ness is usu­ally “buzzing” with vis­i­tors at this time of the year.

The weaver is among those to feel the ef­fects of COVID-19’S im­pact on tourism, but she said: “I think we need to be care­ful mov­ing for­ward.

“The is­lands aren’t just a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, they are our home and our home is made up of com­mu­ni­ties of peo­ple, and a lot of those peo­ple are el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble.

“We need to pro­tect them and if that means be­ing care­ful and cau­tious about how we open up then that’s what we must do.”

She added: “My own busi­ness is go­ing to be un­doubt­edly af­fected by this and has been al­ready, but what is a place with­out its peo­ple?”

Other busi­nesses in the isles — as else­where — have been badly hit by the im­pacts of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Gre­gor Macleod runs a B&B on the west side of Lewis. He said: “We will just have to wait and see what hap­pens.

“Our big­gest prob­lem is fi­nances and get­ting through to the next sea­son. With only two rooms it’s a fine line how much money we could make.

“We’ve to re­ally think about this and see if there’s any other fund­ing that might come out in the mean­time.

“We’ve man­aged to get a grant to keep us go­ing for the next few months and it would be af­ter that is what is re­ally wor­ry­ing, and I think there are many peo­ple in the same boat as we are.”

The eco­nomic is­sues mean many tourism providers are rar­ing to go.

But up till now the health of the is­land has been pro­tected with coro­n­avirus kept at bay.

NHS Western Isles chief ex­ec­u­tive Gor­don Jamieson said this has been thanks to lock­down re­stric­tions and is­lan­ders’ “high level” of com­pli­ance to so­cial dis­tanc­ing guid­ance.

He added: “For us as a small is­land com­mu­nity and a small is­land health board then our sys­tem is pos­si­bly a bit more frag­ile.

“In terms of if we were to see a sud­den in­crease in cases then it would be quite chal­leng­ing for the health ser­vice to be able to re­spond.”

With lock­down travel re­stric­tions due to ease, many tourists and oth­ers will be pre­par­ing to make their way to the isles.

But while a warm wel­come will await them, there is also a mes­sage of cau­tion — one of the im­por­tance of com­pli­ance as the is­lands grad­u­ally open up again.

GETTY IM­AGES

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