The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

‘Con­fi­dence’ key as com­mu­ni­ties re­main fear­ful

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Lo­cal fears that tourists might bring coro­n­avirus to the High­lands sparked a wave of con­cern early in lock­down as vis­i­tors con­tin­ued to head north.

Signs bear­ing the mes­sage “Tourists go home” ap­peared along the NC500, in car parks and at vil­lage en­trances.

Around 30 camper­vans were turned away from the Nevis Range Cen­tre in Fort Wil­liam and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment was moved to warn: “Do not travel to the High­lands and is­lands.”

Frazer Cou­p­land, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lochaber Cham­ber of Com­merce, said el­e­ments of fear and hos­til­ity re­main as busi­nesses pre­pare for re­open­ing.

He said: “A cab driver stopped and took a video of some clearly non-lo­cal peo­ple go­ing into a guest house and put it all over so­cial me­dia.

“What the cab driver did wasn’t ac­cept­able. Whether the guest house or the guests were right or wrong, that’s not up for vig­i­lantes in our com­mu­nity to de­cide.

“We haven’t had the virus in Lochaber but see­ing the hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence of Skye, peo­ple know how easy it would be for it to ar­rive.”

Mr Cou­p­land and oth­ers are keen to en­sure sup­port and ad­vice is there so places can re­open with con­fi­dence af­ter lock­down. High­land MSP Kate Forbes said: “It is in­cum­bent on lo­cal busi­nesses and lo­cal res­i­dents to en­gage so that fears and con­cerns can be dis­cussed and mit­i­gated.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of the High­land econ­omy and we said at the out­set we would wel­come vis­i­tors back when the time was right.”

Trudy Mor­ris, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Caith­ness Cham­ber of Com­merce, says con­fi­dence is the key to suc­cess­ful re­open­ing.

“There is con­sid­er­able angst in the com­mu­nity be­cause there is low risk of Covid-19 at the mo­ment.

“Con­fi­dence needs to be given to keep the High­lands open, friendly and wel­com­ing.”

That is es­sen­tial to pre­serve the fa­mous High­land wel­come, says Caith­ness coun­cil­lor Struan Mackie.

“Vig­i­lante-style hos­til­ity will do noth­ing but dam­age the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor and the hun­dreds of small busi­nesses that rely on re­peat cus­tomers and pos­i­tive re­view for their liveli­hoods,” he said.

“For many vis­i­tors it is our High­land wel­come and friendly hos­pi­tal­ity that sets the High­lands apart, but the ex­cel­lent strides to bet­ter our tourist of­fer­ing can be eas­ily un­done.”

David Richard­son of FSB High­lands and Is­lands said no mat­ter what hap­pens, every­one must re­spect the dan­gers Covid-19 can pose.

 ??  ?? A sign painted on the side of a road in Lochaber, near Glen­coe, ear­lier in lock­down
A sign painted on the side of a road in Lochaber, near Glen­coe, ear­lier in lock­down

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