Pictured: David Whiteford, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, Creator of North Coast 500 and Tanja Lister from The Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland.
David Whiteford, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, Creator of North Coast 500, said:
“After many weeks of lobbying the Scottish Government to provide more clarity on a timeframe for reopening the tourism sector this summer, the North Highland Initiative welcomes the conditional reopening date of the 15th July announced by Fergus Ewing earlier this week.
“The date along with the announcement that sectoral guidelines will be released on the 18th June gives tourism and hospitality businesses in the North Highlands a workable target to plan and adapt their premises so that they can be in a position to provide visitors with a hearty but safe welcome.
“Given this reopening date, we believe that it is now essential that the Scottish Government adopts more nuanced messaging to ease anxieties across the country – especially in Highlands.
“The ‘stay home and save lives’ message has been very effective, but for many people, especially those living in more remote and rural communities, there is a fear that changing this behaviour may pose a risk to public health and wellbeing.
“Our famous ‘Highland Welcome’ is at risk of becoming tarnished, affecting tourism long term, so we now need the Scottish Government to implement a national and local campaigns to allay anxiety amongst local Highland communities and deliver a positive, uplifting message as we take safe, measured steps to emerge from lockdown.
“We also urgently need to review the appropriateness of the two-metre social distancing guidelines in hospitality settings.
“For many businesses it will not be possible to reopen if it is not reduced.
“We need to look at what other countries have done with social distancing by reducing it from two metres to one metre.
“It’s the only way that many tourism and hospitality businesses will be viable.
“We’d also like to see the Scottish Government working with Westminster to remove VAT completely for one year and then raise to a 50 per cent level, as we