Tourism businesses call for industry to 'stop berating' domestic visitors

An award-winning hospitality business owner has called on her peers to stop the “moaning and berating” of post-lockdown visitors to Scotland’s holiday areas, saying that have a “unique opportunity” to sell Scotland to a new domestic market.

Sandy Fraser, owner of the Oak Tree Inn and village shop in Balmaha in Loch Lomond, said he did not blame most tourists to the area for waste problems
Sandy Fraser, owner of the Oak Tree Inn and village shop in Balmaha in Loch Lomond, said he did not blame most tourists to the area for waste problems

Sarah Heward, the co-owner of The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, said there had been too much focus on littering, irresponsible parking, dangerous driving, motorbike riding, and ‘dirty camping’ and urged the sector to unite to embrace the opportunity of resurrecting Scotland’s tourism industry.

She said that businesses, as well as government organisations, needed to look to the future optimistically to ensure the survival of the Scottish tourism sector.

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She said: “Almost all visitors to Scotland are domestic tourists just now. It’s an amazing opportunity because more people than ever from the UK are booking a staycation or going on an impromptu magical mystery tour around their own country. For many, it’s likely this is something new.

“But this, in turn, has led to a lot of negative coverage in the press and on social media about littering, irresponsible parking, dangerous driving, motorbike riding, as well as ‘dirty camping’ and too many motorhomes and campervans.“I am already very weary of the moaning and berating of these visitors – and instead I am choosing to see opportunities not negativity. I’d like to encourage more people, businesses and groups to unite to get on the front foot to show the UK and the world what we can do to fulfil the goal of becoming a world leader in 21st century tourism by 2030.”She added: “I think we have a unique opportunity right now to ‘sell’ Scotland to a new domestic market – and to capitalise on this looking ahead to be a world tourism leader.”Ms Heward, who owns The Real Food Cafe with her husband Alan McColm and won the Best Informal Dining Experience at the Thistle Awards this year, believes that Scotland needs immediate government investment, such as to support an increase in countryside rangers and mountain rescue services, more bins and litter pickers, adequate public toilets and parking, as well as more tourism hosts and guides to help people make the most of their stay.She said: “As things stand, it’s down to the hospitality business owners and well-meaning members of community councils, destination groups and similar bodies to do what they can to manage the rapidly changing and busy situation as safely as possible.”Sandy Fraser, owner of the Oak Tree Inn and village shop in Balmaha in Loch Lomond, said he did not blame most tourists to the area for waste problems, pointing out that the area was lacking in quality car parking and bins, leaving visitors with no choice but to ditch their rubbish.He said: “We have a dmonestic size bin in a village which is popular with tourists, so it gets full and people leave their litter around it in a neat pile - then it is spread by birds or foxes. We are just not meeting visitors’ expectations. It is such a tragedy, because there are solutions, but we’re not embracing them.”He said: “This is not a Covid-19 problem, that has just brought it to the surface. This needs to be dealt with at a national level.”The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) set out a goal to make Scotland a “world leader in 21st century tourism by 2030” just weeks before the country went into lockdown, devastating the tourism and hospitality industry.Marc Crothall, chief executive of the STA, said: “Scotland’s tourism industry is open for business again and it’s more important than ever that the message that all are welcome here is not only heard but felt by anyone looking to explore Scotland.“Tourism is one of the most important economic drivers for our country. Thousands of jobs depend upon it and our sector needs long-term government support to navigate our way out of the crisis and ensure that we can rebuild a sustainable tourism product and one day deliver our tourism strategy vision of being the world leaders in 21st century tourism.”Politicians including Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser and Kenny MacAskill have spoken out about the problems faced by people living in the countrysideSNP MP MacAskill warned that “the infrastructure isn’t there” for wild camping where tourists dump litter and in some cases entire tents, while both called for enforcement of laws which prohibit people from littering the countryside.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully acknowledge the vital role tourism has for our economy, particularly in rural areas, and the significant impact COVID-19 has had on this key sector.

“We are determined to support the recovery of tourism, through our business support in excess of £2.3 billion. But we have also brought together representatives from across the industry, including the Scottish Tourism Alliance, as part of our Tourism Recovery Taskforce, to take a strategic approach to supporting the sector in its recovery, including stimulating consumer demand and investment, such as infrastructure.

“The Taskforce’s recommendations should be published in September.”

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