More than two thirds of tourism firms on the iconic North Coast 500 (NC500) are set to re-open as soon as the go-ahead is given by the Scottish Government, according to a new business survey.
A further 18 per cent of respondents hope to re-open in 2021.
Nearly 200 tourism businesses from across Inverness-shire, the Black Isle, Easter Ross, Wester Ross, Sutherland and Caithness responded to the NC500 survey between 14th and 26th May.
Accommodation providers, food and drink outlets, retail operators, outdoor and visitor attractions are hopeful for a “staycation boom” before the end of the summer.
The NC500 tourist trail, which will mark its fifth anniversary this summer, was last year estimated to have boosted the economy by £22.89 million and created around 179 full-time jobs.
New ways of operating
Many businesses are planning ways to tackle social distancing hurdles to help guarantee public safety, and reassure local residents, including:
Contact-free check-in and payment In-room dining PPE for all staff A Safe Tourism Charter developed with local people
“Our main hope for the future is that we stay safe”
Quinton Stevens, a business owner in Dingwall, said: “Life is unquestionably different on our section of the North Coast 500.
“Business as we have known it for the last 15 years has stopped and we have rapidly re-invented ourselves to continue trading and employing.
“The NC500 not only has been a fantastic support mechanism for all businesses across the highlands but they have made it their business to support us individually, delivering opportunities, information and trade.
“Our main hope for the future is that we stay safe, look after each other and create a new normal which delivers stability, economic growth and most importantly happiness amongst us all.
“Every business on the NC500 now has an opportunity to review and re-model itself to meet the expectations of visitors after lockdown. We should take this positively and react accordingly. Never before have we been given this chance.”
“International tourism shredded”
Tom Campbell, Chairman of NC500, reacted to the survey results, saying: “It’s clear from the NC500 Covid-19 business impact survey results that the majority of our members want to see a cautious re-opening of North Highland tourism this summer and are looking forward to welcoming back visitors from across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“With international tourism shredded and the thoughts of many turning to post-lockdown travel, there is every likelihood more Scots than ever before may well follow the lead of tens of thousands of visitors who have already explored the 516-mile route.
“Seismic change in how Scots and other UK nations holiday as a result of Covid-19 could result in a staycation boom, helping to ensure the success of the NC500, businesses and communities along the route continues through difficult times.
“We’re expecting to see more UK visitors heading to Scotland and driving and cycling will be the way people will want to take their holidays.
“As we all begin to think about what life might look like beyond the coronavirus pandemic, we know that the stunning natural landscape of NC500 remains reassuringly unchanged and will continue to inspire people from around Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond when it’s safe travel.”
For more information about the North Coast 500, visit www.northcoast500.com
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