More than half of Scots want to holiday in the Highlands this year

More than half of all Scots want to head for the Highlands once lockdown restrictions are lifted – according to a survey which found the first wave of staycation travellers want to shun public transport in favour of their own car, avoid busy locations, cut backing on eating out and opt for self-catering accommodation and camping instead of hotels and guest houses.

View of Loch Maree from Glen Doherty - part of the North Coast 500 scenic route around the north coast of Scotland. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The first major survey of public attitudes in Scotland towards post-lockdown holidays has revealed that the domestic tourism market could be transformed by a surge in the number of people holidaying at home this year.

Just 11 per cent of Scots said they would be too “scared” or “nervous” to go on holiday anywhere when lockdown restrictions ease.

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However, most Scots say they are planing to head for the countryside and beaches close to their homes rather than try to go abroad.

Just 5 per cent of Scots say their choice of accommodation for a holiday would remain the same as it was before lockdown.

Researchers say the findings show Scottish tourism will return to “a new world of attitudes and choices” over staycation breaks when businesses are allowed to reopen.

They have warned that “honeypot” sites in the Highlands and Islands, as well as some parts of the south of Scotland, face being “overwhelmed” with visitors without “careful management” measures.

According to the research, 53 per cent of Scots want to head to locations like the Isle of Skye, Aviemore, Fort William, Inverness and the North Coast 500 route. In contrast just 18 per cent said they wanted to head to Edinburgh for a short break.

The findings of the survey, conducted by Edinburgh-based research company 56 Degree Insight, have emerged days after national tourism agency VisitScotland raised concerns that some rural communities will feel “under threat” and that infrastructure will struggle to cope with a sudden surge of visitors.

Around 500 Scots were surveyed this month on where they are planning to go once the lockdown restrictions are eased and they key factors they will take into account when making their plans.

According to the survey, a third of Scots are more likely to want to stay in self-catering accommodation or take their own caravan or tent with them, while 23 per cent said they would be more likely to stay with relatives during a break.

A quarter said they would be less likely to stay in a large hotel, with one in five planning to avoid B&Bs.

The survey found 38 per cent of Scots wanted to head to the “natural outdoors” as soon as they can, with one in three seeking outdoor activities such as hill-walking or mountain biking, and day trips more of an initial priority than overnight stays.

However, more than a third of respondents said they would be less likely to want to eat out on holiday in Scotland, while one in three said they would be less keen to “meet and mix with locals”.

Despite these findings, price and value for money are rated more important factors in deciding on a post-lockdown holiday than hygiene and cleanliness.

The research states: “The pandemic has caused Scots to think long and hard about their future travel and the holidays they’ll be seeking when restrictions begin to ease.

“When lockdown restrictions are eased sufficiently to make holidays and breaks a possibility again, for most Scots, the initial desire will be to stay close to home with diminishing appeal to travel further afield.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of Visit-Scotland, said: “It is to be expected that during such uncertain and unprecedented times people’s attitudes to travel change.

“We want to work with communities to ensure that visitors and locals can both have a fantastic experience. Our natural resources are hugely important to communities and visitors alike and should be protected.

“However, it’s important we don’t put off potential visitors and remain open and welcoming – as long as the science and rules on social distancing allow it.”

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