Highlands and islands tourist business leaders have demanded urged action from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to save their businesses.
An open letter to the First Minister is signed by 75 tourism and hospitality leaders from across the North Highlands, North Coast 500 tourist route, Argyll and the Isle of Skye.
It calls on the Scottish Government to set out a clear, comprehensive and transparent plan including timelines, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the diverse tourism industry.
It should provide “ongoing financial support that recognises the difficulty of bridging the winter fallow period.”
In the letter, the signatories said: “We firmly believe the Highlands will once more become a much sought after holiday destination. In fact, demand might ultimately grow above previous levels. “However, the challenge ahead for many of us is to survive the short to medium term. The absolute imperative is to protect lives from the immediate danger of the virus.”
But it urged that Ministers “take a positive lead to help allay the understandable anxieties within our communities about the prospect of tourists returning once more.”
It also calls on the Scottish Government to “balance both the short- and long-term impacts when evaluating the risks.
Unless there is clear scientific evidence to suggest otherwise, to unlock the Highlands in alignment with the rest of Scotland, ideally the rest of the UK.
David Whiteford OBE, chair of the North Highland Initiative and Tanja Lister from The Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland are leading the group which represents more than 1,200 full time equivalent seasonal and permanent jobs.
The letter also said: “The difference between re-opening in July or September could likely be the determining factor in the survival of our industry, its suppliers and producers here.
“As we learn more about the current nature of customer demand and the appetite for a ‘staycation’, our industry will need continued financial support from the government whilst we navigate the short to medium term.
“Ongoing furlough, with phasing, may need to be reviewed again as we progress. Access to grants and loans will be key as we move into 2021.”