Highland Business Leaders Step Up Plea to First Minister

Pictured: David Whiteford OBE, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, and Tanja Lister from The Kylesku Hotel.

Some of the biggest names in tourism and hospitality across the North Highlands, North Coast 500, Argyll and the Isle of Skye are stepping up their campaign for urgent action from the First Minister to help reopen businesses this summer, protect the industry and save jobs, before it is too late.

Coordinated by David Whiteford OBE, Chair of the North Highland Initiative, and Tanja Lister from The Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland, 75 tourism and hospitality business leaders have once again written to the First Minister today (Friday 29th May), demanding:

Clarity on timelines for reopening businesses of all types

Workable social distancing protocols for tourism and hospitality venues

The group represents over 1,200 full time equivalent seasonal and permanent jobs.

8 destination management and business associations have also responded, who represent over 1,100 businesses in the North Highlands between them.

Tourism spend in the Highlands alone is worth over £1 billion a year, which represents more than 10% of business share.

It creates more than 15,700 jobs.

Tourism and hospitality have been hit very hard by the lockdown, perhaps nowhere more so than in the Highlands, with its tiny, highly dispersed population, fragile communities and short season.

There have been calls to extend the lockdown in the Highlands for longer, beyond the rest of Scotland or UK.

Given the timing and realities of the situation, this could be ruinous.

If businesses cannot open until the autumn then, given the short season, it will be less viable for those that are seasonal to reopen until next year, meaning many will have been shut for 18 months.

The difference between re-opening in July or September could likely be the determining factor in the survival of the industry, its suppliers and producers.

As more is learned about the current nature of customer demand and the appetite for a ‘staycation’, the industry will need continued financial support from the government whilst they navigate the short to medium term.

Ongoing furlough, with phasing, may need to be reviewed again as matters progress.

Access to grants and loans will be key for the industry as we move into 2021.