Mothball tourism until a vaccine is found
There is a view that the present lockdown restrictions can be eased.
On a purely local, Highland level, with Test, Track and Trace in place, there is much to commend that view.
There is also a view widely supported that the Tourist Industry should be restarted.
I use the phrase Test, Track and Trace because it closely illustrates what must be done.
I asked VisitScotland how many tourists they expected this summer in the Highlands. They had absolutely no idea.
What we can surmise is that to anyone elsewhere in the UK this looks like a great, safe, destination.
It doesn’t really matter because one infected person, (unchecked), could result in 1000 being infected 30 days later, and, unchecked, every three days after that the number of infections doubles.
If you were on a family holiday and you had very mild symptoms, would you report them, or think you had a summer cold?
Let us be absolutely clear that the only reason this “R” number is where it is, is because we have all been kept in our homes to stop the virus spreading.
The virus is still out there.
The stated defence, in fact the only defence, (except for lockdown), against that happening is Test, Track and Trace.
How do you Test, Track and Trace an itinerant population of “let’s say” 100000 to 250000 tourists who move their location pretty much every day?
I think inviting an unrestricted number of visitors to the fragile Highland communities is a huge risk.
Don’t think I don’t understand the economic consequences. My wife and I run a very well-regarded B&B taking people from all over the world.
This year we will have none.
Most B&Bs are not going to go bust, the owners are living in their own homes.
Not so with hotels. So, we need a different answer anyway, because the chances are the hotels are not going to make up the number of bed-nights they need to survive in the next three or four months.
Both the businesses and their staff need protection.
Liquidators and Receivers should be instructed, by Government, to close the business down (obviously at the request of the owners) to stop the ebb of money, and either protect them from creditors, or much better pay the creditors with Government sponsored bank loans, keeping a close record of that expenditure. Perhaps they could also pay the staff?
They should mothball the business waiting for the day a vaccine or a cure is found, and it can re-open safely, and be handed back to the previous owners. The owners would then be given favourable, very long-term loans to pay back the costs met by the liquidators and receivers.
There will be a cost, but a cost the owners can later meet, over many years, at low or virtually zero interest rates. The Government should not foot that bill, but it could facilitate it.
Old Drynie House, Kilmuir, North Kessock.
Tribute to responsible businesses
As we progressively, with caution move towards more relaxing of lockdown restrictions, I would like to pay tribute to another group of people on Skye and in Lochalsh.
I do not for one micro second forget the massive and fantastic contributions to health and care workers, and those on the front line who delivered to our doors at this time.
However, my respect and admiration goes to the owners and staff of tourist and hospitality businesses.
The financial and mental strains needing to remain optimistic, to remain as responsible employers and to face the financial crisis that this pandemic has brought, needs some recognition.
I am sure the cost to trade and business may never truly be known, but must exceed millions of pounds.
To those who kept us all safe, by cancelling visitors and closing shops, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions at this testing time, simple words of thanks are not in any compensation for the vast loss in revenue from the sector.
But I would just like to thank all those ethical and responsible businesses that did the right thing, and helping to decrease the possibility of the spread of this virus.
The sacrifices of owners and staff will not be forgotten, and I would urge all local people to rally round and support these businesses when it is safe to do so.
Tourism and hospitality is the mainstay and lifeblood of our local economy, and with everyone’s help, in time it will recover.
14 Boreraig Place, Broadford