Visitors are being urged to be “considerate” to communities as Scotland’s tourism sector reopens.
Hotels can start trading again from Wednesday as Scotland eases out of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, with cafes, bars and restaurants also able to reopen their indoor areas.
But some people in more remote and rural beauty spots fear the impact that an influx of visitors could have on their communities.
Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing stressed the sector will open in a “safe and sustainable manner” as he said he has been impressed by “comprehensive” reopening preparations many businesses have made.
He added tourists should be “considerate of local communities and respect those living in the area you are visiting”.
Speaking ahead of a visit to see the new hygiene and safety measures being taken at Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, Mr Ewing said: “Last month, we gave the industry the indicative reopening date of July 15 and I’m pleased we are now in a position where Scotland’s world-class hotels and tourism attractions can begin to reopen in a safe and sustainable manner.
“We have worked closely with stakeholders including representative bodies and trade unions on guidance for safely restarting the sector to ensure employees are protected and visitors can have full confidence in planning their trips.
“Indeed, I am impressed by the strong and comprehensive action so many businesses across the country are taking as they make their preparations.
“Scotland’s tourism offer is world-leading and I hope many people book staycations or even visit their local tourist attractions and restaurants as they reopen.”
He stressed “we all have a responsibility to enjoy tourism safely”, urging people to book visits in advance when possible and to cancel any reservations if they no longer need them.
Mr Ewing added: “It is also so important to be considerate of local communities and respect those living in the area you are visiting, particularly by avoiding busy areas.
“We have some of the best experiences in the world here in Scotland – let’s enjoy them safely and support the strong return of our tourism sector.”
Kingsmills Hotel Group chief executive officer Tony Story said: “The hotel industry has had to adapt to this situation very quickly and we are delighted to be able to demonstrate to Mr Ewing how we are managing the new procedures whilst still assuring guests of a warm Highland welcome.”
Meanwhile, the owner of Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, James Thomson, said his staff are “very excited” to be back at work and looking forward to welcoming guests.
Temperature checks for staff and guests, hand santiser stations, online check-in, personal menus, automatic doors, face shields for staff and cleaning rooms via electrostatic fogging machines are some of the measures now in place to protect against coronavirus.
“At five star level we’ve been doing social distancing for a while because we’ve plenty of room but we’ve actually reduced the number of tables in the restaurant as well,” Mr Thomson said.
“We want to keep the ambience the same so the checks are done outside so that it still has the same character. I think that’s quite important, people come to us for a lovely experience.”
He added: “We’re all very excited to be back at work again and welcoming our first guests back and seeing people again. It’s been a long time in hibernation.”