Press & Journal

Image caption: David Watson wants to restore Sutherland’s warm welcome towards tourists after the difficulties of the 2020 season. Image credit: Kyle of Sutherland D.

Smiles not pitchforks’ message to Sutherland communities.

A new sustainable tourism sub-group has been set up by the Sutherland Community Planning Partnership to help communities regain the confidence needed to welcome visitors after a traumatic 2020 season.

David Watson, manager of Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust is leading the group and says the pandemic not only made people realise the importance of tourism in the Highlands, but also made them anxious about strange faces.

He told an online meeting with Brora residents: “The social side of tourism is every bit as important as the environmental and financial aspects.

“We saw that tested in July last year when the first lockdown ended and, after everybody in the Highlands very diligently stayed at home to avoid the virus, all of a sudden the flood gates opened and communities were overwhelmed with visitors.

“And that created understandable anxiety from the perspective that a lot of the visitors arrived before many of the services were open, and also there weren’t the facilities there to cope with the amount of visitors.

“It was unprecedented.

“One of the knock-on effects that that has had is it’s really affected the attitude of a lot of people to faces they don’t know.

“It’s created a little bit of difficulty with the Highland welcome that we’re so proud of, and people are now not as confident welcoming visitors into their communities as they were before.”