Our latest opinion column is written by David Adams McGilp, regional director with Visit Scotland for Argyll, West Dunbartonshire and East Dunbartonshire.

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The scale of the challenge currently facing us is beyond anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

Tourism and events is one of the many industries grappling with the huge changes our lives and our economy are undergoing.

While I can understand the urgency to look to life after lockdown and get things restarted, there’s a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done before our local communities are ready and willing to accept visitors again.

Our local teams are gathering intelligence and identifying those areas, as well as highlighting communities that would welcome an increase in visitor traffic generally. We have plenty of undiscovered gems in our region but also places that could be re-established in the minds of consumers.

READ MORE: Warning that Loch Lomond tourism 'meltdown' could see 1,200 jobs lost

The past eight weeks or so have been without doubt hugely challenging. We have been speaking to businesses and helping them get through the weeks and months ahead.

As chair of The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG), VisitScotland feeds back issues and concerns to the Scottish Government and our partners that are unique to our particular geography and demographics. Our region contributes nearly half a billion pounds of revenue to the visitor economy.

I represent VisitScotland as a member of the Argyll and Bute Economic Resilience Forum which has been set up to drive the public sector’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak, including future recovery plans. The Forum provides a valuable opportunity for industry leaders and decision makers to understand the challenges facing the economy, and to focus on the places and types of businesses that will play critical roles in the recovery phases.

My colleague Donald Hoy, industry relationship manager for VisitScotland, has been contacting businesses across Argyll, The Isles, Loch Lomond, Helensburgh and Dunbartonshire offering one-to-one support.

READ MORE: Jobs lost in Arrochar and Tarbet as hotels close following holiday firm's collapse

It is vital people can access the financial assistance that is available to help sustain their business in the short and longer term.

We’ve also heard about the emotional and mental health impact this awful virus is having. It’s clear there’s a really important balance to get right here. We want to help tourism businesses survive and get back on their feet but the safety of staff, customers and the wider community is paramount.

Market intelligence tells us eight out of 10 people visiting are domestic, and a similar majority come here because of our scenery and landscapes. We are well placed once Scots are allowed to get out and about again.

Please contact us or seek support through VisitScotland.org Coronavirus pages and the local VisitScotland Facebook group. And please do join our series of online webinars and pose a question to one of our senior team.

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One thing that’s kept me going through these challenging weeks is the sense of community businesses have been showing. The launch by the charity which owns the Maid of the Loch, Loch Lomond’s paddle steamer, of a virtual cruise to celebrate the anniversary of her first ever public sail on May 25, 1953 is just one local example, but there are many more.

We’ll all have to get used to working differently in the future so seeing this is action already is very encouraging.

Something else that is helping to lift spirts is VisitScotland’s #AWindowOnScotland campaign across social media. Residents and business across Argyll and the Isles, and Dunbartonshire, have really taken to this to showcase our region from their own homes. Thanks to all of you who posted your own.

Tragically this virus is having a terrible human cost and is devastating for our tourism and events industry. But what will get us through only when the time is right to accept visitors, is the passion we have for our region, the enterprising spirit of our operators and our welcoming communities.

READ MORE: Check out all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond here