A TOURISM industry expert has warned that reopening the sector next month may not be enough to prevent the loss of 2,000 jobs in the Helensburgh and Loch Lomond area.

James Fraser says many businesses will struggle to adapt to social distancing guidelines in time for July 15, when the Scottish Government has said tourism businesses may be able to resume operations if public health advice permits.

Mr Fraser, chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs charity, is a former chair of the area’s tourist board and was previously regional director for Visit Scotland.

He said: “While the advance note of a provisional opening date of July 15 is welcome, due to factors such as the two-metre social distancing rule and the changes in the furlough arrangements from the beginning of August, it will be a major challenge for some sectors of tourism to prepare to open.

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“A number are considering not re-opening and many of those who do reopen are likely to scale down their staffing levels.”

Mr Fraser – who warned in the early days of the lockdown that the tourism sector in the Loch Lomond area was facing “meltdown” – says that people in Helensburgh and Lomond who work in the tourism sector face becoming unemployed if the UK government’s furlough scheme is not extended.

He warned: “Many tourism businesses are currently underway with staff consultations and sadly up to 1,200 permanent and 800 seasonal jobs could disappear in and around the National Park area as early as the beginning of August.

“This represents almost half of the tourism workforce in the tourism and hospitality industry in the area and will have a devastating impact on small communities in the National Park and nearby areas such as the Vale of Leven, Dumbarton and Helensburgh, where a large number of employees live.

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“Unfortunately there will be a significant jump in youth unemployment in particular, due to the continuing meltdown of the local tourist industry and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding trading prospects.”

VisitScotland’s regional director for Helensburgh and the Loch Lomond area also says tourism businesses in the area have a lot of work to do before they’ll be ready to open for business once again.

David Adams McGilp, whose beat covers East and West Dunbartonshire as well as the whole of Argyll and Bute, says the coronavirus pandemic has presented the tourism sector with an unprecedented challenge.

He said: “The scale of the challenge facing us is beyond anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

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“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.

“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.”

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