TOURISM businesses around Loch Lomond are already seeing advance bookings surge ahead of the easing of Scotland’s Covid travel restrictions next month.

And a tourism expert has told the Advertiser he expects the National Park to get busier with local day trippers as soon as the “stay at home” instruction is lifted on Monday, April 5.

The Scottish Government plans to lift restrictions on travel within Scotland from Monday, April 26.

James Fraser, a former chief executive of the area’s tourist board, who now chairs the independent Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs conservation charity, said: “We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has allocated funds to the park to tackle the management problems we faced last year.

“It’s a huge relief that we’ve now got dates to work to for businesses reopening, as they’ve had a torrid time over the past year.

READ MORE: 'National Park is ready to welcome you when the time is right'

“Many are financially on their knees and desperate to get reopen and get going again. Around the loch generally there’s this huge relief that they’re allowed to reopen.

“We have lost some businesses. But with spring in the air, hopefully everything will go well and people will be welcomed back to the National Park and businesses make a strong recovery.

“Since the announcement the bookings have taken off, there’s been a list of interest of holidaymakers coming to the area, but we do know from the data we are already seeing that there’s going to be growth in day trips to the area before lockdown is over.

“We are predicting through Easter that the area is going to be busy.”

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority has already outlined a “visitor management plan” in conjunction with the police, councils and other public bodies in a bid to ensure the expected surge in visitor numbers is properly managed.

READ MORE: National Park gets ready for surge in visitors when lockdown measures ease

The initial relaxation of travel rules following the first UK-wide lockdown last May saw large crowds flock to the visitor hotspots of Balloch, Luss and Arrochar at the first opportunity, sparking fears of Covid transmission to communities that had been relatively free of the disease.

Gordon Watson, the park authority’s chief executive, said: “The huge surge in visitor numbers last year did bring with it challenges and pressures, particularly on communities in popular, rural locations.

“We are committing a significant increase in joint resources to help alleviate the pressures that we expect across the National Park when Covid-19 travel restrictions ease on April 26.”

The plan includes additional rangers, wardens and enforcement officers, extended toilet opening hours and extra toilets at popular visitor locations, increased litter collections and more staffing at the weekends.

Read all the latest local headlines here