May tourism bounce for Highlands and Argyll

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The Highlands looks on course for a spring tourism bounce back after coming top in the list of Scottish staycations.

Fifty-one per cent of those taking part in a survey plan a visit to the Highlands with Argyll and the Isles second on the table at 17 per cent.

Rural and coastal areas of Scotland hold the greatest appeal after months of lockdown, the survey found.

But some city breaks and areas such as Ayrshire and Arran also look likely to prove popular with confusion around European and international travel.

Reflecting public concerns about coronavirus, a stay in self-catering accommodation in Scotland has seen a 25 per cent uptake in interest.

And the appeal of visiting somewhere in Scotland in a self-contained campervan has also jumped by 11 per cent – great news for official sites but less so for beauty spots  which can be swamped with inconsiderate nuisance campers leaving a mess.

The statistics were shared by the Scottish Tourism Alliance and compiled by researchers at 53 Degree Insight following surveys carried out in March.

They showed that nearly half of Scots polled (46 per cent) are ‘very likely or definite’ about taking a holiday in Scotland this year.

An additional 24 per cent are ‘fairly likely’ to holiday at home, equivalent to seven out of 10 Scots overall, the STA said.

Forty-two per cent are hoping to go elsewhere in the UK, 29 per cent plan on a European visit when possible and 11 per cent further afield.

The survey showed there was still uncertainty with just five per cent of Scots surveyed having already booked a 2021 staycation.

A total of 32 per cent were just at the ‘planning or consideration’ stages.

With travel restrictions across Scotland expected to go from level four to level three from April 26, a spike is likely throughout May with 17 per cent of Scottish staycations expected to come before the end of June.

But 51 per cent plan to visit between July and the end of September.

That falls to 14 per cent in the last quarter at a time when tourism leaders have said the sector needs a strong performance in the shoulder months after the losses of the last year.

In another indicator of public nervousness about coronavirus, indoor activities such as visits to arts and cultural venues, or shopping for gifts and souvenirs is down with the survey finding these had ‘reduced appeal’.

With many communities relying on tourism but also wary of a sudden influx, attitudes vary to the re-opening of tourism.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance said a ‘degree of reticence’ with 23 per cent only wanting small numbers of visitors.

Yet compared to 2020, there is a more relaxed attitude towards visitors generally, it said, with 48 per cent ‘feeling comfortable and ready to welcome visitors,’ said the survey.