Lochaber needs to be road ready for tourism surge says tourism chief

Concerned businesses are hoping that road authorities are not waiting for the road to become gridlocked before they start repairing the potholes.

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A Fort William tourism boss is asking road authorities to ‘do their bit’ before the predicted surge in tourism overwhelms the region’s roads.

Visit Fort William Ltd has already been seeing an increase in visitor traffic to its destination website but, despite having confidence in local businesses being well prepared for the influx, managing director Andrew McKenna fears that a similar increase on the region’s roads could spell disaster.

‘It would be good if the roads authorities made immediate repairs to our roundabout road surfaces at Lochy Bridge and Glen Nevis – and repaired the ever increasing sections of road surface that are collapsing due to pot holes, he said.

‘We just hope they are not waiting for the road to become gridlocked before they start.

‘Lochy bridge roundabout and the A82 road surface (BEAR Scotland) outside the entrance to Ben Nevis Distillery – one of our most popular visitor centres – is nothing less than appalling and increasingly dangerous as drivers try to avoid the holes.’

Highland Council were invited to comment on local road surfacing issues in Lochaber last week but had not replied by the time we went to print on Tuesday. However, a statement from council leader, Margaret Davidson on the Highland Council website said: ‘The impact of the pandemic has delayed much of the work over the past year, and now the spell of severe weather is over, our focus can return to completing the programme of repairs and improvements.’

Last week Scottish Tourism Alliance shared figures, compiled by researchers at 53 Degree Insight following surveys carried out in March, showing that the Highlands was at the top of the list of Scottish staycations once restrictions were lifted.

Fifty-one per cent of those taking part in a survey plan a visit to the Highlands.

Local businesses are currently updating their listings to make them current and reflect all the refurbishment which has been going on over winter.

‘We expect a large surge in visitors arriving in town as they escape the lockdown in suburbia once our governments open the gates,’ added Mr McKenna.

‘We are confident that local traders are also readying themselves to handle new business for the season ahead, with lots of local people getting back into working and we wish them all the best for 2021.’

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

In the meantime Fort William Town Team have been out and about making sure the area is spic and span ahead of the influx.

Town Team secretary Karen Dean told us: ‘The Town Team are looking forward to Fort William being a staycation destination for people when they are free to travel again.

‘The shops, local businesses and community have all been affected so much by the pandemic that it will be nice to see some normality return.

‘The Town Team have been working hard behind the scenes to fulfil their annual projects for this year and our first event of 2021 will be a Big Spring Clean on April 25 to give the High Street and surrounding area a spruce up before visitors start to arrive.’

Details on the @trashfreetrails spring clean up initiative can be found on the Town Team Facebook page.

Motorists can report potholes using the online form on the council’s website www.highland.gov.uk/report