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There’s positive news for business this week, with more than half of businesses in the Highlands and Islands now operating at, or above, pre-pandemic levels.
According to the latest Business Panel Survey carried out for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in June, two-thirds of businesses expressed confidence in the region’s economic outlook for the next 12 months, up from just over a third in October 2020.
The survey published this week questioned more than 1,000 businesses on issues of business confidence and economic optimism across the Highlands. It revealed that 93% were confident in their own ongoing business viability over the next six months, while 80% were optimistic about their prospects over the next 12 months – compared with 75% before the pandemic.
Almost 71% of surveyed businesses had changed their ways of working in response to the pandemic (43% of this number would prefer to return to previous ways of working).
The survey revealed that more than a third of businesses had concerns about a lack of candidates to fill permanent (38%) and temporary (33%) vacancies. Lack of accommodation was a particular barrier for tourism (58%), food and drink (54%) and remote rural (51%) businesses.
Aside from financial viability, the top priorities for companies were ensuring staff wellbeing (42%), growing their customer base (39%) and creating or sustaining jobs (34%).
What can we take from the results? It is encouraging to see the resilience, adaptability and determination of our local businesses in weathering the storm of Covid, but the survey also shows that businesses still face real challenges in recruiting staff, finding accommodation and finding new markets.
Lochaber Chamber of Commerce is committed to helping local business by speaking up for your needs with government and decision-makers, and taking action to address the issues you face. Join the Chamber today and benefit from being part of a supportive, responsive business network. Visit www.lochaberchamber.co.uk for more information.