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Survey shows impact of COVID-19 on National Park businesses

Action is being taken to provide further support and advice for businesses in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park feeling the impact of COVID-19.

The severe effects being felt on the rural economy of the National Park, which is largely tourism-related and contributes approximately 7% of overall tourism income to the Scottish economy, have been highlighted by a survey of the area’s business community.

The survey, carried out by The Community Partnership within the first few weeks of the lockdown period, gathered insights from 170 small businesses operating within the 20 Community Councils areas across the National Park. This is in addition to the latest update from local independent conservation and heritage charity The Friends of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs who are concerned that a prolonged lockdown caused by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic could see at least £200 million wiped off the value of tourism in the National Park this year with the potential loss of at least a quarter of the tourism businesses and over 1,200 redundancies.

The Community Partnership survey focused particularly on smaller businesses and sole traders operating in premises or with businesses which are not business rated as the numbers they impact are too small and are, therefore, paying council tax.

The feedback is being used by the Community Partnership and the National Park Authority to identify further information and support for businesses and is being shared with local and national partners to raise the issues highlighted by the businesses.

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “The business community of the National Park, and tourism in particular, makes a major contribution to the national economy at around £418million and around 7000 jobs.

“Supporting the rural economy is a fundamental part of the National Park Authority’s role and we are committed to helping local businesses and communities through this exceptionally challenging time. Key to that is working with them to gather accurate information about how the pandemic is affecting these communities, businesses and where they most need support.

“This survey complements those carried out nationally, by particularly drawing out the impact on these smaller, rural businesses that may not otherwise have engaged with those wider information gathering exercises and therefore might not have their voices and concerns heard.

“Through our Tourism Team and the Community Partnership we are working closely with communities to share up to date information and help access vital support as well as sharing the valuable information we are hearing from them with other partner organisations to inform the support they can provide.”

The survey found that of the 170 businesses who responded:

  • Over 85% reported they are more than 80% down;
  • The businesses were responsible for 650 jobs and the anticipated job loss was 292 (-45%) by the end of June;
  • 50% said that if restrictions to trade continued after September they were uncertain if their business would reopen in 2021;
  • However 80% thought they would spring to life immediately if restrictions were lifted in July;
  • 25% of respondents were unaware of what business support was available;
  • 53% were unsure or did not understand what was on offer or how to engage and claim.

Tim Tindle, Chair of the Community Partnership, said: “In many instances these businesses are the cornerstone of our communities but what has come through clearly from this survey is that many of them are not actively engaging with, not able to or are unaware of how to access support that’s available nationally. We’re working with the National Park Authority to address these issues by further highlighting these concerns to the relevant organisations and to provide more detailed information and signpost business to support.

“The response from the business community has been really useful and we plan to run this survey again to gather further insight into how the lockdown period has further impacted as it has gone on. I’d encourage as many local businesses, particularly those smaller, individual businesses to take part so we can represent their voices and concerns as best we can.”

A new information for businesses page has been created on the National Park’s website to provide up to date information and links to support. The National Park Authority and the Community Partnership are working together, using the information gathered through the survey, to continue to develop the information provided and to work with partner agencies, including the Local Authorities to highlight concerns and gaps in support.

Over the coming months the Community Partnership, has been commissioned by the National Park Authority, to provide support to communities within the National Park in light of Coronavirus/COVID-19. This will include:

  • Engaging with rural community groups to collate information on their capacity, local networks, activities and needs.
  • Collaborating with the multiple public- and third-sector providers that cover the National Park to promote the services available to communities and influence their design and delivery.
  • Where needed, providing support and information to communities in order to enable them to utilise the tools available to help them solve local challenges.

The Community Partnership’s website and regular email updates will be a key source of information for communities including regular updates from the National Park Authority.

If you’re not already on their mailing list, please subscribe so you get their twice-weekly community newsletter

To find out more about how we’re supporting businesses in the National Park go to our Information for Visitors page

For more information about the Community Partnership and to subscribe to their newsletter to go:

www.thecommunitypartnership.org.uk

 

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