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Trossachs Gears Up to Welcome Visitors Back 15th April 2021

 

With the recent announcement from the First Minister on easing of travel restrictions (from tomorrow) the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs area is gearing up to welcome visitors back with new measures in place to cope more effectively with the anticipated influx of visitors.

James Fraser, Chair of Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs said: ‘’We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the National Park to enjoy the great outdoors after a prolonged period of lockdown but we are anxious to ensure visitors act responsibly by following the guidance issued by public agencies on topics such as parking, littering and toileting to avoid the chaos that occurred when lockdown restrictions were eased last year.’’

Thankfully all the public toilets and car parks are open this time around and steps have been taken by the public agencies to extend opening hours and supplement provision at key sites around Loch Lomond with additional temporary toilets. This should help but visitors need to be aware that most tourism business are still closed and they should come prepared simply to enjoy the outdoors in safe and responsible ways.

One of the most significant challenges is coping with the large number of visitors arriving by car and the current infrastructure is in adequate to cope. Disappointingly, little in the way of additional car parking provision is in place at this stage although the Steamship Trust at Loch Katrine and Forestry & Land Scotland have both recently received planning consent for much need car park extensions below Ben A’an and at Trossachs and Stronachlachar Piers.’’

Meanwhile, the Friends have progressed phase 1 of a refresh of the Trossachs Trail with signs around the 40 mile trail receiving a makeover in the past couple of weeks to assist visitors to find their way around the area.

This has been augmented with the creation of a new website www.trossachstrail.co.uk which is packed with useful information on walks, cycle routes and points of interest in the Trossachs.

New information panels have also been designed and will be erected at key locations around the Trail shortly to help visitors get the most out of their time in the area.

Friends Virtual AGM for Members

Zoom Meeting: 23rd March 2021

Friends Members are invited to attend the annual members meeting on Tuesday 23rd March at 4pm. It is unfortunate that due to Covid-19, we are unable to get together face-to-face as usual at Ross Priory and, like many other charities, we have no option but to host the event online.

Last year we hoped that COVID 19 restrictions would ease to allow us to hold an AGM, however this was not to be, and in the end we did not manage to arrange one. This means that the forthcoming meeting will cover both 2019 and 2020 to comply with OSCR requirements.

As this event will be virtual, it will be a shorter meeting than usual, however we will share a brief overview of some of the projects progressed during the last two years, together with the headline initiatives we are focusing on for 2021. 

Any Members wishing to attend the AGM should contact Carol Lloyd on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Zoom link, along with agenda and accounts will be issued ahead of the event.

Tourism turmoil taking it's toll in Scotland's first National Park

Half a billion pounds slump in Loch Lomond visitor spend on the horizon 

As the anniversary of the first Covid 19 lockdown approaches and with no end in sight to the current shutdown of tourism with travel restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, a former tourist chief for the area and current Chair of a leading National Park charity claims income generated from visitors in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is hurtling towards a massive drop of at least £500 million in the coming months with thousands of jobs already gone and many more under threat. 

The lockdowns last year and so far this year have resulted in tourism revenues falling at a staggering rate in the National Park with over £300 million in losses racked up already and a further £200 million in the pipeline, including valuable advance bookings from the important English and overseas markets, according to James Fraser, Chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. 

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland with over 4 million visitors a year generating spend of £420 million and sustaining over 6,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

He warned the current prolonged lockdown, along with recent Scottish Government Ministerial advice not to book Easter or summer holidays, means many tourism businesses in the National Park and throughout Scotland continue to be in limbo clinging on by their fingertips in survival mode and unable to plan ahead with any certainty. 

Mr Fraser said: ''Tourism and hospitality businesses are looking into the abyss with fixed costs increasing due to the recent lengthy cold snap and severely depressed levels of income from forward booking deposits, which are normally buoyant at this time of year. They are becoming more desperate.''

''While the various closure and sectoral grant schemes are helpful they fall well short of monthly fixed overheads with many businesses having now exhausted their reserves and borrowing more heavily on top of previous borrowings. More permanent tourism business closures have taken place and more are inevitable the longer the lockdown continues.''

''When businesses eventually do re-open various trading restrictions are likely still to be in place limiting capacity and trading potential meaning they could be quite exposed in cashflow terms without more support.''

He believes there has been a massive dip in forward bookings from the important overseas and English markets and there is going to be greater reliance on the Scottish market this year. Even with an uplift of a third in 2019 compared to 2018, at 7.7 million trips and a value of £1.4 billion this represented less than 25% of the overall value of tourism to Scotland in 2019.

BETTER PLACES GREEN RECOVERY FUNDING SECURED FOR TROSSACHS BEAUTY SPOT

Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs have joined forces with Port of Menteith Community Council to successfully bid for a NatureScot grant through the Better Places Green Recovery Fund to undertake a review of visitor management issues in the Lake of Menteith and surrounding area  and to come forward with a practical action plan to address some of the problems created by growing visitor pressures.

A grant of £8,500 has been awarded to the Friends by NatureScot and ‘in kind’ support from the Friends and the Community Council takes the overall value of the project up to £10,000 for the detailed review which will be undertaken in close consultation with residents in the Port of Menteith Community Council area.

James Fraser, Chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs said: ’’ We are delighted that the Lake of Menteith Visitor Management Project is being supported by NaturteScot and we are looking forward to working closely with the Port of Menteith Coummunity Council and local residents and businesses over the next couple of months to help identify and address some of the pressing visitor management issues being faced in this special area on the edge of Scotland’s first National Park.

We are also pleased to have recruited local resident Callum McNeill-Ritchie of Hushwing to undertake the important community consultation which will be the key to developing a consensus on what ‘light touch’ visitor management measures are required to improve the current situation around the Lake. Callum is a very experienced senior countryside ranger who has previously worked for both the National Park and the National Trust for Scotland and he, of course, has been well mentored by his late step-father, Keith Graham and regular Observer nature columnist, who was Scotland’s first ever Countryside Ranger’’

Jim Riach, a Port of Menteith Community Councillor said: ‘’ We are pleased to receive the backing from both NatureScot and the Friends for this important work which hopefully will result in the creation of a widely supported Visitor Management Action Plan that will help make a real difference locally.

We are a small community with limited resources and infrastructure. We hope that by creating and implementing a Visitor Management Action Plan this this will encourage more responsible use of the area and our unique but fragile visitor attractions. We want Port of Menteith to be a great place where local residents and visitors can safely co-exist and enjoy what we have to offer.’’

If you are resident or have a business in the area and have views on current visitor management issues around lake of Menteith or nearby please contact Callum McNeill-Ritchie- email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refill initiative helps to reduce plastic waste in the National Park

Did you know….that if just 1 in 10 Brits refilled their water bottle once per week, rather than buying a single use bottle, it would save around 340 million plastic bottles a year?

One of the objectives of Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, is to support green initiatives within the National Park and we were interested to hear about ‘Refill’, a national campaign led by the City to Sea charity, with the aim of reducing plastic pollution. Refill Loch Lomond and The Trossachs kicked off last summer and 20 businesses are already signed up and offering refills.  We know only too well the amount of plastic bottles that end up in, or strewn around, the lochs, from the sack loads that we collect during our litter-picking events.  

Alison Limbert, Director of Love Lochs and Landscapes explains more about the scheme and the environmental benefits it delivers.   

Refill connects people with a reusable water bottle to access tap water while out and about rather than buying a single use plastic water bottle.  The campaign provides an app which lists places (Refill Stations) where drinking water is provided by local businesses or by public water fountains.  Many businesses may already be offering to fill up water bottles, however the app and the Refill branded window stickers provide a recognisable commitment from a business that they are willing to do so.

67% of people would be more likely to use a reusable water bottle if they knew that a business would willingly fill it up.  In October 2020, the national Refill campaign was extended beyond water bottle refills to also include listing businesses where you can buy a takeaway hot drink in a reusable cup.

Refill Loch Lomond and Trossachs began in summer 2020 and has 20 businesses signed up so far to be Refill Stations.  As well as reducing the environmental impact in the area from producing, shipping and disposing of single use plastic bottles and coffee cups it also reduces the number of items that can be littered. 

It has been great to have many businesses sign up and offer refills during the pandemic. It has been a difficult time and there’s been a lot of confusion and concern around hygiene and reusables.  As reported on City to Sea website:

*Over 120 health scientists have stated reusables are safe as long as basic hygiene is followed i.e. wash your hands

Some statistics on why it is important to find alternatives to single use plastic bottles and coffee cups:

  • If just 1 in 10 Brits Refilled once per week, it would save around 340m plastic bottles a year (City to Sea)
  • Plastic bottles are the biggest source of plastic pollutants in rivers (Earthwatch and Plastic Oceans UK)
  • Over 200m single use drinks cups are estimated to be used in Scotland each year. This is expected to increase to 310m by 2025 less than 1% are recycled. At least 40,000 are littered (source Zero Waste Scotland). “

 

 

Christmas Tree Cash Boost for Red Squirrel Conservation in The Trossachs

In the run up to last Christmas the Duff Christmas Tree Farm of Buchylvie partnered with the Friends of Loch Lomond & Trossachs conservation charity to support the fight to save Red Squirrels in the Trossachs which is a major battleground to prevent the drift north of the stronger and more dominant grey squirrels.

The Christmas Tree Farm made a generous donation of almost £700 generated from a small levy on the sale of every tree sold as part of a very successful ‘cut your own Christmas Tree’ fundraising initiative, boosted with additional contributions from their customers. Visitors to the farm during December were greeted by Red Squirrel mascots, which helped raise awareness of the fundraising efforts.

The Christmas Tree Farm is on the edge of the National Park and the Duff family volunteered their support to help protect and grow the population of Red Squirrels in the Trossachs. This is a crucial area for the long-term conservation of these iconic and much loved endangered animals.

20th January 2021

Thanks to projects supported by Friends of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs and others, the numbers of Red Squirrels are starting to increase, but more work needs to be done to ensure longer-term success. These funds will go towards a range of projects with local groups, including the installation of bird feeding boxes in the southern woodland areas of the Trossachs and nearby Gartmore.

Euan Duff of Duff Christmas Trees said: ‘’This year, despite Covid-19 we were able to safely maintain what for many is an important family tradition of choosing and cutting a Christmas Tree. We are delighted that the season was such a success and that so many people were able to participate.

With our position so close to the Highland Boundary Fault line we were very keen to support Red Squirrel conservation. We were delighted to be associated with Friends of Loch Lomond & Trossachs, as there is great synergy as we continue to ensure maintaining good environmental practices. Our green charter includes the planting of two trees for every one cut down and protection of ancient woodland that is on our farm.‘’

James Fraser, Chair of Friends of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs said: ‘‘This is a positive news story amid the continuing gloom associated with the impact of Covid 19 and we are grateful to the Duff family at Duff Christmas Tree Farm for stepping up to the plate so enthusiastically to support the conservation of red squirrels along the Highland edge in Scotland’s first National Park at this time.

Not only have they and their customers raised much needed funds, but they have also helped to raise awareness of the urgent need to strengthen conservation efforts to save Red Squirrels. These funds will be well used and should help with the purchase of bulk supplies of red squirrel feeder boxes and squirrel feed which we plan to deploy by working closely with local groups in and around the Trossachs.’’

Love Local Cash Boost for The Trossachs

Wednesday, 9th December 2020

The beleaguered Trossachs tourist industry has received a welcome boost with the announcement that the National Park heritage charity, the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs has received a £5,000 grant from the Scotland Loves Local Fund to support the showcasing of the Trossachs area and local businesses as part of a planned refresh of the 40 mile Trossachs Trail that links the communities of Doune, Thornhill, Port of Mentieth, Aberfoyle, Brig o Turk and Callander.

The grant is part of a wider funding package to strengthen the promotion and better management of tourism in the Trossachs area and the funds will be specifically used to develop a new Trossachs Trail website, improve signing and install information and map boards at ‘’hub and spoke’’ locations in towns and villages and stopping off points around the scenic tourist route.

Welcoming the grant award James Fraser, Chair of the Friends said:’’ This is another important contribution to the ambitious Trossachs Visitor Management Project being taken forward with other local partners and should enable us to make a real difference by strengthening the promotion of things to see and do as well the extensive range of services provided by fragile rural businesses which are struggling to survive due to the impact of Covid 19 restrictions.

By stepping up the promotion and development of the Trossachs Trail this will greatly help the recovery process and improve the showcasing of the of the area and the diversity of services and facilities available in communities along the Trail and in the surrounding countryside areas.’’

The Scotland Loves Local Fund is provided by the Scottish Government to support local partnership to promote their local area, including small scale place-based improvements. The Fund is administered by Scotlkand’s Towns Partnership.

Phil Prentice, STP’s Chief Officer, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this initiative in such an important tourist area where local businesses have suffered dramatic decreases in trading due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is vital we support them in every way we can at this difficult time and the Trossachs Trail programme of activity will I am sure have beneficial impact in 2021 and beyond.

It’s so important, whether it be for retail or hospitality, that where we can, we think local first for all of our needs. This will ensure that our local businesses can continue to be there for us in the future.’’

To find out more about some great ways you can support local this December visit: www.VisitScotland.com/LoveLocal

Bold Visitor Management Plans For The Trossachs

Artist impression of the reinstated Roderick Dhu Watch Tower (Above)

Local charities step in to lead efforts to tackle traffic chaos

An ambitious £600,000 Trossachs Visitor Management Project has been developed by two local heritage charities in the National Park:- the Steamship Sir Walter Scott Trust and the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs - in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland and with the support of local community groups, Police Scotland, the National Park, Stirling Council and Scottish Water.

A comprehensive package of visitor infrastructure improvements is planned and a number of planning applications have recently been lodged with the National Park to enable works to get underway in 2021 if funding is secured.

The partners are hopeful that a bid for £375,000 from the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which is designed to help areas suffering from visitor pressure, will be successful. The outcome of the bid to the scheme administered by VisitScotland should be known by mid-December. Additional funding is being provided by the Steamship Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland, the Friends and local community hydro schemes.

James Fraser, CEO of the Steamship Trust and Chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, who is coordinating the project said: “There is clearly an urgent need to relieve the chronic problems created by visitor pressures in the heart of the Trossachs and, in particular, traffic congestion caused by excessive road verge parking which is impacting adversely on the quality of life for local residents who regularly have problems going about their daily business safely.

“Our proposals aim to do just this in positive and sensitive ways that will also enhance the quality of the visitor experience in the popular Brig O’Turk/Ben A’an/Loch Katrine visitor corridor and encourage the dispersal of visitors to other parts of the Trossachs area where it is less busy.

We are delighted to have the strong backing of six local community groups and a range of other bodies and businesses who are keen to see some of the improvements in place for 2021 after a summer of chaos.’’

Surge of Visitors

It is planned to invest in visitor infrastructure improvements at Ben A’an Car Park, below the popular Ben A’an mountain path, and at the Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar visitor hubs at either end of Loch Katrine, which is credited with being the birthplace of Scottish Tourism due to the writings of Sir Walter Scott and others in the early 1800s that led to the first surge of visitors to the Trossachs.

These three sites collectively now consistently have in excess of 200,000 visitors a year and there has been a marked growth in recent years and particularly following the mid-summer easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions that led to road closures and the introduction of temporary traffic regulation orders to control excessive and dangerous roadside verge parking.

                                                           Expanded car parks

The plans include well-designed expanded car parks with 110 additional spaces, improved disabled parking and bus drop-off and pick-up points across the three sites at Ben A’an, Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar Pier; additional overnight campervan bays with hook up facilities, electric vehicle and bike charging points, public litter recycling points and water refill stations at the Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar Pier visitor hubs; a new mobility hub and extended public toilets at Trossachs Pier to provide treble the current capacity and the reinstatement of the historic Roderick Dhu Watch Tower path and scenic lookout above Trossachs Pier Car Park.

The planned investment at these locations will be augmented by improved signing and information/orientation points at ‘spoke and hub’ locations around the long established 40 mile Trossachs Trail.

Commenting on the plans, local MSP Bruce Crawford said: “I am very supportive indeed of these well thought through practical proposals which have attracted support from a number of community and business groups as well as Police Scotland and other agencies. The areas in the vicinity of Ben A’an and Loch Katrine have found themselves under huge pressure from the sheer volume of visitor numbers over a long period, but the pressure has only increased over recent months as more and more people choose to staycation.

“I truly hope the Steamship Trust, the Friends and their partners are successful in securing funding as this kind of infrastructure improvement is badly required.”

 

Duff Christmas Tree Farm help protect Red Squirrels

Friends are delighted that Duff Christmas Tree Farm in Buchlyvie are making a donation for every tree sold!

The farm are giving 25p for every tree sold and the funds will go directly towards projects which will help protect the iconic red squirrels. Friends have regularly  reported on the threats to the animals from non-native grey squirrels and this funding initiative will help conservation work continue. 

There will also be collection canisters for customers to add further contributions if they wish.

 

 

 

Tourism in Meltdown

Fears of a £200m hit for tourism businesses in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Tourism in meltdown as losses grow at an alarming rate

A prolonged lockdown caused by the corona virus 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 according to a former tourism chief for the area and current Chairman of a leading National Park charity.

The unprecedented lockdown has resulted in tourism revenues tumbling at an alarming rate in the National Park with over £100 million in losses racked up already, including valuable advance group bookings from both UK and international markets being cancelled for the whole year, according to James Fraser, Chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland with over 4 million visitors a year generating spend of over £420 million and sustaining thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.

He warned even if the current restrictions are lifted in time for the peak summer months tourism businesses will have a slow recovery due to factors such as essential social distancing precautions still requiring to be in force and many visitors from important UK and overseas markets being reluctant to travel until an effective virus vaccine is in place. He estimates total losses could exceed £200 million by the end of the year with many businesses struggling to survive.

Mr Fraser, who is in regular contact with a  number of businesses in the National Park, said: ’’In the 40 years I have been involved in the tourist industry I have never witnessed a situation as bad as this and it is much worse than the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 that led to the shutdown of the countryside.

‘’In the past 6 weeks it has been upsetting to see so many well run predominantly family businesses, which have been built up with hard work over many years, in such a state of turmoil and fighting for their very existence through no fault of their own.

‘’Most businesses have gone from looking forward to what was shaping up to be a bumper year with good trading levels to a situation overnight with income generation falling to zero and with no end in sight.’’

He cited numerous examples of medium sized businesses already losing, on average, £1-2 million so far. Three cruise companies operating on the National Park lochs have lost over £4 million collectively. Hundreds of smaller tourist accommodation, catering and retail businesses and businesses in the supply chain such as tradesmen, laundries, bakers and butchers are also losing substantial sums.

Mr Fraser added: ’’The response to the growing financial crisis in the tourism sector from both the UK and Scottish Governments and local MSPs and MPS has been impressive and, following representations made locally and nationally, it is very encouraging to see some of the support packages being modified for the better.

‘’However, given the sheer scale of the downturn in tourism revenues, which no Government support scheme can fully cover, many businesses have been forced to take out very substantial loans as part of their fight for survival and it will take many years for them  to recover from what has been, and continues to be, a catastrophic situation here in the National Park and elsewhere with tourism so hugely important to the economy’’

In a recent report the OECD estimate declines of 45% to 70% in the international tourism economy in 2020, depending on the duration of the crisis and the speed with which tourism rebounds.