Christmas is a time for giving. It’s a cliché I know , but this year it has really struck a chord with me.
You see, I made a promise to myself earlier this year that this Christmas I would support local businesses more than I have ever before.
I’ve always been a fan of shopping locally. Whether it’s fresh produce, unique gifts or even enjoying an experience close to home, there are many benefits to supporting local businesses, not least the fact that you are supporting jobs and contributing to the economy. Yet like many others, for convenience, I’ve seen myself heading online to order from major brands or global suppliers.
However, having seen and heard firsthand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local communities, and in particular the tourism industry, I felt compelled to give back to them in some way both on a professional and a personal level.
It’s easy not to see yourself as a tourist in your own town but how many of us go out for dinner, enjoy a drink in a bar or take the family on a day out to a local attraction? All those things support tourism. In fact, I bet most of those experiences are ones we enjoy and do on days off or as a treat to ourselves without realising that we are contributing to the visitor economy.
2020 has been hard on everyone but despite facing their own challenges we’ve heard many stories of local businesses showing kindness and innovation as they adapt their services to make our lives just a little bit easier and brighter during these dark times. The High Street Heroes awards was a fantastic celebration of those individuals.
From takeaway services to private dining pods, care packages for NHS workers to hand sanitizer for entire communities, local businesses have supported us this year and now it’s time for us to support them.
This sentiment has been the motivation behind our new festive campaign to support Scotland’s Towns Partnerships’ Scotland Loves Local movement. Last week, we launched a dedicated push on our hugely popular social channels and our visitscotland.com website to pull together offers, inspiration and examples of how people across the country can love local this Christmas. With content themed around everything from visitor attractions to virtual whisky tastings, local heroes to local promotions, there are plenty of ways to support.
As well as encouraging visitors to put Scottish tourism at the top of their Christmas 2020 wish-lists, we’ve also created a dedicated advice page on our corporate website, visitscotland.org, where businesses can learn more about the campaign and how to get involved, as well as accessing advice on promoting themselves to a local audience during the pandemic.
I applaud Scotland’s Towns Partnership and all our other industry partners on the work they have been doing to promote local businesses this year and I’m confident our collective efforts will benefit the wider visitor economy during these challenging times.
Tourism is a force for good and has a part to play in not just providing jobs and economic benefits to every corner of Scotland but also bringing benefits to wellbeing and society. Without accommodation providers, attractions, events, restaurants, bars or shops many communities would cease to exist. They, and the passionate individuals who run them, are the heartbeat of our villages, towns and cities across Scotland – and they are the reason visitors flock from around the world to visit year after year.
Whether it’s buying gift vouchers, shopping online or on our high streets, dining out or booking a break on your doorstep; by loving local you are supporting communities during tough times and helping protect the places and businesses you, and many others, love to visit.
We all have a part to play in the recovery of Scotland’s valuable, vibrant tourism industry. So please, think local this Christmas when buying for loved ones and support the businesses that supported you throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the least we can do.