A LEADING hotelier has warned of the risk of Scotland scaring off visitors from England who will be vital to help the country’s key tourism sector recover from the devastation caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Gordon Campbell Gray, who owns the famed Three Chimneys on Skye and The Pierhouse at Port Appin in Argyll, said some customers in England had cancelled planned stays amid fears about how they would be treated in Scotland. There have been calls from some quarters for the border between Scotland and England to be closed over fears people travelling from the south following the easing of lockdown measures could lead to the virus spreading north.

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Mr Campbell Gray said talk that made visitors from England fear they would be unwelcome in Scotland could have serious harmful consequences for the economy given the importance of tourism.

Hotels across the country reopened on Wednesday following the easing of lockdown measures which had kept them closed since late March.

Mr Campbell Gray said the Scottish Government had to make it absolutely clear that there is a welcome on the mat in Scotland.

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“I have recently received cancellations from guests from England who say that they are worried about being unwelcome,” said Mr Campbell Gray, in an interview for The Herald’s SME Focus series, which will be published on Monday.

“This is shocking and we must ensure that this message is changed.”

Mr Campbell Gray added: “People’s livelihoods are at stake here and I am without patience when I hear of locals sending out negative messages.

“The Scottish economy needs tourism and the many jobs, directly and indirectly, it creates.”

Mr Campbell Gray said the situation had calmed down in recent days but the problem had not gone away. Other hoteliers and restaurateurs he had spoken to had recorded cancellations from customers in England.

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Glasgow-born Mr Campbell Gray has run hotels around the world, including the acclaimed One Aldwych in London and Carlisle Bay in Antigua.