There has "never been a better time" to visit Scotland and its many attractions, according to the body representing the interests of the visitor attractions sector in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday advised Scots not to travel outside of their health board region unless absolutely necessary.

However she did say people should not cancel any half-term breaks that they have planned.

READ MORE: What Scotland’s new lockdown rules mean for travelling and staycations

And The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) is encouraging residents and holidaymakers alike to make the most of Scotland’s world-class attractions over the half-term holidays and beyond - despite coronavirus fears and new restrictions.

Thanks to the UK-wide ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme, 460 visitor attractions across Scotland have signed up to the industry standard to keep visitors safe during the pandemic.

With measures such as pre-booked or timed entry slots, the gathering of contact tracing details, 2m physical distancing, one-way routes to control visitor flow, additional hand sanitising stations and other enhanced facilities, the sector is doing everything it can. 

ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said: “Looking at the news just now, the public could be forgiven for feeling that this is not the time to be visiting attractions, that they could be unsafe and that visiting could put people in danger of contracting the virus.

"In fact the opposite is true! There have been zero cases of COVID-19 linked to attractions in Scotland to date.

"Not only are attractions operating with the most rigorous of measures in place to ensure maximum visitor safety, but there has actually never been a better time to get out and explore the wealth of great experiences our sector has to offer.

"With restrictions limiting visitor numbers, those who do visit our attractions will find themselves in a pretty unique environment, with more opportunities to explore and experience sites without the usual hustle and bustle associated with visiting in the October holidays.

"Not only do attractions have in place the most rigorous of safety measures, they are still operating at 2m physical distancing, so there is no chance of overcrowding."

The tourism and events industry employs more than 8000 people directly and saw £96 million spent at attractions around Scotland in 2019.

Mr Morrison added that many tourist attractions were reinventing themselves to better cater to visitors during the pandemic, including digital tours and safety signage.

And in line with the most recent Scottish Government advice, face coverings are also required in all indoor spaces.

He said: “Many attractions have also taken the opportunity presented by lockdown to develop new, creative solutions to telling their story while keeping people safe.

"For example, the National Mining Museum Scotland has introduced a new digital tour, allowing visitors to independently explore the museum following a new route and one-way system around the site.

"Edinburgh’s Mercat Tours have introduced a new TourTalk device where visitors bring their own earphones and can hear the storyteller through the device, which helps with physical distancing.

"At Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, providing all staff members with unique, illusion-based face coverings, has been key in the attraction’s approach to ensuring the safety of everyone while keeping the element of fun in their visitor experience, and at Highland Safaris in Perthshire, Rua the Red Deer is on hand to provide safety tips throughout the visit!”

“There has never been a better time for Scottish and British people to visit. With numbers being limited, and very few international visitors, it really is a great time for our citizens to rediscover the wonderful sites on their doorsteps”.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “It’s been a really challenging time for everyone recently and whilst we are facing more restrictions to supress the virus, folk can still get out and support their local attractions that are safe to visit and enjoy.

“Many visitor attractions are ‘Good to Go’ and follow the most stringent of coronavirus safety measures. It’s an ideal time to explore your local area and all it has to offer, and perhaps discover some of Scotland’s most beautiful spots right on your doorstep.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “While the new restrictions announced by the Scottish Government will affect many about to enjoy the October holidays, we’d like to remind everyone that visitor attractions remain open.

"Our number one priority is to support the tourism and events industry and with more than £96 million spent at attractions around Scotland in 2019 and more than 8000 people directly employed in the industry, we encourage Scots to support this vital part of the visitor economy.

“The recovery of our sector will require our collective efforts and we must act as one to ensure the best possible outcomes for the whole of the visitor economy.”

Visitors should look out for the ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark at attractions and online.