By Malcolm Roughead

THERE is cautious optimism in the air among the country’s tourism and events industry just now. After a lot of uncertainty, the industry is preparing for what is hoped, for many, to be the first full year of trading since the pandemic.

The start of April is widely regarded as the beginning of the traditional holiday season, a time when tourism businesses right across the country are poised to welcome visitors from across the globe.

It’s been a difficult few years, and while the current economic situation will bring some fresh challenges for all, there is a general desire from both visitors and businesses to return to some kind of normality.

It’s great to see people venturing out and supporting their local tourism businesses. While the return of international visitors will be important for the long-term recovery of the industry, people in Scotland still have a key role to play in helping businesses get back on their feet.

Tourism is a vital part of Scotland’s economy. It is a force for good, creating jobs, sustaining communities and enriching our lives.

In fact, a recent survey of residents in Scotland found that 87 per cent of Scotland’s residents rated tourism as the most important industry – higher than any other – in terms of its value to the economy; 87% of those living in tourist areas also believe that tourism will help support local recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the things I would urge everyone to do this year is to be a tourist in their home town. There is no better way to understand the value of the industry and its appeal than to take in what’s on your doorstep.

It’s important to remember that tourism isn’t just about accommodation, every time you eat out, visit an attraction or attend an event you are contributing to Scotland’s diverse and valuable tourism and event industry.

Tourism brings many benefits, which is why its responsible recovery is so important. But things can’t and won’t be exactly as before. Tourism is evolving. It’s about more than travel. It’s about building forward and creating better places for people to live and visit by managing our economic, environmental and social impact.

We all have a duty of care to protect the natural, social and cultural assets which make Scotland so special.

As part of our role as the national tourism organisation, we want to not just bring people to Scotland, but also ensure that they can enjoy Scotland safely and responsibly when here.

We are launching our new Keep Scotland Unspoiled campaign to help prevent the examples of irresponsible behaviour that blighted some of our popular locations last year. Using social media, local radio and the media we will educate, inform and inspire visitors about issues such as water safety, fire safety, dog control and the need to adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Being a responsible tourist and respecting and protecting our environment and communities makes for a better experience for everyone.

Malcolm Roughead is CEO of VisitScotland