AT least £200 million could be wiped off the value of tourism in Loch Lomond and the surrounding area by a prolonged coronavirus lockdown, according to a former industry chief.

James Fraser says more than 1,200 jobs could be lost in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park area, and at least one in four of the area's businesses could go under, as a result of the pandemic.

Mr Fraser, who was chief executive of the former Argyll, the Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and Trossachs Tourist Board, and then served as Visit Scotland's regional director for the area, says the lockdown has already caused businesses in the area to rack up more than £100 million in losses.

That figure includes the value of cancelled advance group bookings from the UK and international markets.

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Mr Fraser, who is now the chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, an independent conservation and heritage charity, said: "In the 40 years I have been involved in the tourist industry I have never witnessed a situation as bad as this.

"It is much worse than the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 that led to the shutdown of the countryside.

"In the past six 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.’’

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Mr Fraser says three cruise companies in the area have collectively lost more than £4 million since the crisis took hold last month, and that hundreds of smaller businesses in the tourism supply chain are also losing substantial sums.

He also warned that even if current restrictions are lifted in time for the peak summer months, tourism businesses in the National Park will take a long time to recover because of ongoing social distancing precautions and the likely reluctance of visitors to travel until an effective vaccine is in place.

He 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.

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"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.

"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 normal years more than four million people visit the National Park annually, generating more than £420 million for the area's economy.

In a recent report the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated declines of 45 per cent to 70 per cent in the international tourism economy in 2020, depending on the duration of the crisis and the speed with which tourism rebounds.