A TOURISM industry expert has warned that reopening the sector next month may not be enough to prevent the loss of 2,000 jobs in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

James Fraser says many businesses will struggle to adapt to social distancing guidelines in time for July 15, when the Scottish Government has said tourism businesses may be able to resume operations if public health advice permits.

Mr Fraser, chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs charity, is a former chair of the area’s tourist board and was previously regional director for Visit Scotland.

He said: “While the advance note of a provisional opening date of July 15 is welcome, due to factors such as the two-metre social distancing rule and the changes in the furlough arrangements from the beginning of August, it will be a major challenge for some sectors of tourism to prepare to open.

“Many tourism businesses are currently underway with staff consultations and sadly up to 1,200 permanent and 800 seasonal jobs could disappear in and around the National Park area as early as the beginning of August.”

Local MSP Jackie Baillie called on both the Scottish and UK governments to “provide support specifically tailored to the needs of those within the tourism industry”.

She added: “Urgent action is required in order to save jobs and protect businesses that play such a big and positive role within both our local and national economies.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have acted as quickly as we can to address the significant financial challenges faced by the tourism sector through a tailored, comprehensive package of support including the £30million Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund and the £120m Pivotal Enterprises fund, on top of 100 per cent rates relief for the year.

“However it is clear that the major challenges faced by the industry will continue into next year which is why the Scottish Government has urged the UK Government to do more to support individuals and businesses affected, through measures including a review of VAT rates and extensions to schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“Tourism is one of Scotland’s greatest assets and it is vital the UK Government does not leave the industry behind.”

A Treasury spokesperson told the Reporter: “We have provided a generous and wide-ranging package of support for businesses.

“Our job retention scheme has helped a million employers and protected more than nine million jobs across the UK.

“As well as furloughing staff, we’ve introduced a wide range of other targeted support measures for different sectors, including bounce back loans and tax deferrals, business rates holidays and more than £10billion of grants.”