TOURIST sites across the Loch Lomond area remain ‘flexible’ and welcoming as lockdown measures ease and visitors return to the shores – but worries remain over long-term tourism survival.

With coronavirus containing measures such as the five-mile travel limit and restrictions on bars and restaurants being lifted, life has returned to the Loch Lomond area as walkers take to the hills and campers head for the great outdoors.

Local businesses have hoisted up their shutters and are welcoming customers once again with strict health and safety measures in place. Some business owners and local professionals are breathing a sigh of relief as a sense of normality returns to the area.

And weddings across the country have either been delayed or cancelled altogether, but now could finally be the time for couples to have their big day.

Sandra Cunningham, sales manager at the Lodge and Inn on Loch Lomond, said the Lodge had re-opened on August 1 and the Inn on August 10.

She said: “It has been a very difficult time for all our wedding couples and we still don’t have clarity on the coming months or remainder of 2020 regarding what that is going to look like.

“At the end of June, on looking at the picture for August/September without our weddings, it was a worry, however we’re pleased to say, on doing some marketing ourselves from the beginning of July, that the ‘staycation’ market should see us through these next few months.”

Last week the Scottish Government announced an additional £14 million worth of funding in effect to secure hospitality jobs until next year .

The Hotel Recovery Programme, as it’s called, will allow eligible business to apply for £250,000 in grants which will support up to 3,000 jobs.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said of the fund: “Its core purpose will be to protect larger hotels, which have been badly affected by the events of the recent months.

“This is also about looking forward, and successful applicants will be offered wraparound support to help strengthen their companies for the future.”

Tourism expert James Fraser, a former chief executive of the area’s tourist board who now chairs the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs charity, said re-opening had come as a “huge relief” for local tourism businesses after almost four months of no income.

But he warned that tourism businesses in the area would continue to face significant challenges for some time to come.

Mr Fraser said: “It is great to see businesses up and running again with a return of some markets, but outwith self-catering and camping and caravanning, it is clear most tourism operators are continuing to face major challenges and uncertainties with trading income well down on the same period as last year.

“Many are faced with difficult decisions over the coming months as support from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme comes to an end and they have insufficient reserves to retain staffing at normal levels throughout the long winter months.”