COVID-19 Lockdown

What you told us…

In our conversations with you during May 2020, we heard your concerns and also how your businesses are innovating. You told us financial positions are difficult and the experience of accessing grants and financial support has been different for everyone. Many of you are worried about the longer-term prospects, especially over the coming winter. This uncertainty of the future and the challenging economic climate, particularly reflecting the seasonality of the Uist economy, underpins these worries.

From the discussions, we found there were 4 consistent themes. Around each of these themes we have identified potential activities.

SAFE COMMUNITY

“I am worried about what the local community will think if I open up again.”
“Getting calls from tourists who want to come here.”

Overwhelmingly the highest priority is balancing the safety of the community with being able to open and operate.

You are looking for guidance about what is safe and the communication of this to the wider community, so they understand what and why measures are in place. This would help the community to play its part in keeping everyone safe and help to reduce the concerns of business that they might put a foot wrong and introduce risk to the community. Emphasis is on the shared responsibility for reducing risk.

There is a fear that transport operators will open the borders and bring with it an expectation that tourism will return to ‘normal’. The application of National guidelines at a local level needs to ensure that they are both relevant and translated to reflect the practicalities of life here in Uist. The vulnerability of the population and keeping its people safe is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Possible actions:

  1. Practical guidance – National guidelines with local input and examples.
  2. Seek reassurances from CnES, Outer Hebrides Tourism, CalMac and Loganair demonstrating a coordinated approach to operating and keeping the community safe.
  3. Provide feedback to the Cohort after the Ferry Stakeholder Group meeting taking place on the 4th June.

INFRASTRUCTURE

“Local demand for services has increased.”
“Making more deliveries than before.”
“A change in how food is delivered would be welcomed, especially if it was a green [eco] van.”

You told us you think there is an appetite to act now on the food hub and food distribution/delivery concepts while there is improved local demand. Many are hopeful that local demand may become a permanent fixture of island life given the right infrastructure to support it. The aim here would be to ensure longer term sustainable businesses.

Possible actions:

  1. Put call out to delivery service providers to gauge interest and participation levels in a co-ordinated delivery service.
  2. Propose leadership and management options to support the implementation of these.

DIVERSIFICATION AND COLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

“Didn’t realise how large a part of our business tourism is.”
“Lockdown has opened up access to learning (webinars) which has been good for remote businesses like ours.”
“Lots of opportunities, people are mulling over ideas.”

The experience of diversifying and collaborating in response to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has been different across the sectors. Support to explore how to make these changes permanent and built-in to the way we work may be useful. This may help to build, or re-build, businesses confidence coming out of this crisis.

Possible actions:

  1. Highlight the diversification and collaboration that has been happening over the past 8 to 12 weeks.
  2. Online get together later in June – proposed date Friday 26th June 10am to 11am- to share our experiences so far and share preparations for coming out of lockdown.

LOCAL FOOD SUPPLIES

“We are more aware of our reliance on ferries and risk of food fragility and even scarcity.”
“We should help people to adapt to local produce instead of an afterthought in response to lockdown.”

The fragility of the local food supply has come into sharp focus. Supporting people to buy local where they can. Increasing awareness of local produce and how to buy it.

Possible actions:

  1. Gauge interest with those who could grow crops for profit.
  2. Buy local initiatives – Promoting and celebrating local produce in local homes.