Members of the Harris Forum, which is co-ordinating support to Isle of Harris residents during the Coronavirus pandemic, are urging caution and good manners on social media – for the good of the future tourism industry.
Posting on the members-only group Harris Hub, Scalpay co-ordinator Kenny Macleod highlighted how negative comments about visitors coming to the islands during lockdown could create a feeling of hostility which would damage the recovery of the tourism industry once travel restrictions are lifted.
On Wednesday (13 May) he said: “Recently a number of issues, relating to people arriving on the islands apparently for other than essential reasons, have been highlighted.
“If you do see anyone who you feel may be breaking the rules you should pass details to the police. It is a matter for them. Resorting to social media is not a helpful tool as sometimes those arriving are actually essential workers or family members with very valid reasons to travel and be there.
“…We are very concerned at the impact that some of the comments are having, or could have, on the island economy. Frightening away potential travellers does no one any good. Whilst we understand and feel the fear that the virus raises in a community with so many vulnerable people, care has to be taken that the written word cannot be misconstrued.
“We do not wish to stifle debate or prevent anyone from expressing their own personal opinion, but ask that you consider whether what you are about to publish is in the best interests of the whole of Harris.
“Our elected representatives are aware of what is happening and are working hard to put our feelings forward and ensure our voices are heard.
“We live in a very beautiful part of the world and its popularity has been growing in recent years. We are all looking forward to accepting visitors when it is deemed safe to do so, and when suitable measures are in place to implement these safety protocols.”
Kenny’s statement echoes the words of Comhairle leader Councillor Roddie Mackay, as reported in full on welovestornoway.com today (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/16957-this-week-with-cnes-leader).
He said: “Why would people from the islands living on the mainland and in the big cities not want to return here when the restrictions are lifted? ….
"The Western Isles is truly an amazing place to live, to visit and to work, so it is little wonder that so many people want to come here.
“….The islands are not currently open for business. We continue to prioritise taking care of ourselves and each other. But when it is safe to do so, and the restrictions are eventually lifted, we will once again warmly welcome everyone to the Western Isles, whether that be to visit, to work or to stay.”
The picture is by Axel Campbell.