Scottish parks can stage comeback, leisure boss tells BBC

Now temporarily closed, Sandrum Castle Holiday Park in Southern Scotland is among Parkdean’s portfolio

CONFIDENCE in the ability of Scotland’s holiday parks to stage a full recovery after lockdown was voiced by one of the industry’s leading figures on BBC Radio Scotland this week.

Barrie Robinson, who is chair of the Scottish Caravan and Camping Forum as well as operations director of Parkdean Resorts, said the comeback would be challenging – but feasible.

Barrie was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland’s popular Kaye Adams morning show as part of a debate about the future of the country’s £6 billion tourism industry.

He estimated that Scotland’s 250-plus holiday park businesses had already lost more than a million visitors since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Barrie Robinson of Parkdean sees sense in a three-phase return to normality

But, said Barrie, the recovery when parks are allowed to re-open could be very strong – and led in Scotland by the country’s own staycation market.

The beneficiaries of a return to normality would not be just the parks sector, he pointed out, but also the rural communities where most of Scotland’s holiday parks are based:

“Many smaller businesses in our countryside, such as shops, pubs, cafes and visitor attractions, rely on the spending of park visitors for their survival and for sustaining the jobs they provide.

“It’s these enterprises which, like us, are hoping that Scotland will be able to reclaim some of the revenue which has been lost in recent months after movement restrictions are lifted.

“We accept that there will still have to be safeguards in place, such as social distancing – but parks are able to achieve this quite readily because of their layout and the spacing between pitches.

“A common-sense approach would be to open parks in three phases, first allowing holiday home owners to return, then opening hire accommodation, and finally the parks’ public venues.

“Holiday homes on Parkdean Resorts’ parks are at least five metres apart and are self-contained, so interaction with others on or off the park can be kept to a minimum.

“The Scottish Caravan and Camping Forum, through the Scottish Tourism Alliance, is continuing to liaise with the Scottish government on these matters, and ministers fully recognise the vital importance of tourism to our economy.

“I think it probable that a phased re-opening of parks will be the way forward initially,” said Barrie whose company, Parkdean Resorts, operates 67 UK parks including eight in Scotland.

Elspeth Sutton, Chair of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (Scotland), said that Barrie had sent a signal of optimism to the sector, tempered by caution and realism.

She said that the industry’s significance to Scotland’s economic wellbeing was underlined by a recent independent study.

It showed that parks and campsites in Scotland generate £772 million of annual spending in the country, and help to sustain more than 14,300 full-time equivalent jobs.