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Business Focus: FSB's Highlands and Islands manager David Richardson wonders what impact the war in Ukraine will have on international travel

By David Richardson

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By David Richardson, Highlands and Islands regional development manager at FSB (Federation of Small Businesses)

Spring is just around the corner, Omicron is waning, the Scottish Government is ending the remaining statutory Covid restrictions at the end of this month, and the British economy picked up faster than anticipated in January.

By rights we should now be looking forward to the annual northward migration of our valued visitors and, hopefully, local economies getting back to the way they were pre-Covid. But all is not right – far from it.

Many of the problems of the past have not gone away, and both the shortage of staff and the costs of doing business have continued to grow.

This explains why, when added to debts built up during Covid, three in 10 Highlands and Islands businesses in our FSB Scotland December survey were pessimistic about their chances in 2022. And then President Putin unleashed his troops on Ukraine and everything became worse.

War in Europe has forced the world into unknown territory, and governments, banks and economists are agonising over how best to react to ever-changing events.

So how are we being affected in the Highlands and Islands?

The massive hike in the price of fuel and other goods is plain to see, and it’s worsening. Consumers will inevitably have to be careful with their budgets for the foreseeable future, but how careful?

What impact will all this have on the holidays that make such an important contribution to the Highlands and Islands economy?

And what impact will the war have on international travellers? Will the hoped-for return take place?

The world is uncertain at the best of times, but businesses, who crave certainty for obvious reasons, have had more than their fair share of uncertainty to deal will lately – Brexit, Covid, and now war.

How things pan out remains to be seen, but what matters now is that we all – residents, governments and public agencies – do what we always do when times are hard and support our local businesses. After all, they are the beating hearts of our communities and it’s in all our interests to keep them pumping.

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