Summer is finally here, and what a treat the weather has had in store so far.
The break provides a chance to visit other parts of the country, catch-up with relatives or just relax in the comforts of home.
For those who choose to travel, Stirling and the surrounding area offer a tourism mix which is hard to rival anywhere else in Scotland, the UK or around the world.
World class historic attractions such as Stirling Castle, The National Wallace Monument and the visitor centre at the Battle of Bannockburn attract visitors from across the globe.
We are also fortunate enough to be surrounded by a stunning natural environment including Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park which provide the backdrop for outdoor activities.
Tourism forms a key part of the local Stirling economy and is crucial in sustaining and supporting many communities across the region.
Businesses, such as visitor attractions and hospitality venues, create many jobs across the Stirling area by generating revenue through tourism.
Indeed, it is estimated that the total impact of visitors to the region is around £470m and directly supports over 9,000 jobs in the local area.
In the last financial year, Stirling Castle attracted over half a million visits and increased its footfall by an outstanding 15% on the previous year.
It is clear to see that the local tourism industry continues to grow and that the Stirling area is the place to be for visitors in Scotland.
However, this does not mean that there is any room for complacency in continuing to sell Stirling’s reputation as a destination of choice.
Moving forward it is crucial that we accept that continued success will rely upon significant investment into the coming years.
To a certain extent, that is why the UK Government backed plans to construct a National Tartan Centre as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal are to be welcomed.
Yet, policy makers must ensure that the businesses on the high-street in Stirling provide a reason for tourists to stay and spend money in the local economy.
That is why I was shocked to read that administration councillors have refused to acknowledge that there are huge issues in Stirling city centre which must urgently be addressed.
We have seen coverage in this paper over the last year about the alarming rate at which established businesses in the city centre are struggling with many shutting shop.
Less footfall, competition and the changing nature of retail all have an impact on the high-street and this pace of change will accelerate over the course of the next decade and beyond.
However, this is all the more reason to support our local, hard-working businesses who still have much to offer.
The SNP Government’s damaging approach to business rates has had its role to play on the state of the high-street, with some business rates increasing more than three-fold and 90% of appeals still outstanding which creates more uncertainty.
Business rate relief in certain circumstances is in the control of Stirling Council, and many have been appalled at the utter complacency of those in charge.
The fact they won’t even look at this shows that they do not care about our city centre or high streets and are not interested in actually doing something that might really help the business community.
Businesses are struggling and the council has the power to do something about it, the SNP simply chose not to.
I hope that all readers enjoy their summer, and as always I am available to talk about any concerns and ask that you email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org with any issues that you may have.
This article was originally published in the Stirling Observer on 25th July 2018.