Tourism chiefs demand reopening date ‘now’

Marc Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance

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Scotland’s tourism industry is at ‘risk of total collapse’ if more government support is not given immediately.

That was the message today from the Scottish Tourism Alliance which has called on the government to give the sector ‘needs a date now for reopening’.

It said this would allow the necessary period of planning for safe reopening to visitors in an attempt to salvage the season.

It said there are more than 2,500 tourism businesses in Scotland above the £51,000 rateable value threshold and are therefore ineligible for government grant support, which could go to the wall ‘in weeks’.

‘These medium-to-larger businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland’s tourism industry, major employers – without them, we simply have no tourism industry and these businesses are at risk of collapse,’ said an STA spokeswoman.

‘The Hardship and Pivotal funds while welcomed are not enough and many have not been able to access.

‘These businesses will not survive more than a few weeks. The furlough scheme was there to protect jobs for the future. If there is no business, there are no jobs.’

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the STA, has warned that there is a ‘very real risk’ that many tourism businesses will not survive the period between now and reopening.

‘This is a sector that delivers £7 billion to Scotland’s GDP and 218,000 jobs across all of our communities with a significant proportion of those being in our Highland communities.

‘We need to see a greater commitment from the Scottish Government to elevating the economy and indeed the tourism sector as a whole,’ said the STA.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the hospitality industry is vitally important.

‘We are carefully considering how we plan the restart and long-term recovery of the sector and wider economy.

‘The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group, chaired by VisitScotland, has been in place since the beginning of the crisis and has developed a plan to respond to the impact of the virus on the sector and that work will help inform how we move forward as we slowly and carefully emerge from this crisis.

‘Our package of support includes 1.6 per cent rates relief for all non-domestic properties in 2020-21 and 100 per cent relief for properties in retail, hospitality, leisure and airports.’