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An announcement this afternoon that tourism businesses in Scotland should be able to reopen ‘provisionally’ from July 15 has been welcomed by the Scottish Tourism Alliance.
Fergus Ewing MSP, the cabinet secretary for tourism and the rural economy, made the statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.
Marc Crothall, chief executive for the Scottish Tourism Alliance, hailed it as a ‘hugely positive’ milestone in the sector’s road to recovery.
He said: ‘The reassurance that there is a summer season for tourism in Scotland will offer a huge comfort and relief to many thousands of businesses.’
Mr Ewing told ministers that there were ‘exceptional circumstances’ facing Scotland multi-billion pound tourism sector that needed to be ‘recognised’.
However, he also made it clear that businesses will need to implement measures to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19.
Mr Ewing said: ‘I’ve been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity which today I can provide. Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on July 15, 2020.
‘This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to Phase 3 of the route map. Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.’
Specific ‘guidance’ for businesses is expected to be made available by the Scottish Government in the coming days.
The STA has campaigned on behalf of the sector and had issued dire warnings for the industry if Scottish tourism businesses lost out on summer trade after many shut down in winter 2019 and did not reopen at spring.
The STA has called for certain sectors – for example self-catering, caravan and camping parks – to get an earlier reopening date.
Mr Crothall said: ‘Today’s announcement is what the industry has been asking for and we are hugely appreciative of the efforts of the Cabinet Secretary in engaging with all of our sectors to gain a thorough understanding of not only the issues and challenges but the opportunities for our sector in the months ahead.
‘It remains the case that urgent solutions or alternative measures must be found or taken to overcome the current two-metre distancing restrictions to enable economic viability for many businesses.
‘This is especially true of the capacities on our ferries as it will significantly impact island economies where tourism is the lifeblood for so many.’
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: ‘This will be welcome news for so many who are reliant on hospitality and tourism for their livelihoods.
‘The Scottish Chamber network alone represents over 1,600 businesses in the tourism sector which employ over 46,000 people, underlining how critical it is for jobs and skills that the sector thrives.
‘The Scottish Government has listened but for some it is already too late and the challenge ahead remains clear. The sector, which is essential to maintaining the fabric of many areas of Scotland remains fragile.
‘These companies will continue to need support to ensure they can adapt to provide a safe experience for visitors.’