Hotels and pubs ‘bitterly disappointed’, says STA

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Restaurants, hotels, pubs and golf clubs with an outdoor area are ‘bitterly disappointed’ that they must remain closed at least July 2, according to national tourism officials.

Marc Crothall, chief executive for the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said businesses had been hoping to get the nod from the Scottish Government’s announcement on Thursday about the move into ‘phase two’.

Mr Crothall said: ‘Having a chance to get some revenue coming in to offset the huge burden of costs that have had to be borne over the past 12 weeks would have provided some welcome relief for many.

‘The July 2 date, however, will allow time for operators to become 100 per cent familiar with the sector guidance and protocols for reopening and to plan and prepare for opening outside areas safely.’

The STA said it is conducting research into the impact of the current two-metre social distancing rule on business viability and employment.

In particular, it wants to understand the impact on accommodation providers and restaurants.

It said the results so far indicate that ‘unless there is significant easing of the two-metre rule, the majority of businesses within those sectors will lose between 50 to 70 per cent of their business.

Mr Crothall said a ‘worrying proportion’ had said they would not open at all but he was encouraged by the First Minister’s ‘review’ into the two-metre rule.

‘There is a balance between the health crisis and the economic crisis and we must not underestimate how important it will be for businesses to be able to open up in an economically viable way whilst at the same time importantly providing the necessary reassurance around safety to their employees, customers and our communities,’ said Mr Crothall.

Addressing parliament on Thursday, Mrs Sturgeon said it should not be forgotten that the virus had ‘not gone away’.

She said: ‘There will be a growing and understandable desire to move back to normality more quickly, and we will all feel frustrated at times, if that journey feels too slow.

‘That is true for individuals, and also I know, for business. The impact of this crisis on businesses large and small is colossal. We all want the economy to reopen as quickly as possible.

‘But if, as I believe is the case, frustration leading to a premature easing of too many restrictions is our biggest risk right now, it is equally true to say that patience could reap our biggest rewards,’ she said.

Donald Cameron, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and shadow finance secretary said he was ‘deeply dismayed’.

Mr Cameron said: ‘All businesses need to be able to plan and prepare and, given the hospitality sector has already lost so much of its seasonal business, speed is essential if it is to stage a recovery this year.

‘I was therefore dismayed by the reaction of the First Minister to my question in which I referred to the bitter disappointment of pubs, hotels, and restaurants, who are in despair at the lack of progress being made.’

However, Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said she welcomed the broader easing of lockdown measures.

‘Many retailers will have some measure of relief to finally have a clearer idea of when they can re-open and what they will need to do to prepare for this while construction firms can now start working again.

‘It will be a relief for many employers and will help to save jobs.’