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Argyll businesses that promote and sell package holidays to Scotland or local day tours will have access to £15 million to help them do that.
The criteria for the Scotland Inbound Tour Operators – Covid-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund has been widened, while a new fund – The Scotland Day Tour Operators – Covid-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund – has been created in order to help more Scottish-based businesses in the tour operator sector.
Guidance for both funds is now live and applications for inbound tours will go live on Thursday, February 25 at midday. Guidance about day tours will go live on March 4 at noon.
Both strands of the funding are being delivered by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government and have been developed with input from the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Destination Management Association, the Scottish Incoming Golf Tour Operators Association, UK Inbound and the Scottish Independent Tour Operators Association.
With international visitor numbers to the UK down around 95 per cent last June compared to the same month in 2019, according to the International Passenger Survey, Scottish tour operators have seen little in the way of income since Covid-19 began.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: ‘With restrictions in place on international travel and from elsewhere in the UK for nearly a year now, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on package holidays and excursions in Scotland.
‘As an organisation we are working as hard as we can to get financial support to those who need it and we have redeployed more than 100 staff from other roles to help process applications as quickly as possible.
‘Visitors to Scotland are attracted by the prospect of exploring our stunning landscapes and delving into our rich history and vibrant culture and both inbound tour operators and day tour businesses are critical to this offering.’
Gordon Pearson, chairman of the Scottish Independent Tour Operators Association, and founder and tour guide with WOW Scotland said: ‘The small, owner-operated tour businesses we represent have endured very little or no revenue for 16 months and many are now at serious risk of financial ruin. Consequently, we are very thankful to the Scottish Government and VisitScotland for recognising the hardship faced by our industry, and for creating this lifeline fund.
‘International visitors are the backbone of Scotland’s day and multi-day tour market and, as such, we now face the daunting prospect of waiting another year to get back to business. This fund therefore comes as a huge relief to the many companies who are fighting for their survival, as it will help them to bridge the gap until 2022.
‘When international travel opens up again, it is imperative that independent tour companies still exist. We look forward to offering global visitors outstanding tour experiences once again, in turn helping to drive Scotland’s economic recovery.’
For more details about this fund, please consult the full guidance document at www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/funding/inbound-tour-operators-fund
For further information of VisitScotland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, go to www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/advice/coronavirus