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Tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland face being left behind in the race for holiday bookings, the Scottish Tourism Alliance has warned.
Chief executive Marc Crothall said the First Minister’s provisional timescale for a gradual reopening ‘did not go far enough’ in giving the sector the clarity it needed.
Mr Crothall said Scotland now had a greater dependency on domestic tourism due to international visitors being unlikely to return for some time.
Yet operators could offer holidaymakers little ‘degree of reassurance’ that their bookings could be accommodated, while visitors would not wait for Scotland to reopen, he said.
Mr Crothall said: ‘We’ve seen the huge spike in bookings from England for foreign travel and there is a great fear that Scotland’s tourism industry will lose out in what could have been a buoyant summer season.’
He called for a marketing campaign for Scotland to boost ‘late summer and autumn’ bookings as Scotland faced opening ‘behind England’, he said.
‘We know that people are actively searching for holidays for later in the year – the window of opportunity is now.
‘Our industry had hoped for the ability to trade at Easter; many of our businesses have not traded viably since September 2019.’
Mr Crothall said increasing numbers of businesses simply did not have funds in the bank ‘to survive beyond Easter’.
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has also called for a ‘safe and co-ordinated’ restart of international and domestic travel.
She said: ‘Come the end of April, we would urge the Scottish Government to relax restrictions on domestic travel as this will be essential for the survival of tourism and hospitality businesses currently reliant on domestic visitors.
‘Time is of the essence. For many thousands of businesses, our debt is increasing, and our cash running out.’
However, Strathmore Hotels, which runs eight hotels across Scotland and England, including The Royal Hotel in Oban, has told its customers that ‘the end is in sight’ and that its properties would be reopening.
It said: ‘Although we do not have all the details yet, we are hoping to be back open for leisure guests April 26 (Scotland) and May 17 (England).
‘Our phones have been red hot this week so book your break today so you don’t miss out – no deposit required and we can cancel or move your booking nearer the time.’
Miss Sturgeon said from the last week in April, on current planning, the expectation is that the rest of retail will start to reopen, as will holiday accommodation, hospitality, gyms and hairdressers.
She said: ‘Sometimes people want us to follow what’s happening in England, sometimes people don’t. My view has always been that what we should just try to do, in fact what my duty as First Minister to do, is to try our hardest to get it right for Scotland.’
‘Our approach here is not an outlier – it’s broadly in line although, there are differences, with Wales and Northern Ireland.
‘And in terms of reopening the economy, the plans we set out yesterday are roughly two weeks behind the plans for England.’