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Scottish Tourism Sectors Demand Action for Businesses ‘Falling Through Cracks’ in Scottish Government COVID-19 Policy


A series of surveys undertaken by leading Scottish tourism organisations has revealed the extent to which many industry sectors are struggling financially as a result Covid-19 and desperately require further Scottish Government action.

Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag seen from Stac Pollaidh

The four organisations – the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), Wild Scotland, and Sail Scotland – claim that the findings of their surveys demonstrate the urgent need for policy changes to ensure the viability of their sectors.

ASSC found that 32% of self-caterers were operating at reduced capacity, 16% simply breaking even, and a further 16% being open but financially unviable. Larger self-catering premises have been particularly badly impacted due to household meeting restrictions.

ASVA’s survey, undertaken in partnership with the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, was completed by 178 organisations representing over 350 visitor attractions. It showed 71% of the sector has re-opened, however 90% percent of these attractions are not recovering from the impact of the pandemic. Less than one in four is operating at an economically sustainable level and 46% of attractions fear their business will be unviable if physical distancing and international travel restrictions persist beyond the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Wild Scotland reported that out of those surveyed across the wildlife, adventure and activity sector who can reopen, more than one third saw their futures as unviable with 55% operating at under 50% capacity. Group size restrictions and physical distancing remain the most significant challenges severely impacting over 50% of businesses surveyed. It was also reported that if international restrictions remain almost a third of those surveyed will see their turnover reduce by 51%.

Furthermore, Sail Scotland reported 80% of charter and small cruise ship operators surveyed said they were trading at unsustainable levels under current guidelines. Group size restrictions along with physical distancing reduce the viability of the sector. Some 87% of respondents confirmed that lack of clarity and direction by the Scottish Government around guidelines for the sector were seen to be having a severe and crippling impact.

Collectively, the group of organisations has called for new and additional government grants to help their sectors survive until normal service can be resumed, clearer and more timely communication from the Scottish Government, the easing of household restrictions, and changes to physical distancing measures.

ASSC Chief Executive, Fiona Campbell, said:

“These surveys from people across the length and breadth of Scottish tourism show one thing very clearly; important parts of our sector are falling through cracks in the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19.

“While those of us in self-catering, alongside our colleagues in the other parts of Scotland’s tourism offering, have done everything we can to help the national effort against this virus, we simply have not had the support and clarity that we need.

“On behalf of my sector, and the others who have produced this deeply concerning data, I want to send a very clear message to those in power; help us before it’s too late.”

ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said:

“Our latest survey has confirmed that Scotland’s attractions sector is on its knees and desperately needs additional and significant financial support.

“Whilst there has been much talk of a recovery and staycation boom this year, as it stands under 2% of attractions are operating with turnover figures comparable to 2019. For as long as we see the continuation of 2 metre physical distancing and international travel restrictions, it will be impossible for the majority of attractions to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic. Business confidence remains very low, with fewer than one in five attractions optimistic about their financial performance for the next 12 months.

“Without Governmental intervention to help their survival and recovery, we are in real danger of some of our country’s most iconic attractions closing for good. These are not only the jewels of our £12billion tourism industry, they are integral to our culture, heritage and communities. Their loss would be catastrophic for Scottish tourism and for Scotland so we must ensure we sustain them and secure their future.”

Victoria Brooks, Wild Scotland Manager said:

“Collectively as sector representatives, we have been battling away for months to support businesses across these vital sectors, the message has been loud and clear – more financial support is needed for those that are being severely impacted by restricted trading as a result of physical distancing, international travel restrictions and group size restrictions.

“There is a real concern for the future as we head towards another winter following a second summer of restricted trading.

This is a sector with significant potential to drive tourism recovery with the increasing popularity for nature and the great outdoors. However, to fulfil this demand we need the Scottish Government to step up and support these important sectors to ensure survival”

Alan Rankin, Chief Executive at Sail Scotland said:

“Month after month after month we have been advising the Scottish Government boat operators in the charter and small ships cruise sector were facing catastrophic market failure. The survey results have unfortunately confirmed such stark predictions.

“Operators have a short six-month season with 90% saying they will have 4 or less months trading this year and 80% confirming they are trading at unviable levels. Boat operators missed out on previous grants as they did not qualify under schemes requiring business rated premises.

“Marine tourism is a force for good bringing valuable trade to rural coastal and island economies. The knock-on effect of this sector failing has wider ramifications than loss of direct employment, skills and maritime assets built up over the years.”



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