The Scottish Government’s routemap document shows that self-catering will form part of Phase 3 in terms of the relaxation of restrictions, placing it alongside hotels and B&B accommodation. During her accompanying statement to the Scottish Parliament announcing the measures, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that the proposals “cannot be set in stone”. Consideration should be therefore be granted to allowing the self-catering sector to open earlier in the process.
Such an approach would replicate the approach taken elsewhere on these islands. The UK Government have identified self-caterers in their ‘amber’ recovery phase and hotels in the ‘red’ recovery phase and the Welsh Government’s roadmap includes the opening of “accommodation businesses without shared facilities” in their amber phase. A distinction between types of accommodation and a bespoke approach for self-catering is perfectly possible in Scotland.
The ASSC believes that there is adequate scope to differentiate between accommodation models and to enable self-catering units to be part of Phase 2 for the following reasons:
On that very issue, the ASSC has always judged that the health and safety of visitors and guests in self-catering accommodation is paramount but this takes on even greater significant in the current context. As a consequence:
As things currently stand, it is likely that self-catering operators could miss the essential summer season when it could safely open at an earlier stage with social distancing and robust cleaning protocols. This situation will be compounded by the fact that equivalent businesses may open sooner in the rest of the UK, thereby further disadvantaging the Scottish tourism sector.
It goes without saying that the nature of this new framework will entail nuanced advice in the months ahead. In terms of the tourism sector specifically, due to the strong and necessary anti-travel advice, as well as the associated media and political comment in recent times, it is critical that we carefully redefine this narrative. Reopening will require clear messaging from the national and local government to inform communities that visitors are welcome once again.
When entering lockdown, the self-catering sector acted responsibly and played its part in suppressing the virus by temporarily closing businesses in Scotland. This came at a great financial cost to the industry but it was the correct course of action. As we begin to chart our journey out of lockdown, we believe it is only right that our sector is treated fairly by government when it comes to easing restrictions.
As a sector, we are hopeful that self-catering may be able to restart in Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s routemap. Tourism is a vital mainstay of local economies in Scotland – particularly in rural areas – and self-catering will be a crucial component part of our economic recovery and national wellbeing.