The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) is extremely disappointed at the lack of clarity about when the tourism sector in Scotland may finally reopen under the Scottish Government’s new Strategic Framework Update.
There is absolutely no detail about an eventual pathway which would enable self-catering operators to work towards planning reopening their business. Despite being a key sector of the Scottish economy, tourism is barely referenced at all in a near 100-page document.
This situation is in marked contrast to the approach taken by the UK Government who explicitly mention that the self-catering industry might reopen on 12th April at the earliest, subject to criteria being met. This divergence of approach will have serious consequences for the Scottish tourism sector. This is evidenced by the fact that self-catering operators in England are already facing a surge in bookings, and similarly, bookings for foreign travel have jumped markedly. Meanwhile, businesses in Scotland have been contacted by English customers inquiring about holidays but are unable to take bookings due to the lingering uncertainty about sectoral reopening. There are now massive reputational issues for us in Scotland and our continued ability to attract tourism from within the UK may be damaged.
Furthermore, with foreign travel unlikely to be a viable option for the foreseeable future, there is an opportunity to boost the domestic tourism market in Scotland and offer safe and managed holidays for families who deserve a break after months of lockdown. As was the case last summer, the Scottish self-catering industry stands ready to reopen in a safe and responsible manner, supported by government approved cleaning protocols, and boost local economies throughout Scotland that have been damaged by the devastating impact of Covid-19.
Of course, the ASSC recognises that public health is paramount and the approach taken by the Scottish Government must be driven by the data. We are making tremendous progress with the vaccination programme throughout the whole of the UK, including Scotland, and the Scottish Government must consider accelerating plans for reopening the economy if the public health situation continues to improve.
The situation facing the self-catering industry is becoming unsustainable and untenable. If businesses cannot generate income due to restrictions, the Scottish Government must provide adequate financial support. The self-catering sector has yet to see any of the sectoral support package announced on December 21st reach the bank accounts of the 2,000 odd larger self-catering operators that will be eligible. The self-catering sector was excluded from Strategic Framework Business Fund support until we entered Level 4, despite businesses being largely closed by the travel restrictions. There is no certainty that ongoing financial support will be forthcoming once we exit Level 4, and with no bookings in the foreseeable future and a raft of new cancellations and refunds on the back of today’s announcement, many are in a perilous state. In addition, self-catering will not benefit from the top-up grants offered to similar hospitality businesses. This cannot continue.
Overall, I sincerely hope that we can work with you to gain some badly needed clarity around the following three issues:
- That the Scottish Government provides detail on when self-catering businesses may reopen in Scotland so businesses can plan ahead and not be disadvantaged compared to their counterparts in England
- That the Scottish Government provides assurances that bookings from Scottish and UK holidaymakers can be accommodated so to protect our vital tourism industry; an
- That the Scottish Government provides adequate funding to self-catering operators so that jobs and livelihoods can be protected until the sector is allowed to reopen.