The ASSC welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee call for views on the options for refining or reducing the current lockdown arrangements. We provide our comments from the perspective of a key stakeholder in Scotland’s tourism industry – the self-catering sector provides an annual £723m boost to the Scottish economy – and have highlighted our response to the publication of the Scottish Government’s routemap for transitioning out of lockdown.
Overall, the ASSC believes:
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.
With some construction work being included in Phase 2, large infrastructure projects throughout rural Scotland will rely on accommodation for workers being able to stay near the construction site. self-catering properties are best placed to provide this accommodation.
As it stands, however, self-catering, accommodation providers can only take bookings for key workers, or for future dates when they will be permitted to open (currently not before phase 3). Workers are permitted to travel to and from work where working from home is not possible. This may require considerable distances being driven by individual workers each day (with no car sharing permitted). The ASSC would suggest that this one size fits all solution is not the answer.
On 28th May, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson MSP announced that ferry travel will be restricted and the islands could be kept in lockdown for several months. If this is the case, many island businesses will not be able to open and may become unviable. Has the Scottish Government considered the impact of this on island communities and their local economies?
Robust messaging is now critical and needs to be developed fast if we are to be able to open any kind of tourism offer, or even allow accommodation for construction workers (Phase 2). This messaging has to come from the Scottish Government and be supported by VisitScotland, local authorities, agencies, and businesses. MPs and MSPs must support a campaign to reverse the negative narrative as a matter of urgency.
ASSC has developed robust cleaning guidelines in association with the Professional Association of Self-Caterers and the Short-Term Accommodation Association. This is based on UKHospitality DNA, but is specifically designed for and fit for purpose for the self-catering sector.
The content is based on guidance from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), WHO (World Health Organisation), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), Centres for Disease Control (CDC), NIH (National Institutes of Health), and NHS (National Health Service).
We have indicative support from VisitEngland, VisitScotland, VisitWales, Tourism Alliance, Welsh Tourism Alliance and Scottish Tourism Alliance.
We hope to have sign off and acceptance of a UK wide scheme as a matter of urgency. Businesses are keen to prepare.
“Our application went to appeal and we heard today that we were unsuccessful. We have a smallholding and the income from the farm varies from year to year. For the 2017-18 year the self-catering took in 40% of our income but for the year 2018-19 it only took in around 25% and that was the year they looked at. On average it would be 32.75%. Very disappointing after 29 years but we have to accept it and so we are not too sure if we want to continue with self-catering now.” Orkney
With a lack of financial support for many, as it stands, this has to be addressed.
ASSC continues to recommend that the following evidence may perhaps be preferable:
This would evidence an active income stream from self-catering and should not be onerous for an operator of an active self-catering business.