Scottish hospitality bosses back Boris’ roadmap and urge UK-wide reopening of tourism and hospitality on 17th May

Tanja Lister

Scottish hospitality bosses have come out in support of Boris Johnson’s 17th May date for reopening tourism and hospitality rather than the roadmap laid out by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday which they say was met by “utter dismay, confusion and anger.”

More than 80 of Scotland’s leading hospitality businesses have formed the ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ and are proposing a UK-wide full unlock and reopening of tourism on 17th May.  They are seeking the support of the entire industry as they warn a delay could risk untold damage to Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry and the thousands of people the sector employs.

The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group is asking for immediate alignment to the dates set out in England as 17th May for hotels and restaurants and mid-April for self-catering. which they believe  is both logical and reasonable.

They believe they have been unnecessarily placed in a situation that threatens to kill the green shoots of recovery for 2021 completely. Rather than cautious hope, the industry now faces widespread cancellations as people make plans to head elsewhere in the UK and recruitment becomes almost impossible. It also risks a summer of depressed trade and an inability to recruit the workforce to service it.

The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group believes this latest announcement demonstrates sheer disdain and contempt, not only for the industry and its employees but equally for its customers and suppliers.

The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group, led by Tanja Lister of Kylesku Hotel,  is asking for clarity on both travel and tiers. With international travel highly unlikely to happen before later in the year, the industry needs to maximise the opportunities from within both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

They also want to know the logic of placing the whole country into Tier 3, which is effectively ongoing lockdown of the industry when the data, even now, with two months to go would seemingly point toward a logic of lower tiers as judged by the Scottish Government’s previous own parameters.

Tanja Lister explains,  “We’re calling for a more strategic alignment of tourism opening across the UK. The current plans, confusion and loss of confidence risk devastation for our industry and the lives and livelihoods linked to it.”

“Also, the financial support on offer in 2021 is very much lacking in comparison to last year. We’re calling for full proper furlough reinstated until their businesses are allowed to open. Anything less risks many of our businesses not reaching the starting line. We need more meaningful grant support that is index-linked to the rateable value of businesses. Leaving our businesses with such a significant shortfall now risks some falling at the last hurdle and would result in previous financial support having been in vain.”

The industry understands the need for caution and importance of a safe unlocking. However, the ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ are urging the Scottish Government to fully recognise the significant damage to Scotland’s hospitality industry as a result of the ongoing lockdown, including the threat to around 285,000 hospitality and tourism jobs. Many of these jobs are filled by younger people aged 18 to 25 whose lives and careers are on hold until the industry is allowed to rebuild.

The ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ is urgently calling for the Scottish Government to act urgently on 5 key requests:

  1. Confirm indicative date for re-opening of sector as happened last summer, on the understanding that date might move if the scientific data changes.
  2. Align with rest of UK for strategic four nations approach. Full unlock and reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry on 17th May, earlier for self-catering.
  3. Clarity on travel and tiers as set out above.
  4. Conduct immediate review of financial support for Scotland’s hospitality sector which is significantly lagging behind the support given in 2020.

4a. Significantly more meaningful grants, at least in line with those provided during the first lockdown (i.e. the £25k given for 3.5 months). This needs to be index-linked to rateable value. Whilst it is welcome news, the planned rates relief for the whole year does not address the immediate shortfall in cash.

4b. The employer contribution element of furlough is prohibitive and penalises those with larger teams. Call for immediate full furlough in the same vein as early 2020. If this is not possible then larger grants for those with more employees.

  1. Longer term financial help to recognise impact of another shortened season. To include furlough until 2022, 5% VAT cut to remain until at least the end of 2021 and postponed repayment of Bounce Back Loans and CBILs.

If long term, significant damage is to be avoided, the industry is calling for the principle to aligned in as soon as possible. However, for some of the detail such as tiers and travel it is understood that this may need further data and may take until the next Scottish Government review on 15th March.

The ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ campaign is being backed by over 80 hospitality and tourism businesses across the country, including Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House Hotel and Archerfield Hotel; The Torridon Hotel in Wester Ross; Mackays Hotel in Caithness; East Lothian’s Ducks Inn; Knockendarroch Hotel in Perthshire; Cringletie House Hotel in Peebleshire; Chester Hotel in Aberdeen; Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Isle of Skye; as well as Dornoch Castle Hotel; Royal Golf Hotel, and Royal Marine Hotel in Sutherland.

James Thomson, Owner of Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, said, “With this extended period of forced closure and inadequate support, many businesses across Scotland now face the real risk of permanent closure and potentially losing their trusted suppliers and staff. The wider impact of these restrictions on communities in Scotland is devastating.

“Last year, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close The Tower in Edinburgh after operating it for 22 years. Prior to the pandemic we were in a very positive position of having a team of excellent, highly-skilled staff – many of which were young people. I fear the worst for them and for businesses like ours who have to make awful decisions based on the current circumstances. Increased support and opportunity to trade throughout the summer months could make a huge difference to many.”

Colin Thompson, Managing Director of Dornoch Castle Hotel in Sutherland, said: “Last year at the first lockdown, there were several people concerned over a possible three winters effect – the winter of 2019/20, followed by a very poor summer (second winter), and then winter 2020/21. Many thought that couldn’t happen. Of course it did.

“Now with the very late opening suggested for spring and summer 2021, a short season becomes winter four, followed by winter 2021/22, so we have the five winters building up costs in our business. A key concern now will be a lack of funds to survive next winter as it will be difficult to catch up with lost earnings over a short trading period this year.”

You  can show their support for the Scottish hospitality sector’s proposed UK-wide reopening date of 17th May by signing a new online petition:

https://www.change.org/p/scottish-hospitality-sector-scottish-hospitality-sector-unites-to-propose-reopening-on-17th-may

You can share the link on social media using the hashtags #May17 and #ScottishHospitality

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