The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) and UKHospitality met Nicola Sturgeon on Friday afternoon to discuss the impact and implications for businesses within the sector which have been in and continue to languish in level 3 restrictions. Ivan McKee, the newly appointed Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise was also there.
They wanted to know why a blanket approach to restrictions, rather than a targeted postcode method of managing the rising cases was taken and highlighted the impact of travel restrictions within the Glasgow area and on tourism businesses across the rest of the country, Glasgow being one of the main conurbations for travel to other destinations. The organisations also highlighted the need for greater flexibility in the strategic framework restrictions depending on local circumstances.
The STA had conversations with many of its sector group and trade bodies last week, gleaning evidence from members such as the Scottish Beer and Pub Association and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association to relay directly to the First Minister.
The priority issue for discussion was focussed around the levels of financial support which are required immediately by the impacted tourism and hospitality businesses both within and outside the restricted travel areas and support for new employees who have not been able to work but are not eligible for furlough.
The issue around the impact of short notice, the importance of businesses being given a clear timescale for communication of changes to restrictions was also raised as was the heightening mental health crisis within the industry.
Leon Thompson, Executive Director Scotland UKHospitality (pictured) called the meeting “constructive”.
He said, “Meeting with the First Minister and Mr McKee allowed for a complete picture of the challenges faced by the hospitality sector to be presented.
“UKHospitality Scotland will continue to work with the new administration, with the first step a further meeting with Mr McKee next week to discuss support from the Scottish Government. Our sector, like no other, continues to be adversely impacted by restrictions. A clear and early demonstration of the Scottish Government’s commitment to hospitality is vital.”
Scottish Tourism Alliance Chief Executive Marc Crothall added, “We talked at length about the financial support required for the sector and were pleased that there was the acknowledgement that more support beyond the restart loans, the value of which has been lost due to the current circumstances is being considered.”
“We raised the point around the timing of announcements and understand why decisions were taken so late last week and that if decisions had been taken earlier this week, East Renfrewshire may have been moved back to Level 3. We look forward to continuing our constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government over the coming weeks in particular with Ivan McKee who has confirmed a meeting with the STA next Wednesday.”
The STA also raised the issue of the impact of the ongoing ferries situation on island communities and the tourism economy. The First Minister offered assurance that this was high on the list of priorities for the Transport Secretary.
The STA have confirmed an initial meeting with Mr McKee for 26th May to bring him up to speed with what they do, its members and the wider tourism industry and will be inviting both he and Ms Forbes to the next STA Council and Board meetings in June.