Scotland sets date to reopen hospitality sectorBy Melita Kiely
The Scottish government has advised hospitality venues and tourism businesses in Scotland to prepare for reopening from 15 July.
Hospitality venues in the UK were ordered to close on 20 March in order to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Fergus Ewing, tourism secretary for Scotland, said yesterday (10 June): “I have been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity, which today I can provide.
“Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on the 15th July 2020.
“This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map. Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”
Safer workplace guidance for the hospitality and tourism sector is due to be published on 18 June.
Trade body UK Hospitality welcomed the update from the Scottish government, but advised businesses will need continued support, possibly until spring 2021.
It said this would include grants for firms with rateable values above £51,000 (US$64,800) and any underspend on grants made available to date must be directed this way.
UK Hospitality said the proposed recovery task force was a welcome step and that further radical steps would be required, such as a “substantial” reduction in VAT to kick-start the tourism economy.
Willie Macleod, UK Hospitality (UKH) executive director for Scotland, said: “It’s good to have some clarity from the Scottish government and a real sense that we are moving towards the reopening of hospitality and tourism businesses.
“Recognising that there may be a need to change dates and timing in the interests of health and safety, it will take time, weeks in some cases, for businesses to get back in working order, communicate with customers, handle bookings, arrange staffing and order supplies, so this lead-time is very helpful.
“Consumer confidence is going to be vital to businesses as the sector reopens. Hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have been hammered very hard and trading will be tricky once they reopen. Social distancing measures will be in place and businesses will only be able to operate at a fraction of normal capacity.
“It’s therefore vital that we get as much support as possible. A positive and very visible campaign from the Scottish government to encourage customers to get back out and support businesses is needed. We need it to make the case for supporting two vital pillars of the Scottish economy that have been hit seriously hard over the past few months.”
Scotch whisky tourism
The update from the Scottish government also spells good news for the Scotch whisky industry. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) also welcomed the Scottish government’s announcement that businesses can prepare to reopen on 15 July.
Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: “Tourism is a vital industry for Scotland, and it’s been one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus. Scotch whisky tourism is an important part of this, with more than two million visitors now coming to our distillery visitor centres around Scotland every year.
“So we have a very direct interest in how tourism recovers – for our companies, since many smaller distilleries rely on tourism for over half of their income, and also for the hotels, restaurants, pubs and other attractions that whisky distilleries work alongside locally.
“We are very conscious too that businesses in the sector employ many talented young people and also provide flexible careers for those who need them, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that these vital jobs are protected through the crisis.
“The Scottish government’s announcement that tourism businesses can prepare to re-open on 15th July is very welcome. The industry looks forward to working with government, others across the hospitality and tourism sector and local communities to revive the summer season, which will be vital to the survival of many – in particular, smaller – businesses.
“The right protocols will need to be in place to ensure it’s viable for businesses to reopen while giving confidence to staff and consumers. Given the challenges, however, further support to businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector may still be necessary.”