One third of Scottish hotels say they will not reopen next month

One third of hotels in Scotland say they will not reopen in mid-July when the country’s tourism and hospitality sector is earmarked to resume trading as a result of the two metre distancing rule.

Many hospitality firms even warn they will be economically unsustainable if the restriction remains in place in Scotland, according to a survey conducted by industry bosses north of the border.

It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled plans to ease the rule south the border to one metre-plus next month to help the hospitality sector get back on its feet.

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Political opponents yesterday stepped up calls for the First Minister, who has ordered a review of the distancing rule, to follow suit in Scotland.

Mariusz Brzyk, assistant manager of Paddy Cullens pub in Dublin, takes delivery of fresh Guinness in preparation for bars re-opening in the UK and Ireland. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The vast majority of hospitality firms say they will struggle if the two-metre social distancing measure is in place when they reopen, according to a poll by the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

In the survey of 1,052 businesses including hotels, restaurants and cafes from June 16 to June 21, some 85 per cent said they will have to stop trading if the rule remains in place and no further financial help is offered.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association ran a similar survey during the same time period, which found just 13 per cent of pubs believe they can reopen with two-metre social distancing measures.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The survey confirms that around 85 per cent of businesses within the hotel and restaurant sectors in Scotland will stop trading if the two-metre physical distancing rule remains in place for the next two months should no further financial support be forthcoming.

“The figures reflect the many conversations we have been having with businesses across all sectors in the tourism industry for months and underline just how crucial the current review of the two-metre physical distancing rule is within the context of the health and economic crises.”

Almost a third of hotels surveyed said they will not reopen on 15 July directly because of the social distancing regulations, while 23 per cent of restaurants said they cannot afford to continue if restrictions are not reduced to one metre. Restaurants said if they are required to trade at two metres without any additional support beyond the next two months, there will be almost 9,000 jobs at risk due to closures.

Mr Crothall said: “Our tourism industry has welcomed the publication of the sector guidance for reopening and fully supports all recommended measures to ensure the safety of employees, visitors and our communities.

“However, many businesses do not plan to open again with the two-metre rule in place as it’s simply not economically viable for them to do so.

“Coupled with the expected slow recovery forecast, we expect a steady stream of job losses across the whole of Scotland over the coming weeks.”

He added: “Also, as we all know, visitors will choose where to stay based on the tourism product available in that area and are unlikely to travel to destinations that have a limited product in the form restaurants, visitor attractions and pubs.

“This will have a direct knock-on effect on the current limited demand for accommodation in our destinations and the impact on our local economies and supply chain is likely to be severe.”

Ms Sturgeon said yesterday during her daily Coronavirus briefing that the advice and evidence which has been received by the Government so far supports the two metre distancing rule in order to “reduce the risk of virus transmission.”

A review ordered by the First Minister into the measure by her scientific advisers is to report back 2 July. But she hinted that safegaurds could be put in place which could allow it to be safely reduced.

“It could be face coverings, it could be having more perspex screens in certain settings, it could be changing seating patterns in indoor circumstances and what it might mean is that it will be different in one setting to another setting,” she said.

“In hospitality it could involve taking names and addresses of people who go indoors in order that should there be an outbreak of the virus or if somebody tests positive there is an ability to trace the others that have been there at the same time.

“All of these kind of things are potential mitigations if you allow for flexibility around two metres in circumstances where for practical and economic reasons, it is difficult, always, to maintain it.”

But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack urged more urgent approach from Ms Sturgeon.

“Given the significant fall in the incidence of the disease, and following the review from our scientific experts, the UK Government has taken cautious steps forward,” he said.

“I would urge the Scottish Government to also act quickly and decisively to help Scottish businesses get back on their feet. Scotland’s hospitality sector – such a crucial part of our economy – is crying out for a reduction in the ‘two metre rule’ and certainty about when it can reopen.

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