Scottish tourism chiefs demand reopening date amid fears industry is on 'brink of collapse'

Scottish tourism leaders have demanded a "reopening date" for the ailing industry amid claims it is on the brink of collapse with more than 2500 businesses at risk of imminent closure.

Tourism is one of the cornerstones of Edinburgh's economy.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main voice of the sector, has called for the Scottish Government to allow businesses to reopen "within the coming weeks".

It claims a "stark number" of firms are being turned down for hardship grants and other financial support.

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Tourism is said to account for 218,000 jobs - the equivalent of eight per cent of employment across Scotland. More than 15 million overnight stays are normally recorded across the country each year, 12 million of them from UK residents.

STA chief executive Marc Crothall said: "With the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, tourism is starting to revive with reports of bookings for destinations like Cornwall on the increase.

"Scotland’s tourism industry needs a date now for reopening to allow the necessary period of planning for safe reopening and to offer confidence to all who live here and wish to travel here that Scotland’s tourism industry will open for business within the coming weeks.

"There are over 2500 tourism businesses who are still receiving no grant support whatsoever.

"These medium to larger businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland’s tourism industry, major employers – without them, we simply have no tourism industry and these businesses are at risk of collapse.

"A stark number of tourism businesses are being turned down for hardship and other grants. These businesses will not survive more than a few weeks. The furlough scheme was there to protect jobs for the future. If there is no business, there are no jobs.

"Scotland’s tourism industry needs urgent financial support and a package for longer term support – there is a very real risk that many tourism businesses will simply not survive the period between now and reopening.

“This is a sector that delivers £7 billion to Scotland’s GDP and 218,000 jobs across all of our communities, with a significant proportion of those being in our Highland communities.

"We need to see a greater commitment from the Scottish Government to elevating the economy and indeed the tourism sector as a whole.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are carefully considering how we plan the restart and long-term recovery of the sector and wider economy.

“The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group, chaired by VisitScotland, has been in place since the beginning of the crisis and has developed a plan to respond to the impact of the virus on the sector and that work will help inform how we move forward as we slowly and carefully emerge from this crisis.

“Our package of support includes 1.6 per cent rates relief for all non-domestic properties in 2020-21 and 100 per cent relief for properties in retail, hospitality, leisure and airports.”

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