Scottish tourism leaders warn businesses and attractions are at risk of collapse over prolonged 'crippling' restrictions

Scottish tourism organisations have joined forces to warn that businesses are teetering on the brink of financial ruin as they grapple with the prospect of pandemic restrictions being prolonged over the summer.

Visitor attractions, wildlife organisations, adventure and marine tourism companies and accommodation providers have pleaded for more help from the Scottish Government to head off the risk of financial collapse after 15 months of being unable to trade normally.

They have warned that long-standing businesses and operators are at risk of “falling through the cracks” unless new lifelife grants are provided or reopening restrictions said to be having a “severe and crippling impact” are relaxed.

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The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) says only a quarter of sites which have reopened in recent months are operating at an “economically sustainable level and has warned that there is a “real danger” that some may have to be closed for good.

Around 55 per cent of the membership of Wild Scotland which represents the wildlife, adventure and activity tourism sectors, said they were operating at less than half their normal capacity due to the impact of social distancing restrictions and curbs on group trips.

Sail Scotland said 80 per cent of operators it surveyed said they were trading at unsustainable levels under the current guidelines.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers said a third of its members were having to operate at a reduced capacity.

ASVA chief executive Gordon Morrison said: “Scotland’s attractions sector is on its knees and desperately needs additional and significant financial support.

Ben A-an in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with views over Loch Katrine. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny LamBen A-an in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with views over Loch Katrine. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam
Ben A-an in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with views over Loch Katrine. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

“Whilst there has been much talk of a recovery and staycation boom this year, under two per cent of attractions are operating with turnover figures comparable to 2019.

“For as long as we see the continuation of two metre physical distancing and international travel restrictions, it will be impossible for the majority of attractions to recover.

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"Business confidence remains very low, with fewer than one in five attractions optimistic about their financial performance for the next 12 months.

“Without governmental intervention to help their survival and recovery, we’re in real danger of some of our country’s most iconic attractions closing for good.

"Their loss would be catastrophic for Scottish tourism and for Scotland so we must ensure we sustain them and secure their future.”

Wild Scotland manager Rebecca Brooks said: “More financial support is needed for those that are being severely impacted by restricted trading as a result of physical distancing, international travel restrictions and group size restrictions.

“There’s a real concern for the future as we head towards another winter following a second summer of restricted trading.”

Sail Scotland chief executive Alan Rankin said: “Month after month, we’ve been advising the Scottish Government that boat operators in the charter and small ships cruise sector were facing catastrophic market failure."

A government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the exceptional challenges the sector is facing as it begins to reopen, particularly in the cities and in the recovery of international markets.

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"Our accommodation and hospitality sectors began to reopen on 26 April and there has been further easing of restrictions in recent weeks.

“We are reviewing physical distancing and an announcement is due shortly.

“Over the past year we have worked closely with sectoral organisations on support and will continue to do so.”

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