Scottish Government asks for support to mitigate ‘devastating impact’ of COVID-19 on tourism and hospitality
Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for an urgent meeting to “mitigate the worst impacts of this crisis” by extending support to Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector into Spring 2021.
The Tourism Secretary and Finance Secretary outlined “the devastating impact” of COVID-19 on the two sectors, highlighting the tourism industry’s importance to Scotland and requesting a review of the UK’s uncompetitive VAT rates.
The pair also called for extensions to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and tailored measures for tourism, hospitality and events businesses.
“The seasonal nature of tourism means that many businesses rely on a successful summer season to provide the revenue which sustains the business throughout the rest of the year,” the letter said.
“The July – September period accounted for almost 38 per cent of domestic and international overnight spend in Scotland in 2019, while April - June represented a further 28 per cent.
“Our businesses stand to lose a substantial part of their trade for this year on top of the income lost through the lockdown period and may not see a return to demand until 2021.”
The letter noted that mass redundancies were already underway at Crieff Hydro Group, InterContinental Group and Moorfield in Shetland “with hundreds of jobs under threat”.
“Without further support, tens of thousands of jobs are at risk and a huge reservoir of skills, which the industry has built up over decades, could be lost in a matter of a few weeks.”
It states the tourism sector employs 218,000 people, which represents 8.3 per cent of Scotland’s workforce, and before the pandemic “day and overnight visitor spending supported £7 billion of Scotland’s GDP.
The letter calls for “specific bridging support” for tourism and hospitality, taking into account the unique circumstances the sectors are facing: “legally enforced closure, the collapse of international tourism (re-enforced by the quarantine), as yet unknown issues regarding confidence of the consumer base, and the challenges of social distancing and hard surface hygiene.”
It takes note of the €18bn package unveiled by the French Government to support its tourism and hospitality industries and urged the UK Government to show “a similar level of support”.