Tourism sector told to prepare for reopening on 15 July
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing warned, however, that "nothing can absolutely be guaranteed at this stage”
The Scottish tourism industry should prepare to reopen from 15 July, tourism secretary Fergus Ewing has announced, although he could not guarantee it would restart on that date.
Ewing said that the tourism and hospitality sector had been “devastated” by the coronavirus lockdown and that clarity was now needed to “start on the long road back to sustainability and growth”.
But he added that “nothing can absolutely be guaranteed at this stage” and said that the date was “provisional and conditional” and liable to change.
Ewing said that the Scottish Government would announce its decision on the matter at the review period ending 9 July.
Any move towards reopening the sector would only come if the virus is supressed,
that the ‘test and protect’ system is in place and the Scottish Government makes the move to phase three of its route map.
Ewing added: “This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map.”
While the tourism secretary acknowledged that COVID-19 “has not gone away and remains a threat”, he said it was important to set a date so that the industry and visitors would have time to prepare.
Guidance for helping employers prepare to work safely would be published “shortly”, he added.
Ewing also announced a new Scottish Recovery Tourism Taskforce to assist the industry in coordinating with both UK and Scottish government guidelines as well as to learn from best practice around the world.
The taskforce will be chaired by Ewing and Jamie Hepburn, the minister for business, fair work and skills, and the full membership will be announced in the near future.
A domestic visitor marketing campaign is planned to raise awareness of the planned changes.
Ewing said: “The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges across the entirety of the Scottish economy, but it is very clear there are exceptional circumstances facing this sector that must be recognised.
“We have acted as quickly as we can to address the significant financial challenges faced by businesses and provide a comprehensive package of support.
“We are also pushing the UK Government to do more, including a review of VAT rates and to consider extensions to schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
“I’ve 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.”
The Scottish Trade Union Congress issued what it called a “serious note of caution” on the reopening plans.
General secretary designate Rozanne Foyer said: “Like everyone else, we want to see Scotland’s economy recover as soon as it can be safely and sustainably achieved. The service sector has a massive role to play.
“We note that there is still an element of caution attached to this announcement and that is vital.
“As things stand, we have a contact tracing system, which is at the very early stages of rollout.
“Equally, there is no coherent transport plan and we continue to raise significant concern of the government guidance for its safe operation.
“Given that levels of trade union membership in tourism and hospitality is low, along with prevalence of precarious work in the sector, we will need clear undertakings that employers wishing to re-open will fully consult their staff and admit union organisers and mobile union health and safety reps to support workers.
“We will need to see a special health and safety risk assessment for each and every establishment that re-opens including viable rostering to ensure travel safety.
“Employers must commit to supporting contact tracing and not to penalise staff who obey public health guidance.
“We expect to play a full part on the taskforce announced today to guide the easing of lockdown in this sector.”