Scottish hospitality sector unites to propose UK-wide reopening on 17th May

Published by Rupert Douglas on February 24th 2021, 11:11am

Some of the leading names in Scottish hospitality, including Colin Thompson, Managing Director of Dornoch Castle Hotel, have come together to propose UK-wide full unlock and reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry on 17th May.

The new proposal is line with the date set out for England earlier this week (Monday 22nd February) or risk untold damage to Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry and the thousands of people the sector employs.

Responding to The Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement at Holyrood on Tuesday 23rd February, over 80 hospitality businesses across Scotland have joined forces to form the ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ and they set out their own timeframe for getting the industry back on its feet again after almost 12 months of government-imposed lockdowns and other trade restrictions.

The First Minister’s roadmap, has been met with utter dismay, confusion and anger. Scotland’s hospitality and tourism industry has repeatedly rallied to all the challenges over the last year, which resulted in a highly successful and safe reopening in July 2020. The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group believes this latest announcement demonstrates sheer disdain and contempt, not only for the industry and its employees but equally its customers and suppliers.

The industry believes it has been unnecessarily placed in a situation which threatens to kill the green shoots of recovery for 2021 completely. Rather than cautious hope, the industry now faces widespread cancellations as people make plans to head elsewhere in the UK, recruitment becomes almost impossible. It also risks a summer of depressed trade and inability to recruit the workforce to service it.

However, the Hospitality & Tourism Action Group would like to offer a cautious, logical and yet constructive path towards the near future it is hoping for and also have some urgent questions for the Scottish Government.

The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group is asking for immediate alignment to the dates set out in England as 17th May for hotels and restaurants and mid-April for self-catering. This is both logical and reasonable.

Businesses also need advance warning of a specific date in order to plan ahead for reopening. Westminster’s unlock plan appears to have struck a cautionary note. This seems to have received broad approval from within the scientific community which advises the government. It is fully understood that these dates are subject to being pushed back if progress declines.

The Hospitality & Tourism Action Group is also asking for clarity on both travel and tiers. With international travel highly unlikely to happen before later in the year, the industry needs to maximise the opportunities from within both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Equally, there is greater clarity needed about the logic of placing the whole country into Tier 3, which is effectively ongoing lockdown of the industry. Two months ahead of this the data already points toward levels that would have set the majority of our country in Tiers 1 and 2 just a few months ago.

The industry understands the need for caution and importance of a safe unlocking. However, the ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ are urging the Scottish Government to fully recognise the significant damage to Scotland’s hospitality industry as a result of the ongoing lockdown, including the threat to around 285,000 hospitality and tourism jobs. Many of these jobs are filled by younger people aged 18 to 25 whose lives and careers are on hold until the industry is allowed to rebuild.

The ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ is urgently calling for the Scottish Government to act urgently on 5 key requests:

1. Confirm indicative date for re-opening of sector as happened last summer, on the understanding that date might move if the scientific data changes.

2. Align with rest of UK for strategic four nations approach. Full unlock and reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry on 17th May, earlier for self-catering.

3. Clarity on travel and tiers as set out above.

4. Conduct immediate review of financial support for Scotland’s hospitality sector which is significantly lagging behind the support given in 2020.

4a. Significantly more meaningful grants, at least in line with those provided during the first lockdown (i.e. the £25k given for 3.5 months). This needs to be index linked to rateable value. Whilst it is welcome news, the planned rates relief for the whole year does not address the immediate shortfall in cash.

4b. The employer contribution element of furlough is prohibitive and penalises those with larger teams. Call for immediate full furlough in the same vein as early 2020. If this is not possible then larger grants for those with more employees.

5. Longer term financial help to recognise impact of another shortened season. To include furlough until 2022, 5% VAT cut to remain until at least the end of 2021 and postponed repayment of Bounce Back Loans and CBILs.

If long term, significant damage is to be avoided, the industry is calling for the principle to aligned in as soon as possible. However, for some of the detail such as tiers and travel it is understood that this may need further data and may take until the next Scottish Government review on 15th March.

Led by Tanja Lister from Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland, the ‘Hospitality & Tourism Action Group’ campaign is being backed by over 80 hospitality and tourism businesses across the country, including Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House Hotel and Archerfield Hotel; Mackays Hotel in Caithness; East Lothian’s Ducks Inn; Knockendarroch Hotel in Perthshire; Cringletie House Hotel in Peebleshire; Chester Hotel in Aberdeen; Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Isle of Skye; as well as Dornoch Castle Hotel; Royal Golf Hotel, and Royal Marine Hotel in Sutherland.

Tanja Lister from the Kylesku Hotel, said:

“We’re calling for a more strategic alignment of tourism opening across the UK. The current plans, confusion and loss of confidence risk devastation for our industry and the lives and livelihoods linked to it.”

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Authored By

Rupert Douglas
Junior Editor
February 24th 2021, 11:11am

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