Scottish tourist industry anticipates 15 July reopening

UK: Scottish tourism businesses have been instructed by Holyrood to prepare for reopening on 15 July.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said the planned date was conditional on moving into the third phase of lifted lockdown restrictions.

The secretary noted that, though Covid-19 may change plans, businesses were in need of clarity in order to plan reopening. He announced the creation of a new taskforce to MSPs, focusing on the sector’s needs and the development of a new domestic visitor marketing campaign.

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.”

Many within the tourism industry are preparing for this reopening, noting that additional time in lockdown could lead to significant job losses. Edinburgh businesses in particular have all noted the need for additional income.

Tom Ponton, owner of popular Edinburgh pub Oz Bar, said to the BBC: “This is the toughest adversity I’ve ever faced in the 40 years I’ve been in the trade. I’ve felt very anxious during the lockdown and I have had to borrow £70,000 to get me through.

“I’ve never had debt in my life before and now I do.”

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) has noted that announcement not only served as a recovery milestone but also provided a timeframe for businesses to prepare. However, both the STA and other businesses have criticised the current two metre distancing requirements, calling for alternatives or solutions.

Many business owners have called on the Treasury to provide additional support to small and medium-sized enterprises during this time. Recent HMRC figures further note that nearly 1.5m hospitality workers are currently being supported by the government’s furlough programmes.

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