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Visit Scotland | Alba

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Supporting the industry and its recovery

Our response to COVID-19 got under way as soon as the potential impact of the virus became clear in 2020. Across the course of the pandemic, we shifted from primarily a marketing organisation to a funding and business support organisation. This required a huge effort in:

  • redeploying staff and refocusing efforts
  • close collaboration with our partners and the Scottish Government
  • effective engagement with businesses.

As business-as-usual activity resumed, we remained focused on supporting the industry and its recovery.

Our activity at a glance

  • Administered and delivered Scottish Government funding grants to businesses affected by restrictions. This included both an initial funding stream and then Omicron top-ups. We administered around £115 million in funding to more than 3,500 businesses.
  • Communicated Scottish Government advice and guidance to tourism and event businesses.
  • Our industry engagement moved from in-person to digital. Webinars and calls replaced industry events and face-to-face visits. We supported businesses with advice to adapt operations and, where appropriate, upskill.
  • Stood up and chaired the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG). It included Scottish Government, public sector partners and industry representatives.


  • Carried out business surveys and workshops to help shape the response.
  • Chaired the Visitor Management Strategy Steering Group. It was created in response to challenges faced after restrictions eased in summer 2020.
  • Developed and deployed a marketing plan, in line with Scottish Government advice. This was to support the easing of restrictions and prepare for travel and events to resume.
  • Established the Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) to inform Government’s planning for the recovery of the event sector. The Group includes the Scottish Government and industry representatives.
  • Delivered Scottish Government-funded projects under the Tourism Recovery Programme on behalf of STERG. Find out more about the COVID-19 tourism recovery programme.

Industry support

Our focus was on supporting tourism and events businesses. We administered funds and offered a vital source of advice for industry.

Working together

We worked alongside several bodies to facilitate the industry’s response to the pandemic.


Scotland’s event industry was unable to operate in its normal way. Both major and local events, all of which help showcase Scotland as a world-leading event destination, had to stop.

Supporting the return of events


Our insight team played a vital role in supporting response and recovery efforts.


As the extent of the pandemic became clear, our normal marketing was put on hold.

Travel restrictions meant we couldn’t continue with our planned campaigns. There was the need to get critical safety information out to audiences. We used our consumer-facing channels to cascade Scottish Government guidance.

We prioritised Scotland and rest of UK market to help support recovery when domestic travel reopened. This meant that the level of investment in international marketing was scaled back.

Business continuity at VisitScotland

In the very early stages of the pandemic, we instigated a business continuity response. This was to prepare our staff for a range of potential impacts.

On 17 March 2020, office-based staff moved to a homeworking environment. iCentres closed on the same day and all relevant staff moved to working from home for the duration of the national lockdown.

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