Proposals for tourism recovery
The Scottish Tourism Recovery Task Force has published its recommendations for supporting the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The publication of the Scottish Government’s taskforce document shows that planning is already underway to develop and fund a future for the industry.
The task force was charged with looking at what priority rescue measures both the Scottish and UK governments can take to bolster recovery. The group’s recommendations, which will now be carefully considered by the Scottish Government include:
- Working closely with the sector on necessary planning, advice and adequate compensation packages if evidence-based restrictions are required
- Facilitating international travel by progressing alternative options for robust COVID-19 testing regimes
- Developing a package of short-term measures including marketing support and sectoral advice via VisitScotland to boost visitor demand and increase visitor confidence
- Extending the Business Rates Holiday for specific affected sectors and regions by another year
- Creation of a skills development package to retain talent and enhance staff leadership skills
Funding for this plan is crucial and we will need to ensure that tourism and hospitality is at the front of the queue when it comes to kickstarting the economy.
The UK Government is asked to consider a series of financial measures including further tailored support for the sector beyond what is offered by the current Job Support Scheme, reconsider the removal of duty free shopping, extend the VAT reduction for hospitality and the supply chain, reduce the cost of loans via a government backed soft equity loan scheme and a review of taxation.
These recommendations outlined today by the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce offer a long and short-term plan to rebuild the sector as it recovers from the devasting effects of the pandemic. The final accepted recommendations will be taken forward by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) in due course. They provide the building blocks for the recovery of Scottish tourism, but will require the collaborative efforts of national and local governments and industry leaders to succeed, through funding and long-term infrastructure and skills programmes.
We'll be hugely involved in a number of the recommendations set out today.
As shown throughout this pandemic, there's no lack of interest in the Scottish tourism product in the UK, with the country featuring heavily amongst the top destinations of visitor surveys and travel lists. Internationally, whilst restrictions are in place just now, interest in Scotland remains high. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, international overnight visits accounted for a quarter of all stays in Scotland but almost half of visitor spend.
We'll focus on regaining the confidence of those key international markets moving forward, for business, events and leisure visitors, and ensure Scotland remains front of mind as we emerge from the pandemic. And we’ll work with DMOs and trade associations on marketing plans.
Work is already in hand to address the recommendations on digital support. To build on previous work, VisitScotland and Business Gateway are working together on a £20 million digital fundamentals package. In addition to these initiatives, it will be essential that we move quickly to protect the digital capability that has been built up through the wholesale international in-bound, OTAs (Online Travel Agents) and hotel chains to secure the underpinning distribution platforms for online bookings.
Extension of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is required to improve and enhance visitor facilities supported by increased ranger service provision.
Further social media work with younger audiences will be beneficial and could be extended to encourage and incentivise more active participation through existing reward schemes.
The Scottish Government’s route development/recovery work continues apace. Transport Scotland, in partnership with VisitScotland and SDI (Scottish Development International) has been successful in working with airports to improve Scotland’s connectivity in recent years, helping secure new routes to Chicago, Boston, Washington, Doha, Dubai, Beijing and many European cities important for business and tourism. This work is continuing with specific cases being progressed with airports and with airlines.
The immediate objective is to help ensure that the most important routes come back for the summer 2021 season with a particular focus on our global hub connectivity (such as Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Dubai); our North American connectivity (New York, Newark, Chicago, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia) and European cities which are important for tourism and business including Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, and a wide range of other routes.
We’ll build on our work to promote accessible travel options for a wide range of customers, including people with hearing loss, mental or visual impairments, wheelchair users, senior travellers and families with young children; encouraging transport providers to engage in the ScotSpirit breaks scheme, to increase the number of disadvantaged families enjoying a day out or short break across Scotland.