Rebuilding Scotland's tourism industry together
Scottish tourism is facing up to its biggest challenge ever with Coronavirus impacting the entire industry. It is expected that the recovery will take some time and many businesses will require significant support to restart their operations.
The recovery of this crucial £11 billion industry requires a multi-agency approach, working with the tourism industry to help those affected today, tomorrow and in the future.
The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) is working hard to help tourism businesses to recover from this unprecedented situation, working collaboratively to make the best use of budgets and their own employee’s time. They have one goal – to help the tourism industry return to being the economic and social powerhouse it once was.
The group, which consists of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA); VisitScotland (VS); COSLA; the three Enterprise Agencies - Scottish Enterprise (SE), South of Scotland Enterprise (SoSE), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE); Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Government (SG), has been working on a single, joined-up, phased plan to not just combat the current issues but also look at how the industry could effectively restart and recover as restrictions imposed to suppress the virus are eased.
This has been a real team effort, giving the organisations an opportunity to refocus plans and redirect budget, as well as working alongside the tourism industry to work through daily issues.
The plan is aligned to the priorities outlined in Scotland Outlook 2030, the national tourism strategy and remains a living document which is updated on an ongoing basis and will continue to evolve in line with scientific evidence and government advice.
Responsible tourism will be core to this - working with local communities and destination organisations is crucial as we look to rebuild a successful tourism industry which allows locals and visitors to coexist and ensure the Scottish welcome is at the heart of the visitor experience.
1. Funding Support Update
- The two Events funds are well advanced.
- The Pivotal fund started accepting Expressions of Interest before Christmas, this fund will continue to progress.
- An additional event industry support fund for smaller events will be launched later in January.
- It was noted that these funds are not included in the list of new funds announced on 21st December.
Outdoor Tourism fund (Marine & Land)
- Criteria are being prepared by sector organisations Sail Scotland and Wild Scotland and are now at final draft stage.
- An application form for each element of the fund is in development.
Sector / Destination fund
- This is an operational and market readiness fund, not a marketing fund. It is to ensure organisations are in the best possible place when ready to market.
- It is important that this funding does not cut across funding already awarded by HIE or SoSE. A final draft will be shared with HIE and SoSE for comment.
- This fund is likely to be launched ahead of the other funds.
Visitor Attraction fund
- Final draft of the criteria is almost complete
- Final criteria proposals received from hostels sector this morning (7th January)
- International Inbound, coach tourism and domestic tour operators fund
- Final proposals for international fund received this morning (7th January). Ongoing work with CPT recoach operators fund and domestic operators fund being drafted
- Teams (with an agreed lead) have been set up within VS for each of the different funds.
- The aim is to have consistency across all funds and to simplify the application process significantly to minimise the evidence required - this should help to speed up the process.
- It has been emphasised to industry group representatives that if the application process does not specify ‘first come first served’ then it must be ensured that it is specified that the money awarded will be ‘up to’ a certain value. This will help to manage expectations where the anticipated number of applicants is difficult to forecast.
- Once all of the criteria and the application forms are signed off by the industry groups they will loaded onto the digital, online process and launched. This is likely to take several weeks.
Enterprise Agency Funds:
Hotel Support Programme
- The new lockdown restrictions, (travel restrictions etc.) are impacting the ability of contractors to complete agreed work with some hoteliers, this could impact the flow of funds to some businesses, potentially risking the ability of monies to be paid out by the end of the Financial Year. These challenges are being discussed urgently with the Scottish Government to find a resolution.
- All money has now been paid to the successful businesses in the SoSE region.
Wedding Sector fund
- Daily meetings are taking place to progress the development of the fund
- Criteria agreed pre-Christmas has been forwarded to Scottish Government for sign off
- Fund expected to be open to applications by the end of January
- A further update will be provided to STERG next week including the approved criteria
Ski Snow Sport fund
- HIE to provide an update to STERG next week
- Skills Development Scotland has secured £500k in the current Financial Year for the development and implementation of a new ‘Tourism & Hospitality Talent Development Programme’. SDS in partnership with the STA, HIT Scotland and a number of others have formed a management group to ensure the online programme is up and running by the beginning of February at the latest. The programme will initially focus on Management & Leadership training and aims to secure c.1,000 people on the programme from February to May / June 2021. A further £1.5m has been secured for the next Financial Year to continue the programme.
HIT Scotland will coordinate the activity and David Cochrane, CEO, will attend the STA Member Forums
next week to share details of the programme.
2. Funding Support Issues
A number of concerns were raised regarding the funding support.
- Consistency across funds is the main concern:
- Ensuring consistency of the eligibility criteria and exclusions across all new funds is key. It was noted that this could be challenging given that there are a number of organisations involved in administering the funds, e.g. VisitScotland, Enterprise Agencies and 32 Local Authorities.
- Exclusions need to be clear, consistent and need to be kept to a minimum to ensure the funds can be administered at pace. The more exclusions there are, the more cross checking is required which can delay the funds paying out to the businesses that need it.
- Specifically, clarity is still required on whether businesses in receipt of previous funding are to be excluded or not from these new funds, for example those in receipt of PERF or other funds.
VisitScotland has recommended to SG colleagues that barriers to the application process for the new
funds be minimised and that funding received previously should not prevent a business applying to the
new funds. It is recognised however that controls need to be in place to ensure that a business cannot
apply for more than one of the new funds.
It was noted that in a meeting on Monday afternoon (5th January), MS Hyslop advised that any exclusions
to funding were based on the fact that there is a limited pot of money and the risk therefore that there is
not enough to go around, there is however recognition that businesses need access to support.
The Scottish Government acknowledged that consistency was important and advised that there are still a
number of issues to be resolved.
Action: Scottish Government to advise on any noticeable inconsistencies across the funds once they
have visibility of the final criteria for all funds.
The Scottish Government confirmed that the exclusion linked to PERF has now been removed from the
Hospitality top up fund which is being administered by local authorities. To remove this exclusion from
other funds will require Minister approval.
Action: Scottish Government to confirm whether this exclusion could be removed from other funds.
- The timing of the Hospitality top up fund and the wedding sector fund is a concern. Businesses need to be made aware of the criteria for both funds to allow them to make the decision about which fund to apply for particularly if the funds are running at different times.
Action: SoSE to raise this issue today on the wedding sector call.
It was noted that Business Support colleagues in the Scottish Government are preparing a table which
outlines all of the new funds that are available. This will be available in the public domain.
- Criticism has been received from politicians and industry that access to the new funds is not being delivered quickly enough. It was noted that once again the Scottish Government has announced the money (21st December) without the funds being in place. It was stressed that this must be avoided in the future, the funding criteria and application process must be in place before the money is announced.
- VisitScotland will be clearer on when the funds will be available for application by the end of this week. The aim is to open all funds for applications as early as possible, it is estimated this will be end of January beginning of February. A VisitScotland funding table will be prepared and shared with STERG as soon as it is complete.
- It was recommended that STERG provide an update on the target dates when the funds will be open to applications as soon as possible.
- It was noted that where available an update on the timing of funds will be provided to the STA Member
Forums on 11th & 12th January.
- Strategic Framework Business Fund
- Clarification is required on whether a business must have a business bank account in order to be eligible for this fund, this is causing major delays and requires confirmation from the Scottish Government.
- It was noted that some new funds will not require a business bank account, e.g. Wedding sector fund,VisitScotland funds, this illustrates a clear need for consistency across funds.
Action: Scottish Government / COSLA to confirm their position on this.
- Businesses e.g. accommodation providers in level 3, (currently Island communities), cannot access this fund despite travel restrictions preventing their customer base from mainland Scotland level 4 / rest of UK travelling to them which is causing business disruption. This approach needs to be amended.
- Although discretionary funds have been mentioned as a possible source of funding it is recommended that a blanket fund is made available to all island accommodation providers given the travel restrictions in place.
Action: Scottish Government / COSLA to advise whether exemptions could be made for these
- Scottish Agritourism has raised the concern of discrepancies between how rates assessors have rated different businesses as this impacts the grants that can be claimed from the Strategic Business Fund, for example, one large business may be rated as one whereas a smaller business may be rated separately. In addition there is discrepancies between local authorities on how these issues are dealt with.
Action: Scottish Government / COSLA to advise if this can be covered by the discretionary fund?
- It was noted that Boris Johnstone implied yesterday (6th January) that the £375m of new money would be forthcoming to Scottish Government. Clarification is required from Scottish Government as to where this money will be channelled.
Action: Scottish Government to clarify the position
3. Impact of Lockdown on Businesses
- The new lockdown restrictions have forced some businesses to extend their periods of closure, Gleneagles for example will not reopen until 15th March, it is expected that others will follow.
- It was noted (and highlighted to Ms Hyslop at a meeting on Monday 5th January) that the fixed costs for many businesses are much greater now, i.e. in the winter, than they were in the spring of last year, for example utility bills are higher and there are now additional furlough costs.
- Managing overhead costs is a huge concern as grant support is limited. Conversations need to happen with Banks about possible support, for example extending mortgage holidays.
- It was highlighted that there are now no forward bookings for conferences or events and it is unlikely that any February mid-term holiday bookings will be realised.
- It was noted that Scottish Agritourism had submitted a list of issues, gathered directly from the
- Agritourism sector, to be addressed at STERG, these issues have been forwarded to the Scottish
Government team for a response.
- The mood is incredibly sombre, genuine business failure is imminent. It is critical that there is a marker in the sand for businesses to aim for in terms of when they could realistically begin to take bookings again.
4. Tourism Recovery Planning
It was noted at the previous STERG meeting on 17th December that a round table discussion with senior
agency stakeholders would be proposed for January in order to conclude discussions on agency support
for the Tourism Recovery Plan.
It was confirmed that the Director of Economic Development, Scottish Government, will meet with
senior Enterprise Agency stakeholders on 20th January where tourism recovery will be a key point for
5. STERG Industry Survey
- VisitScotland are preparing a presentation to share the results of the survey. The presentation is expected to be available w/c 11th January and will be shared with STERG.
- VisitScotland will hold an industry webinar to share the results of the survey and host a Q&A at the end of January, exact date TBC, (provisional date 27th January).
Additional work is underway to split the survey data by geography and by sector.
6. STERG Action Plan
- The most recently updated STERG Action Plan was published on VS.org on 18th December.
- The next update is expected to be published w/c 18th January.
- It was recommended that next update of the STERG Plan provides a status update on the new support funds and progress with the Tourism Task Force recommendations in particular the Recovery Plan.
7. Partner Updates
Skills Development Scotland
- A research project on Fair Work has been commissioned by SDS. The research will seek to understand the issues and challenges faced by businesses across a number of key sectors (including Tourism) in implementing fair work. EKOSGEN have been awarded the contract and will begin work next week. The project will run until March 2021. It was noted that some of the STERG partners may be called to be involved.
- Delivering funding support is the current focus of activities.
- All VisitScotland Marketing activity is on hold, however VS is ready to go when allowed to so.
- VS comms team continues to support Scottish Government funding update announcements
- The STERG review document is ready and will be published w/c 11th January.
- It has recently transpired that the Short-Term let legislation will also impact on B&Bs. This has come as a surprise to the sector who have not been involved in the consultation process. The Scottish B&B Association has been notified. VisitScotland plan to mail the details of this to all B&B’s on its dadatbse.
- An Extraordinary UK Industry Council meeting has been convened for this afternoon to discuss lockdown support and Brexit.
STA Member Forums will take place w/c 11th January
No AOB was noted.
Next Meeting Date
The next meeting will convene on Thursday 14th January, 11.00am-12.00pm.