Fergus Ewing MSP, the newly-appointed Tourism Secretary, revealed he was not going to be shaking hands – as he opened a Scottish Food and Drinks Showcase in Glasgow.
He also admitted the last few days have been “challenging” and likened the tsunami of Coronavirus and the demise of Flybe as feeling like the “Darkest hour just before the dawn”.
But he was also quick to reassure delegates and exhibitors at the Scottish Tourism Alliance Signature Conference and Scotland Food & Drink’s Showcasing Scotland West event that everyone in the Scottish government was focussed on working through it.”
He told Hotel Scotland editor Susan Young, “Life throw us challenges and this feels like one of these times.”
On the subject of Flybe, he said, “We are working hard to find alternative operators for the routes. Logan Air has already stepped in and Eastern Airways is also helping out. We certainly need to find a solution we need people to be able to travel to the Scotland regions – it is essential.”
He also sympathised with the plight of the staff, saying, “Three hundred staff are now unemployed and they will not be eligible for Universal Credit for five weeks. That is something that needs to be addressed and we are working hard with the support of PACE – the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment – to work through it.”
He was in Glasgow for the launch of a new £220,000 fund to help promote food and drink tourism businesses. The funding, which will be managed by The Scottish Tourism Alliance, will be used to develop a website with resources and information to help businesses encourage more tourists to enjoy Scottish food and drink. It will also support industry-led work to unlock the growth potential of the sector.
Said Ewing, “This funding will give food and drink businesses throughout the country access to online tools and resources to enable them to market their produce to visitors. It will also build on the great work already underway and allow more of our hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions to showcase Scotland’s world-renowned food and drink.”
He continued, “Tourism is the most important sector of the Scottish economy and food and drink is at the heart of hospitality.”
Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance Marc Crothall said, “We are absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government recognises the value of Scotland’s tourism and food and drink sectors all working together to deliver the £1billion growth ambition outlined in Scotland’s Food Tourism Action Plan.
“Our ambition is bold and we have a strong shared vision which will drive us forward to deliver our aims. This funding announcement offers a huge boost to both sectors and is one I welcome warmly.”