Ready, steady…open? Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing announces 15th July as provisional re-opening date for tourism businesses

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Stephen Leckie

The hospitality industry now has a provisional re-opening date of 15th July. Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing revealed the date in parliament today. He qualified the statement by saying it would not be confirmed until 9th July when the country would be expected to be moving into the third phase of the Scottish Government lockdown route-map.
Hotels, pubs, restaurants and tourism businesses could open for businesses on the July 15th if all goes to plan, but it is very much dependent on the public health advice which would reflect infection figures.

The Minister said, “I would encourage hotels and hospitality businesses to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on the 15th July 2020.” He continued, “This is not a guarantee, and we may have to change that date. But by setting out the date we hope to have given the sector greater clarity.
“This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to Phase 3 of the route map. Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”

The setting of a potential date for opening was welcomed by various industry bodies including UKHospitality, the STA Scottish Beer and Pub Association and SLTA and but all warned that the current social distance measure of 2m, which is still the rule, will mean that some businesses will not be able to open, if that sticks until the 15th July.

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said, “It’s good to have some clarity from the Scottish Government and a real sense that we are moving towards the reopening of hospitality and tourism businesses. Recognising that there may be a need to change dates and timing in the interests of health and safety, it will take time, weeks in some cases, for businesses to get back in working order, communicate with customers, handle bookings, arrange staffing and order supplies, so this lead-time is very helpful.”

While Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the representative body for tourism businesses in Scotland said, “The Cabinet Secretary’s announcement that the majority of tourism businesses can reopen on 15th July this afternoon marks a hugely positive milestone in our road to recovery in what has been an exceptionally dark few days and indeed weeks for Scotland’s tourism industry.

“The STA has pushed hard for an indicative date to be given to allow accommodation providers, visitor attractions, pubs and restaurants to plan effectively, accept bookings, make arrangements for the return of their staff from furlough, conduct training and most importantly ensure that all safety protocols are in place to provide their employees and the public the confidence and reassurance they need to feel safe to return.

He continued, “One of the most frequent questions we have been asked is around the publication of guidance for reopening; it will offer huge reassurance to tourism businesses that this will be available in the coming days, giving them a full month to plan ahead to welcome visitors back into businesses across all sectors of our industry.
However, he added, “It remains the case that urgent solutions or alternative measures must be found or taken to overcome the current 2-metre distancing restrictions to enable economic viability for many businesses.”

Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said, “The setting of a date for reopening is some positive news for the country’s pubs and brewers, and something we have been pushing the Scottish Government on for several weeks. This gives some much-needed clarity for the sector and will also give industry the time necessary to put in place what is needed to reopen safely on the 15th of July.

“However, there is still a number of challenges for pubs that can’t be forgotten. Under the current two-metre social distancing rules, we believe up to two-thirds of Scotland’s pubs will need to remain closed. It is imperative for the hospitality sector that the Scottish Government explores the World Health Organisation’s suggested one-metre rule for social distancing.

‘Other countries, like New Zealand have allowed their pubs to safely re-open up at one-metre distance. If this was followed in Scotland, we could save thousands of jobs which otherwise will be lost through redundancies.”

Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director of the SLTA, said, “This indicative date is an important step to a return to some sort of normality, but the main question now is what the social-distancing parameters will be.
“The SLTA and other industry bodies have asked the Scottish Government to give serious consideration to reducing the current two-metre parameter as we have seen in other countries and to bring the level in line with the World Health Organisation.

“If the current distancing measures are maintained, normal capacities could be reduced by between 60% and 80%, and each business will need to assess the practicalities, cost and viability of complying with the new guidance.”

Calum Ross, General Manager of the Glasgow Hilton, says, “It’s very welcome news – something for all us to work towards although as always – the devil will be in the detail!

Stephen Leckie, Chairman and Chief Executive of Crieff Hydro, “We are delighted. We are very  positive about this. They have listened and taken action.  We understand there are caveats, and we understand absolutely that we have to wait until the 9th July until confirmation. There are many questions still.  The 2m versus 1m still big issue. We cannot open fully until we have less than 1m distancing.” He continued, “Until the 2m ruling is changed we will continue to lose money. Some pubs will choose not to open until 2m ruling is dropped.”

The Cabinet Secretary also announced the creation of a Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce to assist with the ongoing reset of the sector. The task force will look at the sector’s recovery needs as well as actions being taken by the UK Government and the development of a new domestic visitor marketing campaign.

Colin Wilkinson of the SLTA also welcomed the news that the Scottish Government to seek a VAT reduction for the hospitality and tourism sector and added that the announcement that unallocated grant funding will be assessed and redirected to those businesses which have not been able to access this support before is also welcome. “It will perhaps bring some hope to those tourism and hospitality businesses which have been ignored so far,” he said.
“If this funding is to be re-routed to help businesses through the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund or Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund we must see a greater increase in the number of successful applications – industry research shows that as of last week, only 14% of applicants have been successful with their applications for these grants, the rest either having failed or are still waiting to hear.”

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Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

Hotel Scotland is a new publication (2017) from the publishers of DRAM – Scotland’s leading on-trade magazine. Hotel Scotland is a newsy magazine which covers all aspects of the industry in Scotland. From who’s who, to industry issues and refurbishments.
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