New tourism taskforce
Sweeney’s Cruises are one of the biggest and busiest tourism businesses on Loch Lomondside. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Democrat reporter
A new taskforce created to drive forward the recovery of Scotland’s vital tourism sector is to meet for the first time.
The Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce (STRT) is made up of more than 30 businesses with experience from across the industry. It is co-chaired by Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing and Business Minister Jamie Hepburn.
The taskforce will meet regularly in the coming weeks to provide strategic advice on recovering from the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). Its creation follows a package of measures including the recently published tourism and hospitality guidance and a business support package worth more than £2.3 billion.
The taskforce is to agree its key priorities but will broadly look to:
- develop a domestic marketing campaign to promote the staycation market
- undertake an urgent review of access to funding support including addressing gaps and considering future stimulus packages at both Scottish and UK level
- evaluate the investment and ownership models of larger hotels chains and businesses
- consider necessary training and skills development to support tourism and hospitality staff
- commission early restart and recovery plans for the event sector
- generate public conversation about tourism and the benefits for local and rural communities
Sweeney’s Cruises at Balloch – looking forward to normality.
Speaking ahead of the Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Committee, Mr Ewing said: “Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector has been hit hard by this pandemic and we do not underestimate the crisis this has created. The Scottish Government has been doing everything in its power to support the sector through the challenges it faces.
“We’re continuing to listen to industry and exploring how we can help. That job is not yet finished and we are looking at what further support can be made available to tourism and hospitality businesses.
“The meeting of the STRT is a key milestone in the recovery of tourism and hospitality in Scotland. A range of organisations from across this diverse sector will come together to share ideas and expertise on how we can overcome the challenges COVID-19 continues to present.”
Orkney and Shetland MP and Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Alistair Carmichael, has called for a bold cut in VAT on domestic tourism from 20% to 5% as part of a radical plan to save the tourism industry.
The hospitality and UK tourism industry are among the hardest hit by the necessary social distancing policies in place. Reports indicate that 80% of workers in the hotel and food industries are furloughed and up to a third may be at risk long term of losing their jobs. According to figures from Visit Britain, there will be 22 million fewer visitors to the UK this year.
He said: “In the Northern Isles and across Scotland, local hotels, B&Bs and tourist attractions play a vital role in our communities.
“The seasonal nature of tourism means that many businesses will not have the income to avoid closing down after the support packages end. With most of the summer already gone and many people still anxious about travel, these businesses face the prospect of “three winters in a row”. Furloughed workers have some security now but the potential for job losses in the immediate aftermath of the crisis is severe.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that our vital tourism businesses deserve a bold VAT cut – as a sensible investment to ensure future success. The Chancellor should make this reduction as part of a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the growing economic crisis. At the moment people in the UK are being taxed harder than almost anyone else in Europe for simply supporting local tourism. This simply doesn’t make sense.
“Alongside a targeted extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme specifically for those unable to reopen, this VAT cut would give tourism and hospitality a crucial boost.”