TOM KITCHIN: “I totally feel that we’ve been left behind in the hospitality sector.”

By Lucy Ashton

Tom Kitchin, the TV chef owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant, has called for more support to be given to the hospitality sector, saying it has been “disregarded” as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.

Tom Kitchin, who opened The Kitchin restaurant in Leith with his wife in 2006, said the relaxation of rules coming into effect from Monday doesn’t go far enough.

He particularly criticised the restriction that means customers have to be off the premises, rather than placing last orders, by 10.30pm – a measure he said “didn’t make any sense at all”.

Venues can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm or outdoors until 10pm from next Monday, when most of mainland Scotland moves under level two restrictions.

Kitchin said: “I totally feel that we’ve been left behind in the hospitality sector. I feel that we’ve been disregarded and I totally feel that we don’t have the support of the people who should be supporting us.

“For me, personally, to make it more viable for the business is ‘allow us to operate properly in a controlled and safe manner’, the way all hospitality businesses have been doing and let us make sure that people are well-spaced, we have proper documentation and we’re doing it as licensees.

“We need to get this economy moving because this not about Tom Kitchin, this is about other businesses, other restaurants and our suppliers – they are on their knees. We need to get this economy moving. Enough is enough.”

Kitchin was speaking as new research published by the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), the representative body for tourism business in Scotland, painted a stark picture for the sector.

The STA surveyed 271 businesses directly and found that 30% took the decision to remain closed following the last easing of restrictions on April 26; of those, 31% have said that they do not plan to reopen next week when restrictions ease further.

The organisation’s research also highlighted an extremely slow start to accommodation bookings; between 41 – 45% of accommodation providers who responded indicated that over the course of May, June and July, occupancy is sitting at below 20%.

According to the STA, the sector could be in a worse position now than it was a year ago, with the occupancy rate for city hotels sitting below 20% in the coming months.

Marc Crothall, the organisation’s CEO said: “The Scottish Tourism Alliance is very concerned at some of the suggested media reporting (in recent weeks) that staycations are booming and that there are bookings coming in their abundance – the fact of the matter is that is not the case.

“We are hearing and have seen from the survey results that we have had back, and other data that has been gathered by member groups, that the occupancy levels for the coming months are well below what they need to be and in some cases significantly low.

“In our cities, the average hotel occupancy is around 14-15% in Glasgow over the coming months and as low as 20% in Edinburgh.”

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