By Democrat reporter
Scotland’s next tourism season is at “serious risk” because rigorous Covid testing requirements are being retained for international visitors, industry leaders have claimed.
Visitor testing rules are being relaxed in England but the Scottish government has said it would not follow suit at this stage because of health concerns.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance claims the divergence is harming its industry.
They claim bookings for 2022 are being lost to English competitors.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance has put its name to an open letter signed by more than 40 tourism businesses calling for an urgent meeting with the Scottish government.
Sweeney’s Cruises – one of the top businesses on the Bonnie Banks. Picture by Bill Heaney
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “I have received a steady stream of messages over the course of the weekend from businesses presenting direct and immediate evidence of the impact of the Scottish government’s decision on international travel restrictions.
“As an example, one inbound operator has been told to direct all future bookings to airports south of the border.
“It is the grave concern of many that international bookings, revenue and visitors are being lost not just now but should this policy remain, it could destroy any hopes of recovery in 2022.”
Under new regulations, Scotland will merge its amber and green lists for international travellers entering the country, while the red list – which requires a stay in a quarantine hotel – will remain the same.
The move mirrors that of the UK government, which would cover England and see the changes come into effect on 4 October.
But the Scottish government has so far declined to change its testing regime.
This means a pre-departure negative test is still required and travellers from abroad who have been vaccinated are still required to produce a negative PCR test on the second day after their arrival – while later in October travellers entering England will be able to use the cheaper lateral flow test instead.
The open letter from more than 40 tourism organisations, including the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and FSB Scotland, has been sent to Nicola Sturgeon and economic officials in the Scottish government.
It states that the “long-term impact and costs are and will be significant; our 2022 season is now at serious risk” before adding that “Scotland has now become one of the most uncompetitive destinations globally”.
Speaking last week, Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson said he had “concerns that the UK government’s proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers will weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities.”
“While we want to maintain a four nations approach to these matters, we need to consider urgently their implications.”
Scotland’s national clinical director Prof Jason Leitch has warned that removing the PCR testing requirement for new arrivals would make it harder to detect new Covid variants, as genomic testing is not possible with lateral flow tests.