Levels announcement ‘disappointing’ for hospitality

Trading under restrictions will be ‘unrealistic’ for many

THE announcement that Scotland will return to a levels system of coronavirus restrictions from late April is “disappointing”, say trade groups.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today that the Scottish Government plans to return to a levels system of restrictions from 26th April as part of a longer-term plan to ease COVID-19 measures across Scotland.

But hospitality and tourism groups have said that a return to the levels system will make trading “unrealistic” for many businesses north of the border.

“While it is encouraging that our sector can hopefully reopen from the end of April, we are concerned that a return to the previous tiered system will lead many operators to decide that such restrictive reopening conditions are simply not worth the time, effort and money involved,” said Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesman, Paul Waterson.
“Hospitality is not a ‘one size fits all’ sector given the breadth of premises that operate within it – pubs, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and so on – and depends on events and functions to survive.

“Of course, we welcome today’s news that the Scottish Government is committed to continuing financial support for those firms suffering as a result of the pandemic, and we also welcome the first minister’s announcement that she is considering support for businesses facing trading restrictions after they are allowed to reopen.
“However, our response to today’s announcement is one of disappointment for the licensed hospitality industry which has been among the hardest hit by trading restrictions throughout the pandemic, an industry that invested an estimated £80 million on becoming COVID compliant.”

Willie Macleod, executive director, Scotland, at UK Hospitality, said the trading restrictions included within the levels system “seriously undermine a business’s ability to trade and we cannot expect them to survive if restrictions remain in place for too long”.

“It appears that hospitality will be shunted back into unrealistic level three restrictions, which will be immensely damaging for the sector,” said Macleod.

“We cannot expect businesses to survive such severe constraints on trading over such a prolonged period and face yet more uncertainty.”

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive, Marc Crothall, agreed.

He said the lack of detail in the first minister’s announcement, together with likely ongoing travel bans, are likely to cause “huge issues for businesses”.

“With no international tourism likely for some time, there is greater dependency on Scotland’s ability to attract tourism from within the UK and we need to provide a degree of reassurance that their bookings can be accommodated,” said Crothall.

“Our tourism industry is not able to accept bookings with confidence; not all will wait for our sector to gradually reopen to book.

“We’ve seen the huge spike in bookings from England for foreign travel over the last 24 hours and there is a great fear that Scotland’s tourism industry will lose out in what could have been a buoyant summer season.”

Crothall added that there is “now an even greater need for a marketing campaign to boost late summer and autumn bookings”.