Hospitality businesses can welcome tourists from 26th April, says FM, as travel bans lift

Islands to be aligned with mainland to allow travel

SCOTTISH hospitality businesses, including those on the islands, will be able to welcome visitors from across Scotland – and potentially England and Wales – from 26th April, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Speaking today (13th April), Sturgeon confirmed that the islands which are currently under level three restrictions will remain in level three from 26th April (the date hospitality businesses can begin to reopen) to align them with the mainland, which is expected to move from level four to three from that date as lockdown restrictions are further eased. It comes after hospitality businesses last week demanded clarity over travel to and from the islands, saying the Scottish Government’s failure to provide a date for when travel to and from the islands could resume had triggered a “wave of cancellations” from visitors.

Sturgeon also announced today that the travel ban on mainland Scotland is to be relaxed from this Friday (April 16th), and that people will be allowed to meet in larger groups of six adults from six households from that date. However, travelling outside of a local authority area to visit hospitality premises – such as a day-trip to one of the islands – will not be permitted until 26th April, the date when Sturgeon also expects to lift travel restrictions to and from England and Wales.

She also said she expects the whole of Scotland to move to level two on 17th May, which is when hospitality businesses are slated to be allowed to serve alcohol indoors; then to level one in early June and level zero in the latter part of that month.

On the reopening of nightclubs Sturgeon said: “I know that many people want venues such as nightclubs to open again, and all of us want to be able to have lots of people around to our homes. Almost all of us, if not absolutely all of us, are desperate to be able to hug our loved ones. I remain optimistic, now more than I was even a few weeks ago, that some or hopefully all of that will be possible in the months ahead and over the summer period.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), welcomed the clarity on travel.

“This is positive and critically important news, particularly for our island communities who have had an extremely anxious and concerning period awaiting news on whether or not their easing of restrictions would be aligned with the mainland,” he said.

“As the first minister was making the announcement the STA received a flood of emails from tourism businesses in our island communities conveying relief that they can now plan and accept bookings from 26th April.

“Today’s announcement will start to lift a heavy weight from the shoulders of a sector which has been operating in crisis mode for the best part of a year and until recently, has been without a clear indication of when businesses can welcome guests from across Scotland and importantly, the UK.

“Having the surety of permitted travel across Scotland and the UK will provide thousands of accommodation providers with the ability to offer assurance to guests who have already booked and those looking to holiday in Scotland over the coming weeks and months. Our tourism sector is dependent on 70% of the domestic market and today’s news will come as a massive boost for many businesses who rely so much on attracting visitors from all parts of the UK.

“While many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate as they would wish within the coming weeks in relation to guidance around social distancing and alcohol, I know that the first minister’s announcement will bolster many hundreds of accommodation providers, other hospitality businesses and their suppliers who have been so keen to get going and welcome guests back after so many months of being closed.”