The possibility of Scotland’s tourism industry reopening next month should give the beleaguered sector “some light at the end of a pretty long tunnel”, Fergus Ewing has said.
The Tourism Secretary spoke as the Macdonald Hotels group is reported to be preparing to make 1,800 of its workers redundant.
Mr Ewing said coronavirus lockdown restrictions, which forced the closure of pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants in March, has been “quite harrowing and even catastrophic for some businesses”.
But he said the prospect of UK holidaymakers having staycations in Scotland instead of holidays abroad this summer could help the ailing sector.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: “I hope people throughout the UK will perhaps take the advantage of having a staycation rather than a foreign holiday.
“The aim is to give tourism a boost for the remainder of the summer, provided of course the science is with us.”
His comments came after he announced tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland could reopen on July 15 if progress in suppressing coronavirus continues.
The minister said he is “very keen” to have a marketing campaign to further help the industry before that.
Mr Ewing said: “I hope that our friends in other parts of the UK will perhaps come to Scotland rather than maybe go on a plane somewhere, so there maybe opportunities that will arise.
“I am very very keen to see us revive our tourism industry because this period has been quite harrowing and even catastrophic for some businesses.
“The toll on people who have lost their livelihoods overnight in lockdown has been a very heavy one indeed.
“I hope and believe the announcement yesterday has given some hope and some light at the end of a pretty long tunnel.”
He added: “It is absolutely essential that businesses who after all have had no income for 12 weeks now are able to retrieve from this summer season some successful trading.”
Mr Ewing said the reopening of tourism depends on restrictions on travel being lifted, with this not scheduled to happen until phase three of the four-point plan for lifting lockdown.
By then it is proposed Scots will be able to drive beyond their local area for leisure and exercise purposes, with public transport operating full services – although capacity will “still be significantly limited to allow for physical distancing”.
The earliest date for that is July 9, with Mr Ewing stressing “the science and health advice must be in the right place”.
He added that in the Scottish Government “our judgment was July 15 provides sufficient time to prepare”.