The Scottish Government’s decision to retain its testing policy for international travellers entering the country could “destroy any hopes of recovery in 2022”, according to the head of a tourism body.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance has put its name to an open letter calling for an urgent meeting with ministers and officials in the Scottish Government following the decision, announced last week.
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 October 4.
But the Scottish Government declined to change its testing regime, with a pre-departure negative test still required and travellers from abroad who have been vaccinated still required to produce a negative PCR test on the second day after their arrival – while travellers entering England will be able to use a lateral flow device instead.
A letter from more than 40 tourism organisations to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and economic officials in the Scottish Government said the changes will benefit England’s tourism sector and harm Scotland’s.
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.
“Unless there is a swift change, the Scottish Government’s position on international travel will effectively write off international tourism to Scotland for another year to the detriment of our businesses, communities, supply chain and wider economy.
“Our industry has gone above and beyond guidance and legal requirements to protect public health and support the Scottish Government’s efforts to curtail the spread of the virus and curb cases; we have requested that a member of the Scottish Government’s public health team also attends this meeting to explain how the most recent analysis of data supports the view that international travel is driving transmission.
“This policy is causing immediate damage to revenues and represents high-risk self-harm for jobs and the economy in the short, medium and long term.”
The letter added: “The need for all aspects of Scotland to remain competitive is key to driving recovery; as a nation we are out of alignment with Europe and England; in fact, the Scottish Government’s decision on Friday will benefit England’s tourism and wider economy hugely while putting Scotland’s economy at great risk of long-term decline.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “No decision has been made as yet regarding day two PCR testing. Any decision will be informed by clinical advice and analysis of the economic implications.
“We fully recognise the impact the pandemic has had on our tourism and hospitality businesses, and continue to engage with the sectors in an effort to mitigate economic harms.
“While we want to maintain a four nations approach to these matters, we also need to consider the implications on Scotland. We understand that Wales and Northern Ireland share our concerns.”