The tourism sector has welcomed Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that beer gardens will be able to open on July 6 – but warns that unless the two-metre distancing rule is reduced, businesses will be forced to close.
Throughout the past few months, the hospitality industry has been hit hard due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact lockdown has had on the sector.
Being forced to close their doors, many haven’t operated since March and have had to furlough staff.
There was disappointment last week when the First Minister announced outdoor hospitality could not resume until July 2 at the earliest.
The Scottish Government has faced growing pressure to rethink the two-metre physical distancing rule which Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped to ‘one-metre plus’ for England yesterday, ahead of the reopening of restaurants and cafes in England on July 4.
Industry body The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said today: “Business who can provide outdoor hospitality will also be pleased to have a firm date for opening of 6 July, as will those in the supply chain.
“The STA, along with our colleagues at the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to highlight the opportunity there is for certain sectors to open earlier and safely because of their very nature and I know many are ready now to do so.
“This unlocks major components of our tourism sector and offers Scots the opportunity to plan summer experiences closer to home and boost our local economies. We are also delighted at the announcement that all accommodation and indoor hospitality can open from July 15 subject to guidance and restrictions and that our museums and monuments can also reopen from this date.
“A great deal is at stake – the health of our nation, our economy and indeed the reputation and sustainability of our tourism industry. There must be a balanced message around unlocking, opening and safety; it is so important that we get this right.”
Today’s statement follows the STA’s release of a survey yesterday which showed 87% of restaurateurs said they would lose more than 50% of turnover, with 23% saying that they cannot afford to continue, if physical distancing restrictions are not reduced to one-metre.
And 85% restaurants said that their business would be financially unsustainable if they were required to trade at two-metres physical distancing without any additional support beyond the next two months. This could result in there being up to c8,900 job losses from those surveyed.
The STA’s survey was completed by 394 restaurants/cafes, with the trade body calling for longer-term financial support o ensure the industry does not collapse.
With just 17% of the 394 restaurants surveyed currently operating, 21% say they have no plans to reopen following last week’s announcement by the Cabinet Secretary that tourism businesses should prepare to open indoor premises on July 15. While 48% of businesses plan to reopen then, 14% won’t open until August/September.
A staggering 48% of those who cannot open on the date have stated this is a result of the two-metre distancing restrictions being economically unsuitable. Just 16% say that international travel restrictions make it economically unsuitable and 6% also say they need more time to prepare when it comes to reopening to the public.
Shockingly, 32% of firms say they will lose around 70% turnover if the two-metre distancing isn’t dropped to one-metre, and the same percentage goes for those set to lose 50% turnover. And 23% say they cannot afford to continue if things to do not improve.
For those trying to navigate their business throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, only 15% of them said their business would be sustainable if they had to trade at two-metres physical distancing for more than two months without any additional support. While 85% said it would not be, showing that majority of the industry does not feel it will survive if the Scottish Government doesn’t loosen the restrictions.