The Museums Recovery Fund opened yesterday (2 February) to accredited and non-accredited independent museums thanks to the further £1 million funding from the Scottish Government. Independent museums in need of support to operate and adapt in response to the challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic can apply for grants of a size determined by their operating costs, up to £90,000. The grants be used to support:

  • core operating costs
  • activity to recover visitor numbers and spend including marketing, special events and restart costs
  • activity to assist the implementation of new business priorities and increase resilience

The Fund is open to applications until 5pm on Friday, 11 March but potential applicants should note that, before starting to complete an online application and prior to 5pm on Friday 25 February, they are required to register their intention to apply by emailing the Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) Grants team at grants@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk. They will then be provided with advice on the suitability of proposals and how to make the most effective case for funding. Prospective applicants should also note that non-accredited museums that haven’t previously applied to MGS for funding will firstly need to submit an eligibility questionnaire by Friday 18 February. Further information on the Museums Recovery Fund and guidance on how apply can be found here.

The Museums Capital Fund is still open to all accredited and non-accredited museums to support the capital costs of projects that will have a demonstrable impact on the attractions’ long-term resilience. Potential applicants must contact the MGS Grants Team by 5pm, Friday 4 February with an outline of their proposal. The fund will close on 14 February and queries on it can be addressed to grants@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk.

This week details of a financial package worth up to £9 million for Scotland’s vital tourism sector were confirmed by Tourism Minister Ivan McKee MSP.

The funding package is to be administered by VisitScotland and will be split between affected businesses including visitor attractions. The emergency funding is being allocated to support businesses for cancellations and loss of business suffered due to Omicron in December and January.

Mr McKee said the support aims “to help ease the impacts of the pandemic on Scotland’s world-class tourism sector and ensure that affected businesses can survive what is clearly an especially tough winter period and be ready to trade fully in the spring and summer months.” He added: “We know this won’t cover all losses and will continue to press the UK Government for more comprehensive support.”

ASVA understands that the application process for the fund will be very simple and straightforward to ensure that monies will be distributed expediently. More details of both the funding amount that attractions can expect and the mechanism for receiving the funding will be announced in the upcoming days. ASVA will, of course, advise our members as soon as the information is available.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “ASVA has pushed hard to ensure that those attractions impacted by Omicron will benefit from emergency support and we are pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised this by allocating funding to visitor attractions. We are, of course, grateful for any support and we acknowledge that this top-up fund will be useful for a number of our members.  However, it is a short-term support fund for a short term issue. The allocated sums expected will not come close to covering the very significant losses our sector has experienced. We will continue to push the Scottish and UK Governments for further support mechanisms to help ensure that our sector can recover fully and lead the wider recovery of Scottish tourism in 2022.”

As we have highlighted in previous E-Updates, other funding streams are also available/planned for businesses affected by Omicron control measures, including a Hospitality fund for cafes/restaurants impacted and an Events fund for any businesses that have experienced event cancellations. ASVA has been advised by the Scottish Government, however, that businesses cannot benefit from multiple funds. Therefore it would not be possible, for example, for an attraction with a café to benefit from both the Visitor Attraction fund and the Hospitality fund.

More details of all the different funding streams can be found here and further information specifically about the tourism support package can be accessed at this link.

The latest ASVA Visitor Attractions Barometer report – for November 2021 – is now available to view in the Members Area of our website.

This report for November provides us with the clearest picture yet of how the industry is faring since Scotland moved ‘beyond level 0’ in August. It is very clear that, despite the fact most restrictions on visitor numbers and travel have been lifted, there has yet to be a wholescale recovery of the attractions sector.  However, the November data is the most encouraging we have seen thus far, with a number of attractions reporting visitor numbers close to or at 2019 levels. Of course, the impact of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 was not fully being felt in November, with the first case of the variant only being reported on the 27th of the month. We very much anticipate the December report will see a further significant downturn in visitation levels across the board as a result of the spread of Omicron.

The picture for November was similar to that seen in October, albeit slightly improved overall. This is likely down to the fact that consumer confidence in visiting attractions continued to rise between October and November, as well as the introduction of the Scottish Government backed Days Out Incentive Fund and VisitScotland Great Days Out Campaign, which provided participating attractions with the opportunity to offer discounted entry to their venues.  Overall visitor numbers across ASVA member attractions were down 35.2% on pre-covid levels in 2019, an upturn of 4% on last month. The year-to-date figure, however, still sees the sector down 63.6% on 2019, therefore, despite the introduction of initiatives such as the Days Out fund, our sector is yet to see any really significant recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. This data will be used by ASVA to ensure that the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders are fully aware of the challenging conditions we continue to operate under, especially with the impact of Omicron now really being felt across the board.   

We would encourage all ASVA members to participate in the monthly data collection exercise to ensure we build up as complete a picture as possible of industry performance. If you wish, you can submit your data for the report and request that your numbers remain confidential.

For more information, and to ensure that your attraction is included in both the monthly and annual reports, please get in touch with Hugh Sheridan at The Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Development. Hugh can be contacted at hugh.sheridan@gcu.ac.uk or 0141 273 1611.

As part of her statement in parliament on 5th January, the First Minister announced that a further £55m will be allocated to businesses being impacted by the pandemic, including an extra £3m to tourism businesses. This follows on from Ms Sturgeon’s statement on 29 December of additional support for businesses, where she committed an extra £107 million targeted funding which included:

  • £32m for hospitality and leisure businesses
  • £27m for culture
  • £10m for hospitality affected by table service
  • £17m for events

ASVA has been in dialogue with the Scottish Government about these funding steams to establish exactly where visitor attractions fit in with this additional funding. Whilst we cannot share any details as yet, we are reassured that the Scottish Government has recognised that visitor attractions have been impacted and support is going to be made available for our sector through various funding streams.

Dialogue continues and we hope to be in a position to provide more information in the upcoming days. What we can say is that it is highly likely that attractions will not be able to benefit from accessing multiple funds at the same time. The advice we have been given thus far is that, whilst multiple funding streams are being made available, businesses will only be able to apply for one fund, i.e. if an attraction applies for support through the Events Fund, it will not be able to apply for any of the other funds. Therefore attractions that could be eligible for multiple funds would be advised to wait until details of the various funding streams are published before applying.

Whist we await more information, we would in the meantime reassure our members that we continue to highlight to the Scottish Government the extent of the financial pressures that many attractions are currently experiencing and the considerable need for funding support for businesses within our sector.

For more information about the targeted funding announced by the First Minister on 29th December, please click here.

In her latest COVID update on 5th January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced important changes – which will take effect from midnight tonight – to requirements for self-isolation and testing. The developments will, it is hoped, alleviate some of the considerable impact and challenges that businesses are presently coping with as a result of current requirements.

From tomorrow, those who have tested positive have the option to end their self-isolation after seven days, providing they do not have a fever and they record two negative lateral flow tests on the sixth and seventh days. The self-isolation requirement for close (including household) contacts of positive cases has also been removed for children, and for adults who have received three vaccine doses. These contacts should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days. Those who receive a positive lateral flow test will no longer be required to book a PCR test if they do not have symptoms.  

The First Minister said: These changes are significant and they are not completely without risk. However at this stage of the pandemic they do strike an appropriate balance between the continued importance of self-isolation in breaking chains of transmission, and reducing the disruption self-isolation causes in the economy and other critical services.”

Ms Sturgeon advised that at least one in 20 people in Scotland now has the virus, advising: “With a variant as infectious as Omicron, the kind of protections that are still possible within our financial resources and without causing greater harm in other ways – while still very important at this stage – won’t control transmission to the same extent as they would have with other variants. Let me be clear this does not, in my view, mean giving up trying to control it at all – the impact of COVID on individual health and on our collective wellbeing is too significant for that. But it does mean seeking ways of doing so that are more proportionate and sustainable and less restrictive.”

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that the existing protections will continue and that current limits for gathering and hospitality remain in place and are likely to do so until 17 January. You can read her full announcement here.

Following the announcement made by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Tuesday 21st December regarding the re-introduction of additional mandatory restrictions to combat the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The Scottish Governmnet has today(23rd December) published updated guidance for the tourism & hospitality sector.

The guidance includes information about the latest measures which are being introduced post-Christmas, including the re-introduction of 1 metre physical distancing within indoor hospitality & leisure venues, including indoor visitor attractions, which will take effect for a period of up to 3 weeks from Monday 27 December.

The guidance also provides further details regarding the re-introduction of table service in hospitality settings on 27th December,  but only for venues serving alcohol for consumption on the premises.

The updated guidance can be found at this link.

Of interest to some members will also be the updated guidance for cultural performances and events, which includes details of the new limits on numbers attending live events, which comes into force on Sunday 26 December. This guidance can be found here.  

Today (21st December) in a statement to the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that, due to the ongoing spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Scottish Government will be introducing additional mandatory restrictions which will impact on certain sectors, including some visitor attractions.

The first new restriction will be introduced on Sunday 26 December, whereby, for a period of three weeks, limits will be placed on the size of live public events that can take place.

For indoor standing events the limit will be 100; for indoor seated events it will be 200; and for outdoor events 500 seated or standing.

On top of this, 1 metre physical distancing will be required at events that go ahead within these limits.

The second new restriction, which will be introduced on Monday 27 December for a period of up to three weeks, will see the re-introduction of 1 metre physical distancing within indoor hospitality & leisure venues, including indoor visitor attractions. It should be noted that 1 metre distancing will not be required within groups of people attending together, only between different groups (we would remind members that the current government advice on groups is that there should be no more than three households represented in any group).

The First Minister also advised that a requirement for table service will be introduced in hospitality settings from 27th December, but only for venues serving alcohol for consumption on the premises.

We are acutely aware that the compulsory re-introduction of any kind of physical distancing, even for just a short period of time, will have ramifications for a considerable number of members. Our CEO, Gordon Morrison, attended a hastily convened meeting of the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) this afternoon, where the new restrictions were discussed, and he made the point that visitor attractions, not just hospitality venues, are very much being hit hard again by the impacts of the measures being taken to curb the spread of Omicron and it is vital that the Scottish Government provide the necessary support to our sector.

To read the First Minister’s statement, please click here.

As part of the First Minister’s statement about additional restrictions, there was an acknowledgement that the decisions made by the Scottish Government and the ongoing advice that is currently being given to the public, will have significant financial implications for many businesses.  

Members will recall from yesterday’s update that £100m has already been allocated to support affected businesses and, today, the First Minister confirmed that an additional £275m will be made available between now and the next financial year to further support those sectors most impacted.

At today’s STERG meeting, it was confirmed that emergency funding will be made available to visitor attractions that are currently feeling the impact of Omicron measures, i.e. visitor attractions that have been open from 8th December. This funding will come from the original £100m allocated by the Scottish Government last week. ASVA has been advised that details of this funding support should be forthcoming early in the Near Year.

How the additional £275m on top of the emergency funding will be allocated has yet to be decided, but members can be assured that ASVA will continue to provide the Scottish Government with strong evidence to demonstrate that ours is a sector which continues to be heavily impacted by the effects of COVID-19. We would like to thank all the members who have provided us with sensitive financial information over the last few days. The information provided has greatly helped ASVA make a strong case for additional support for our sector.

As it stands, the only details of the £100m emergency support available thus far is in relation to the December & annuary Business Top Up for those in the Hospitality Sector, which can be found here.

ASVA will be advising VisitScotland and the Scottish Government over the Christmas period regarding the creation of the emergency fund for Scottish Visitor Attractions. As soon as we have more details, we will share with members.

Members will recall that, in early December, we reached out to you to ask you to complete our latest survey. The survey was designed to establish attraction members’ operational plans and intentions for 2022, including covid measures, pricing policies, opening hours, wage levels and investment priorities.

The results of the survey are now in and are summarised in this report.

We hope that members find the report useful as you make your decisions about priorities and plans for the year ahead. One note of caution, of course, is that the survey was undertaken in the first week of December, so before the impact of the Omicron variant was being truly felt across the sector. We would therefore recommend that some results, such as the level of optimism about business performance in 2022, be read through a cautious lens.

One point we are very keen to emphasise from the survey results, and that we will certainly be emphasising strongly in our ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government, is that that 100% of survey respondents detailed that they would be operating with some form of COVID-19 mitigating measures in 2022, even if these measures are not mandated in law.

This backs up what has been consistently demonstrated by the attractions sector over the last 20 months, that ours is clearly a sector that places the safety of visitors and staff above all else and we must be commended for the actions we have taken, and continue to take, to curb the spread of COVID-19 whilst still offering our visitors a high quality and hugely enjoyable experience.

ASVA is delighted to announce a very exciting new partnership with award winning tourism insight consultancy BVA BDRC, to provide members with the opportunity to take part in an innovative new Mystery Visitor Programme in 2022.
As members may recall in the summer of 2021, BVA BDRC worked with ASVA to conduct mystery visits to 20 Scottish visitor attractions across a range of sectors and regions.  The project assessed the full range of how visitors experience their sites including, pre-booking and adherence to COVID protocols.  With identical assessment criteria across all attractions, the programme was able to benchmark individual venues against the rest of the sector and inspire with examples of best practices at each. 
Following the success of the summer programme of visits, we are continuing our partnership with BVA BRDC and in 2022 they will be rolling out a mystery visitor benchmarking programme across the UK.   The assessment criteria has been put together by a group of stakeholders within the attractions sector and will cover areas such as:

  • Pre-booking & arrival
  • Queues and visitor management
  • Staff engagement
  • Cleanliness, health & safety
  • Retail & Catering
  • Green credentials & messaging

Benchmarking is a central feature of this programme, making it a first of its kind. It allows attractions to understand their strengths and weaknesses and see if these are shared across the sector or whether they have outliers of quality or improvements needed. Unlike other Mystery Visit programmes, individual assessments will be benchmarked against the sector, so you can work out what ‘good’ really looks like. Individual venue results will, of course, be confidential, but through sharing examples of best in class, we hope to help raise standards across the industry.  

As ASVA has partnered with BVA BDRC on the creation of this exciting new programme, we are delighted to advise that our members will receive an exclusive discount if they choose to participate. ASVA members will be charged the accessible price of £175 per visit, with an incremental discount for additional visits.

For more information about this first of its kind programme and to read more about the results of the pilot visits undertaken in the summer, please click here.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) and its UK counterparts are asking colleagues across Scotland’s tourism industry to part in a national survey to help the STA and the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) share evidence from Scotland with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The primary purpose of the UK-wide survey is to build robust evidence on the impacts that the Omicron variant is having on businesses in all sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry across the UK. The findings will also inform STERG on how it can best respond to and offer better support to businesses.

By taking part in the survey, you will be providing vital information which can be presented to UK Government and Scottish Government Ministers to ensure they have a good understanding of the live issues impacting the industry and, importantly, the severity of the financial position facing tourism and hospitality businesses nationwide. Most importantly it will help the collective case to be made for urgent Government intervention.

STA Chief Executive Marc Crothall said: “Working together with STERG, and our industry colleagues on the UK Tourism Industry Council and at DCMS, we will use the information to make the case for policy solutions and interventions from the UK and devolved Governments to mitigate the financial pressures which tourism and hospitality businesses across the UK are experiencing. We appreciate this is a busy time for you, so are very grateful for you taking the time to complete this survey which should only take 5 minutes.”

As it is industry wide, ASVA is aware that some of the questions contained within may not be best tailored for our sector. However, we would request that, despite this, members please take the time to complete the survey. ASVA will not be conducting our own separate survey, as we recognise that it is more impactful and effective if every business in Scottish tourism completes one single piece of research.  

All information provided by participants will remain completely anonymous and you can complete the survey, which closes on 10 January, here.

This afternoon, the First Minister announced details of the £100m support package for businesses impacted by the latest COVID-mitigating measures.

ASVA has been working exceptionally hard to ensure that the Scottish Government is fully aware that it is more than one sector that is hurting just now, with many visitor attractions reporting huge drop offs in visitation, as well as a raft of event cancellations. So many in the sector are on their knees as a result and we are in real danger of losing some of our cultural assets. The fact we have managed to get this recognised is significant, but way more financial support will be required.

ASVA is now calling on the Scottish Government and, crucially, the UK Government to step up further and reintroduce the support measures we saw during lockdown, as tourism businesses are experiencing conditions akin to lockdown now.

Details of the support being offered by the Scottish Government is somewhat limited thus far, but you can find more information at this link.