News

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday, 3 August), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that Scotland will move beyond Level 0 on Monday, 9 August – whereby the majority of the remaining Covid restrictions will be removed throughout the country.

The key points relating to the attractions sector with regard to the move to beyond Level 0 are:

  • Physical distancing restrictions and limits on social gathering numbers are being removed, but the Scottish Government is still advising the public to maintain distancing and avoid crowded spaces. Attractions should be cognisant of this guidance, and where possible, should be reassuring visitors that measures are still in place to ensure that visitors will enjoy a safe, highly enjoyable experience (eg. by continued monitoring and control of visitor flow through pre-booking, continued use of hand sanitation stations, continued enhanced cleaning protocols etc).
  • Adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will also no longer be automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days. Anyone who is double-vaccinated (with at least two weeks passed since their second dose) and who has no symptoms, will be able to end self-isolation provided they return a negative PCR test.
  • It will continue to be the law that face coverings must be worn in indoor public places, including within indoor visitor attractions.
  • There will be a continued requirement for indoor hospitality venues to collect the contact details of customers. This will include cafes, restaurants and bars at visitor attractions. There is no requirement to collect contact details from all visitors to your attraction/s, just those using your hospitality facilities.
  • The Scottish Government will, for a limited period, keep in place a gateway process through which organisers of outdoors events for more than 5,000 attendees, and indoor events of more than 2,000 people, will have to apply for permission.

Reacting to the announcement by the First Minister, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is, of course, very heartening to hear that Scotland will move beyond Level 0 on 9 August. The news that restrictions on physical distancing are being lifted is particularly welcome for our members, as this restriction – above all others – has had the biggest impact on our sector’s ability to trade at an economically viable level.

Of course, the lifting of restrictions will not instantly mean a return to pre-Covid trading for the sector and we are still a long way off from seeing a full recovery. It will take a considerable period of time for our sector to fully recover, and there can be no doubt that many businesses will still require additional financial support as we move into the difficult winter ahead. However, the continued lifting of restrictions is a very positive step in the right direction and will allow many in our sector to at least begin to get back on their feet.

It is also important to note that the lifting of restrictions does not mean that there will be no more Covid measures in place at visitor attractions. We know that, despite the lifting of most restrictions, our members will continue to maintain a number of measures, such as the continuation of enhanced cleaning protocols, hand sanitisation stations and controls on visitor flow. Visitor and staff safety has always been the highest priority and there is no doubt that our sector will continue to lead the way when it comes to delivering safe, high quality experiences for all.

You can read the First Minister’s full statement at this link.

In a move which represents a much-needed boost for Scottish tourism, a significant relaxation of international travel measures was introduced today – Monday 2 August – when quarantine free travel to Scotland began for double vaccinated arrivals from the EU and the US.

The Scottish Government took the decision last week to change the rules on international travel following the announcement by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP that measures for England were to be relaxed.

Subject to countries remaining on the amber travel list, travellers no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Scotland. The change, however, does not apply to people who have been in France in the 10 days prior to their arrival, due to concerns about the prevalence of the COVID-19 Beta variant.

Travellers need to show a negative test before departure and produce a negative PCR test result on day two after arrival. The requirement to take a further PCR test on day eight has been dropped. Those arriving are now required to show either the EU Digital COVID Certificate or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s white card (known as a CDC card) to prove they are fully vaccinated.

Announcing the changes, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson MSP advised they have been made possible due to the success of the vaccination scheme in Scotland as well as the successful rollouts of vaccine programmes in the EU and US. He also urged people to continue to think carefully about travelling, given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern.

Responding to the news of international travel measures being relaxed, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said:“The fact that fully vaccinated people from the EU and US can now travel to Scotland without quarantining is a significant development for Scottish tourism and visitor attractions. So many businesses depend heavily on the international market so hearing that overseas visitors can now start returning was welcome news. Recovery is, of course, still a very long way off for our sector but this is at least an important step in the right direction; it’s a positive move that will help businesses begin to rebuild from the disastrous economic impact of the pandemic.”

Further details on the new ruling for travellers can be found here.

A leading UK recruitment firm has stepped in to help Scotland’s visitor attractions sector – a major contributor to the country’s £11 billion tourism industry – to tackle current staff shortages which have resulted from the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

Thanks to a partnership between ASVA, the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, and Xpress Recruitment, ASVA members’ vacancies are now being promoted via tourism and hospitality staffing site Xpressjobs.co.uk.

ASVA has almost 500 individual visitor attractions in its membership, which includes a diverse wealth of sites all over Scotland – from historic castles to museums, national parks, science centres, distilleries and zoos. Its members have the opportunity to post their job opportunities on ASVA’s website free of charge and these vacancies are currently being ‘pulled through’ to the Xpressjobs.co.uk recruitment platform to be advertised there. This opens up their exposure to a much wider marketplace, maximising opportunities for them to be filled by suitable candidates as quickly as possible.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “Scotland’s visitor attractions sector has been hit extremely hard by the COVID crisis, and although most of our members’ businesses are trading again, they face huge challenges in recovering from the impact of the pandemic. The staffing shortages the entire tourism industry is currently experiencing are of huge concern for many attractions. It’s incredibly difficult for them to build back their businesses and provide world-class visitor experiences if they don’t have a full complement of committed, talented and enthusiastic staff.

“We encourage our members to post their vacancies on ASVA’s website – and we share these details to everyone subscribed to receive our weekly jobs mailshot – so we know that all categories of attractions across Scotland have a range of posts that need to be filled urgently. Xpress Recruitment – itself an ASVA trade member – approached us with the fantastic offer of ‘pulling through’ these vacancies to its Xpressjobs staffing site to promote them there at no cost.

“The increased visibility this high-profile recruitment platform provides will vastly improve the chances of the vacancies being filled quickly, which will be incredibly helpful to attractions. The fact too that – thanks to the generosity of Xpress Recruitment – ASVA members are not having to pay to have their job opportunities featured on the Xpressjobs website is a huge benefit for them. That’s particularly appreciated at a time when so many businesses in our sector are really struggling, so we are extremely grateful to Xpress Recruitment for its very kind and extremely timely offer.”

Posting a job on Xpressjob.co.uk normally costs an employer around £20 per vacancy and the recruitment firm, which is based in Edinburgh, will post 250 job opportunities for ASVA attraction members at no charge.

Xpressjobs.co.uk – which is integrated with one of the UK’s leading in-house recruitment management platforms, Recruit Genie, and a network of other leading recruitment sites – features vacancies from most of the UK’s tourism employers to enable job-seekers to search and apply easily for an extensive range of permanent and temporary vacancies, at all levels, as soon as they are posted. Advertising a job on Xpressjobs.co.uk provides the post with a potential reach and audience of hundreds of thousands of relevant candidates, as the recruitment firm distributes it to other similar job boards within its network to ensure the employer gets the very best quality applicants for the vacancy.

Xpress Recruitment Director Paul J. Wilson said: As a recruitment firm specialising in the tourism, hospitality, leisure and retail markets, we’re very conscious of the significant staffing challenges that exist within the whole spectrum of the tourism industry just now – particularly with regard to customer-facing roles.

“We’ve invested heavily in ensuring our Xpress Recruitment Search and Selection, Xpressjobs and Recruit Genie products provide the very best results in attracting talent in what is a very challenging market place.

“Brexit has resulted in so many posts, that had previously been filled by a cohort of talented EU nationals, becoming vacant. In addition, following furloughs caused by the pandemic, considerable numbers of people who had been employed in tourism and hospitality have now moved on from those industries, so we’ve seen a huge rise in the numbers of vacancies in both permanent and temporary roles across all the sectors we service.

“As a trade member of ASVA, we’ve been particularly aware of the very considerable challenges that attraction members are experiencing as a result of the pandemic and the added pressures they’re having to cope with because of the current staff shortages crisis in tourism and hospitality. We knew that boosting the exposure of ASVA members’ vacancies via our high-profile recruitment platform would benefit attractions and help them get their posts filled by appropriate candidates as fast as possible.

We were really pleased to be in a position to offer this help to our fellow ASVA members and support an industry which is so vital to Scotland’s economy.”

ASVA is encouraging its members to take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the development of an ambitious 10-year National Strategy which will drive Scotland’s economic transformation as the country recovers from COVID-19 and transitions to a net zero economy.

An Advisory Council comprising business leaders, academics and economists has been appointed to shape the new National Strategy For Economic Transformation, which is expected to be published in late autumn. Drawing on their extensive expertise, experience and insight, the Advisory Council (whose members are listed here) will formulate bold ideas to transform our economy.

In addition, the Scottish Government is calling on businesses, employees and stakeholders right across Scotland to get involved in the strategy’s creation. People throughout the country are invited to submit their views and ideas on how the country can work together to deliver ‘greater, greener and fairer prosperity’.

This is your chance to have your say in how Scotland’s economy should be driven forward, and ensure your opinions and suggestions are not only taken into account but also potentially included in Scotland’s new National Strategy For Economic Transformation. You should submit your contribution by email before the deadline of 27 August to: EconomyCovid-19StakeholderUpdatesMailbox@gov.scot.

Commenting on the aims behind the National Strategy For Economic Transformation, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes MSP, said:

As we recover from the pandemic our focus rightly turns to what kind of society and economy we want to rebuild. A fair economy that delivers for everyone is our guiding principle. As well as continuing to support businesses to open, trade and rebuild across Scotland, we are firmly focused on delivering an economy that is fit for the future.

“The pandemic has led to fundamental shifts in sectors such as retail, and changed the way many businesses operate with more online trading and remote working. As well as continuing to support businesses to open, trade and rebuild, we need to build on these innovations and guide our economy to the industries and opportunities of the future. To achieve this, the Scottish Government has committed to delivering a new 10 year National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

“Bold and ambitious, this strategy will drive transformational change by focusing on setting the conditions that will unleash Scotland’s entrepreneurial potential and create the industries of the future. As well as growing our competitive business base, this strategy will support businesses in the transition to net zero and deliver new, good and green jobs across Scotland.”

The full statement by Ms Forbes on the National Strategy For Economic Transformation is available to read here.

.

The Scottish Government was recalled for a virtual session yesterday, Tuesday 13 July, for the latest COVID-19 update by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who confirmed that – as planned – restrictions across mainland Scotland will drop to Level 0 from Monday 19 July.

Urging the need for a cautious and responsible approach to the lifting of restrictions, Ms Sturgeon stressed the importance of the continued use of face coverings, which will remain mandatory where they are currently required – including within indoor settings at visitor attractions. She announced that the move to Level 0 includes some modifications to the Scottish Government’s initial plans – reflecting high levels of Delta variant infection rates. The modifications include a delay in the return to office work, which had been planned as part of Level 0, and the imposition of a midnight curfew on indoor hospitality.

From Monday, one change impacting travel to the benefit of tourism is that fully-vaccinated people coming into the country from amber list countries will no longer need to quarantine, as long as they take a test on arrival.  

The key points for attractions operators to note with regard to the move to Level 0 on 19 July are:

  • Indoor restrictions on social gatherings in a public place will move from 8 people from 3 households to 10 people from 4 households.
  • Outdoor restrictions will also move to 15 people from 15 households.
  • Children under 12 will not count towards either the number of people or the number of households. 
  • Indoor physical distancing requirements will be reduced from two metres to one metre.
  • Outdoor physical distancing requirements of one metre will also apply between different groups, but a group of up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors without distancing.
  • Face coverings will still be mandatory in indoor settings, including in indoor attractions.
  • Test & Protect contact details will still need to be collected in hospitality settings, including attraction cafes & restaurants.
  • Up to 200 people can attend weddings.
  • Large events can take place, with a maximum attendance of 400 people indoors and 2000 people standing or 1000 seated outdoors.

In addition, from 19 July, self-isolation will no longer be required for people arriving from countries on the amber list, provided they are fully vaccinated through a UK vaccination programme and take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

Ms Sturgeon advised that it is still hoped that Scotland can move ‘beyond Level 0’ on 9 August when most legal restrictions will be dropped, however she warned that some precautions, such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings, and guidance on hand hygiene and ventilation, are likely to remain in place ‘for some time’. She said: “We must stick to a cautious approach. We are easing restrictions next week, but we are not abandoning them. And even when we move beyond Level 0, we will continue to require some baseline measures such as face coverings.”

In terms of the move to ‘ beyond Level 0’, there was a further significant statement made by the First Minister, when she stated that it is likely that from 9 August the requirement will be removed for close contacts of those who test positive to self-isolate – as long as they have been double-vaccinated and have taken a negative PCR test.

Responding to the First Minister’s announcement, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is, of course, very pleasing to receive confirmation that all of Scotland will move to Level 0 on 19 July. For Scotland’s attractions sector however, the ongoing restrictions on physical distancing are going to continue to have a significant impact on economic viability for many during this crucial summer season. It is certainly more bearable that distancing restrictions are moving to 1 metre, but I know that many attraction operators are looking further ahead to 9  August and ‘beyond Level 0’, as the more significant date, as this is when we will hopefully see the end of physical distancing restrictions completely in both indoor and outdoor settings.
 
“It was also significant to hear from the First Minister about the changes to self-isolation rules from 9 August. ASVA had just last week reported to the Scottish Government the concerns of many in the sector in relation to the current 10-day self-isolation policy, and the impact this is having on business operations at a number of attractions. It was therefore very pleasing to hear the First Minister report that the Scottish Government will remove the need for people to self-isolate if they have a close contact with a positive case, provided they are double vaccinated and have a negative PCR test.’’
 
The First Minister’s full statement can be accessed at this link.



A series of surveys undertaken by leading Scottish tourism organisations has revealed the extent to which many industry sectors are struggling financially as a result Covid-19 and desperately require further Scottish Government action.

The four organisations – ASVA: Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, ASSC: Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland – claim that the findings of their surveys demonstrate the urgent need for policy changes to ensure the viability of their sectors.

ASVA’s survey, undertaken in partnership with the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, was completed by 178 organisations representing over 350 visitor attractions. It showed 71% of the sector has re-opened, however 90% percent of these attractions are not recovering from the impact of the pandemic. Less than one in four is operating at an economically sustainable level and 46% of attractions fear their business will be unviable if physical distancing and international travel restrictions persist beyond the end of this month.

ASSC found that 32% of self-caterers were operating at reduced capacity, 16% simply breaking even, and a further 16% being open but financially unviable. Larger self-catering premises have been particularly badly impacted due to household meeting restrictions.

Meanwhile, Wild Scotland reported that out of those surveyed across the wildlife, adventure and activity sector who can reopen, more than one third saw their futures as unviable with 55% operating at under 50% capacity. Group size restrictions and physical distancing remain the most significant challenges severely impacting over 50% of businesses surveyed. It was also reported that if international restrictions remain almost a third of those surveyed will see their turnover reduce by 51%.

Furthermore, Sail Scotland reported 80% of charter and small cruise ship operators surveyed said they were trading at unsustainable levels under current guidelines. Group size restrictions along with physical distancing reduce the viability of the sector. Some 87% of respondents confirmed that lack of clarity and direction by the Scottish Government around guidelines for the sector were seen to be having a severe and crippling impact.

Collectively, the group of organisations has called for new and additional government grants to help their sectors survive until normal service can be resumed, clearer and more timely communication from the Scottish Government, the easing of household restrictions, and changes to physical distancing measures.

ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said: Our latest survey has confirmed that Scotland’s attractions sector is on its knees and desperately needs additional and significant financial support.

“Whilst there has been much talk of a recovery and staycation boom this year, as it stands under 2% of attractions are operating with turnover figures comparable to 2019. For as long as we see the continuation of 2 metre physical distancing and international travel restrictions, it will be impossible for the majority of attractions to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.  Business confidence remains very low, with fewer than one in five attractions optimistic about their financial performance for the next 12 months.

“Without Governmental intervention to help their survival and recovery, we are in real danger of some of our country’s most iconic attractions closing for good. These are not only the jewels of our £12billion tourism industry, they are integral to our culture, heritage and communities. Their loss would be catastrophic for Scottish tourism and for Scotland so we must ensure we sustain them and secure their future.”

The summary report of the ASVA / Moffat Centre summary report is available here

ASSC Chief Executive Fiona Campbell said: “These surveys from people across the length and breadth of Scottish tourism show one thing very clearly; important parts of our sector are falling through cracks in the Scottish Government’s response to COVID-19.

“While those of us in self-catering, alongside our colleagues in the other parts of Scotland’s tourism offering, have done everything we can to help the national effort against this virus, we simply have not had the support and clarity that we need.

“On behalf of my sector, and the others who have produced this deeply concerning data, I want to send a very clear message to those in power; help us before it’s too late.”

Wild Scotland Manager Victoria Brooks said: “Collectively as sector representatives, we have been battling away for months to support businesses across these vital sectors, the message has been loud and clear – more financial support is needed for those that are being severely impacted by restricted trading as a result of physical distancing, international travel restrictions and group size restrictions.  

“There is a real concern for the future as we head towards another winter following a second summer of restricted trading.  This is a sector with significant potential to drive tourism recovery with the increasing popularity for nature and the great outdoors. However, to fulfil this demand we need the Scottish Government to step up and support these important sectors to ensure survival”

Sail Scotland Chief Executive Alan Rankin said: “Month after month after month we have been advising the Scottish Government boat operators in the charter and small ships cruise sector were facing catastrophic market failure. The survey results have unfortunately confirmed such stark predictions.

“Operators have a short six-month season with 90% saying they will have 4 or less months trading this year and 80% confirming they are trading at unviable levels. Boat operators missed out on previous grants as they did not qualify under schemes requiring business rated premises.

“Marine tourism is a force for good bringing valuable trade to rural coastal and island economies. The knock-on effect of this sector failing has wider ramifications than loss of direct employment, skills and maritime assets built up over the years.”

hilst there has been much talk of a recovery and staycation boom this year, as it stands under 2% of attractions are operating with turnover figures comparable to 2019. For as long as we see the continuation of 2 metre physical distancing and international travel restrictions, it will be impossible for the majority of attractions to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.  Business confidence remains very low, with fewer than one in five attractions optimistic about their financial performance for the next 12 months.

“Without Governmental intervention to help their survival and recovery, we are in real danger of some of our country’s most iconic attractions closing for good. These are not only the jewels of our £12billion tourism industry, they are integral to our culture, heritage and communities. Their loss would be catastrophic for Scottish tourism and for Scotland so we must ensure we sustain them and secure their future.”

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advised of a further slowing down of the easing of restrictions.  She confirmed that there would be no changes to the current COVID-19 Protection Levels and also cautioned that it was unlikely any part of Scotland would move down a Level at next week’s review. This will consider possible changes from 28 June onwards. 

It had been previously hoped the country would move to Level 0, but Ms Sturgeon warned that it was more likely that current restrictions would be kept in place for a further three weeks to give more time for people to be fully vaccinated. She also said any changes that can be made safely within the Levels will be considered.

The Scottish Government intends to publish two pieces of work next week – both of which will look ahead to the restoration of a much greater degree of normality.  The first of these will be a paper setting out what life will look like beyond Level 0, when all or virtually all restrictions can be lifted at some point over the summer. The second will be the publication of the outcome of the governmental review on physical distancing.

The physical distancing review – and the fact that continuing 2-metre restrictions are preventing so many visitor attractions from operating viably – is a key issue for our sector, and one on which ASVA has been lobbying for change; we have been making a robust case for distancing restrictions at attractions to be reduced to 1-metre in line with the hospitality sector.

Commenting on today’s announcement by the First Minister, ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said: “Whilst it is encouraging to hear that we will be given a clear steer next week on what beyond Level 0 will look like, as well as the publication of the hugely important review of physical distancing measures, the news about a further delay in easing of restrictions presents considerable challenges for our highly seasonal industry.

“As it stands, attractions across the country are facing up to ongoing prohibitive restrictions – such as 2-metre physical distancing – well into the summer season, which means that many will not be able to operate at an economically viable level and will not be able to build vital reserves for the winter. Further financial support for the sector is therefore now essential to ensure that our world-class visitor attractions will be ready and able to lead the full recovery of Scottish tourism in 2022.”  

The full statement made by the First Minister today can be read here.

We were shocked and saddened by the news that ASVA member, the Scottish Crannog Centre – an outstanding, much-loved visitor attraction as well as a unique, invaluable living history educational facility – was devastated by a dreadful fire on Friday night (11 June) .

The Iron Age roundhouse, which stood on stilts on the shore of Loch Tay, near Kenmore in Perthshire, was engulfed in flames and the blaze very rapidly destroyed the structure. Very thankfully there were no casualties but the Centre’s team, the local community and Scotland have suffered a huge loss as a result of the incident.

Director of the Scottish Crannog Centre, Mike Benson, said: “It’s just a devastating blow. It’s such a much-loved icon, you can’t think of Loch Tay without thinking of the Crannog Centre. It’s been here for 25 years and has been so incredibly loved. The main thing is nobody has been hurt. The crannog has gone but it is not the end of the story.”

Mike says that since the fire, he has been ‘inundated with support’. The local community has been particularly sympathetic, with neighbouring business Loch Tay Highland Lodges having set up a crowdfunder. ASVA is encouraging the visitor attractions community throughout Scotland to support this financial appeal to help the Scottish Crannog Centre. Donations can be made via the JustGiving page at https://bit.ly/35kFF0l

The Centre – a unique Iron Age history experience which is integral to interpreting and sharing Scotland’s story – is also receiving help from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS). Over the last year MGS has awarded grants from the Scottish Government totalling over £283K for the Scottish Crannog Centre’s far-reaching work to welcome visitors, increase employment opportunities in the local area, and support vocational learning with young people through Modern Apprenticeships and the Kickstart Scheme.

Museums Galleries Scotland Chief Executive Lucy Casot said: “The Crannog team worked so hard to continue their vocational learning opportunities with young people during the pandemic and welcome visitors back once it was safe to do so. Our hearts went out to the team when we heard about the fire and the immense loss of the iconic crannog reconstruction will be felt by many. We are working closely with the team and this will continue as we understand the immediate and longer-term support requirements. The community that is at the heart of the Scottish Crannog Centre needs our support now as they recover and rebuild from the fire. We encourage the many people who enjoy the Crannog to donate to its financial appeal.”

The Scottish Crannog Centre community is widely recognised for innovation, ambition, and care for its local area – qualities that, with support, will be central to its recovery from the fire.

On Friday 11 June, the UK Government announced its Tourism Recovery Plan which sets out future policy for the industry and the Government’s ambitions for domestic and international tourism The specific aims of the Plan are to:

  • Recover domestic overnight trip volume and spend to 2019 levels by the end of 2022, and inbound visitor numbers and spend by the end of 2023.
  • Ensure tourism’s recovery benefits every nation and region, with visitors staying longer, growing accommodation occupancy rates in the off-season and high levels of investment in tourism products and transport infrastructure.
  • Build back better with a more innovative and resilient industry, maximising the potential for technology and data to enhance the visitor experience and employing more UK nationals in year-round quality jobs.
  • Ensure tourism contributes to the enhancement and conservation of the country’s cultural, natural and historic heritage, minimises damage to the environment, and is inclusive and accessible to all.
  • Return the UK swiftly to its pre-pandemic position as a leading European destination for hosting business events.

In addition to increasing the focus on sustainable tourism and on data and technology – to capitalise on information and insights – new initiatives have been announced to boost tourism and support attractions. These are:

Days Out Voucher Scheme:  A £10 million consumer promotion between VisitBritain and the National Lottery will see players having the chance to claim vouchers to redeem at tourist attractions across the UK between September and March 2022. The scheme aims to encourage trips beyond the peak summer season. Businesses taking part will be required to ensure they are using the We’re Good to Go industry standard.

As ASVA members and stakeholders will be aware, we have been supporting VisitScotland on its development of a voucher incentivisation scheme to support Scottish tourism by promoting days out to visitor attractions. VisitScotland is now reviewing its plans and discussion is taking place on whether there is an opportunity to align this recovery project with the national Voucher Scheme or, indeed, incorporate the two initiatives. 

Rail Pass Scheme:  A new scheme for ‘staycationers’ is being developed to encourage, and make it easier for, domestic tourists to get around the country using the rail network. The intention is to create a new pass scheme to build on the success of rail tourism products such as the BritRail pass, which is sold through VisitBritain and provides international visitors with flexible travel across the country and provides discounted entry to tourism attractions. The aim is to launch the new rail pass scheme later in the year.

You can read the full details of the Tourism Recovery Plan here.

In her update to the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday 1 June), the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that, as a result of coronavirus cases stabilising in Glasgow, the city can move down to Protection Level 2 from 00.01 on Saturday 5 June. This means that travel to and from Glasgow can once again open up – a significant and positive development for attractions both in Glasgow and across the country.

Ms Sturgeon also advised that a ‘slight slowing down’ of the anticipated further easing of restrictions for much of Scotland’s Central Belt is however necessary.  Stressing that the decision represented ‘a pause, not a step backwards’, she said that it was important to ‘err on the side of caution’ in recognition of high coronavirus case numbers in some areas – mainly due to outbreaks of the highly-transmissable ‘Delta’ variant – and to reflect the fact that a large proportion of the population is not yet fully vaccinated.

A total of 13 mainland authorities will therefore remain under Level 2 restrictions while the situation with the virus is monitored closely. These are, by Health Board area: East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, East, North, and South Ayrshire, North and South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Midlothian, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, and Dundee.

Many areas north and south will move down to Level 1 on 5 June – slightly earlier than provisionally planned – as a consequence of a range of factors, including lower numbers of coronavirus cases and higher vaccination rates. The 15 areas moving to Level 1 are: Highland; Argyll and Bute, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, and Moray. Angus; Perth and Kinross, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Fife, West Lothian and East Lothian, The Scottish Borders, and Dumfries & Galloway.

The islands currently in Level 1, including Shetland and the Western Isles, will move to Level 0 on 5 June, and Ms Sturgeon highlighted the continuing importance, for those travelling from the mainland to the islands, of ensuring COVID tests are carried out in advance of trips.

ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is welcome news of course that Glasgow visitor attractions and tourism businesses, after eight months under stricter rules, can finally move down to Level 2. Today’s announcement will however have brought mixed responses from attractions elsewhere in the country – with disappointment from those having to remain in Level 2 for the time-being and relief for others able to move to Levels 1 or 0 on Saturday.

“It remains the case though, that so many visitor attractions throughout Scotland are unable to operate at sustainable levels as a result of continuing restrictions, most particularly 2-metre physical distancing. We are therefore continuing our efforts to lobby robustly for change on this vital issue and very much hope that it will not be much longer until the situation changes to allow operators throughout the country to operate viably.”

Full details of the Protection Levels for each area, and their relevant restrictions, as announced today in the First Minister’s statement, are available here.

You can read the full statement here.

Applications open tomorrow, 1 June, for a new £3 million Destination & Sector Marketing Fund which aims to support the revival of tourism in Scotland.

Part of the £25 million Scottish Government industry recovery programme announced in March, the Fund is one of 10 proposals developed by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) in collaboration with the Tourism Task Force.

The Fund, which will be managed and delivered by VisitScotland, has been designed to accelerate tourism recovery in the immediate to medium term by focusing on the domestic market.

Destination and sectoral groups across Scotland are being encouraged, through the Fund, to develop and promote strong visitor propositions – both sustainably and responsibly – to help stimulate all-year-round demand in the UK and Ireland market.  

The funding is being made available to enable the destination and sector organisations to carry out targeted campaign activity marketing visitor experiences that are aligned to identified post-COVID-19 trends and reflect what consumers are now looking for. The initiative is therefore designed to help the sustainable recovery of the industry going forward. 

The Destination & Sector Marketing Fund will operate across three tiers:

  • Tier one – City Region Award Programme (awards between £50,000 – £100,000). Closing date for applications: 29 June
  • Tier two – Pan Scotland Sector Groups & Regional Destination Organisations (awards between £40,000 – £80,000). Closing date for applications: 3 July
  • Tier three – Local Destination Organisations, Marketing Groups & Non-Pan Scotland Sector Groups (awards between £10,000 – £20,000). Closing date for applications: 23 July

Please note, this funding is not available to individual businesses, it is purely for destination and sector organisations. We are highlighting the opportunity as we know that many of our members will be involved in local/regional destination organisations or marketing groups and may wish to apply as part of such a group.

Information on the Fund criteria and eligibility requirements for each tier, as well as details of how destination and sectoral groups can apply, can be found here.

VisitScotland is hosting a webinar about the Fund on Wednesday, 2 June at 2pm-3pm. Senior Marketing Fund Manager Emma Hallington will provide a overview and participants will have an opportunity, via the web chat, to ask questions as part of a Q&A session. You can register for the event here.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (26th May), setting out the priorities for the Scottish Government, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that tourism is recognised as a priority industry and will continue to receive support to aid the recovery of the country’s economy.

The most immediate priority for the Government, Ms Sturgeon said, is to lead Scotland safely through and out of the pandemic. She referred to the ‘ambitious programme to drive recovery’ her party set out during the election campaign and stated that the Government is now intent on delivering on those commitments.

Listing a number of key ways in which the Government will promote economic recovery, Ms Sturgeon said: “We will support specific business sectors – including food and drink, and tourism.”

In addition to acknowledging the industry’s importance to the economy and pledging the Government’s commitment to supporting it as a priority, Ms Sturgeon referred to a number of related sectors and areas that it will also focus on to drive Scotland’s recovery.

These included the Government’s intention to publish a plan for the safe reopening of cultural venues and performances and to support the events sector. Promoting fair work and sustainability, or ‘a green recovery’ have also been identified as priorities in planning for and delivering Scotland’s economic resurgence from the impact of COVID-19.

Highlighting her belief that Scotland is now on the right track out of the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon also said that within the next three weeks, the Government plans to set out its expectations for the stage beyond Protection Level 0 – and importantly, the restrictions that will still apply and affect business operations for our industry and sector.

ASVA Chief Executive Gordon Morrison said: “The First Minister’s confirmation that tourism will be a priority for Scottish Government support is very welcome news for the attractions sector, which is a major contributor to the country’s £11 billion industry. It is now imperative that we hear how and when the country will move through and out of the current Levels system. Even at Level 0, there are currently restrictions that will impact on viable trading in our sector. We therefore need a clear plan for how and when these restrictions will be safely removed.

“The recent appointment of Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee MSP – supporting Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes MSP – transferred tourism into the Government’s economy portfolio.  This is a significant development for our sector as it demonstrates the Government’s acknowledgement and recognition of the pivotal role tourism – and our hugely important sector – will play in driving Scotland’s economy and leading its recovery.”