Over the last few weeks, ASVA has heard from a few members asking if there are any ‘visitor friendly’ resources available out there to help with messaging to encourage the public to continue to wear face coverings. We are fully aware that the vast majority of attractions are not looking to be heavy handed with such an approach, but many are still keen to encourage the wearing of face coverings where possible, to continue to do their bit in controlling the spread of covid and, of course, to reassure visitors and staff.
ASVA Trade Member – Hole in My Pocket – has this week provided ASVA with a bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ which ASVA members can download, print and use completely free of charge at their venues, if looking for an additional tool to encourage not just the use of face coverings, but to also advertise further covid mitigating measures in place such as hand sanitiser stations, distancing and queuing etc. All Hole in Return would ask in return is that, if you do download and use any of the resources, please post about it online using the hashtag #holeinmypocket and/or follow them @himp (Twitter) or @himpdesign (Instagram).
A big thank you to Allistair Burt at Hole in My Pocket for providing this free resource to ASVA members. You can access the bank of ‘Friendly Posters’ here and if you want anything tweaked to better suit a particular circumstance, just drop Allistair a line and he will be happy to do this for you – info@holeinmypocket.com.

ASVA members are advised that they can take advantage of a special 50% discount to attend The Cultural Enterprises Conference and Trade Show 2022 at Glasgow’s SEC on 2 and 3 March. In addition to this exclusive members’ offer, ASVA delegates who live far from the city can even enjoy a free night’s accommodation.

Hosted by the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE), the conference has a packed programme covering all aspects of cultural income generation, including creative revenue streams, retail, e-commerce, catering, publishing, sustainability, venue hire, and licensing. Speakers from all types of cultural attractions will share their insights, ideas, challenges, and solutions. The event will also provide a valuable opportunity to catch up with colleagues and make new contacts, particularly at the 2 March welcome drinks reception and the Gala Dinner and Cultural Enterprises Awards event at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on 3 March.

Thanks to a very kind offer from our friends at ACE, ASVA members can book conference tickets at the subsidised rate of £150 + VAT for the full two-day event, saving 50% on the full ticket price. (Please note, you do not have to join ACE to take advantage of this special members’ rate.) In addition, ACE is generously offering a night’s accommodation to ASVA delegates who live more than 90 miles away from Glasgow. (50 free hotel nights, one per delegate, are available and these will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.)

For more details on the Conference and Trade Show, and to book your discounted ticket, please click here.

In her regular COVID update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (8 February), The First Minister confirmed that baseline protective precautions – such as COVID certification and the requirement to wear face coverings in certain settings – will remain in force for now. Ms Sturgeon also asked employers planning arrangements for hybrid working to consider the needs of people who are at highest risk.

During her briefing, Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that the updated Strategic Framework, which sets out the Scottish Government’s overall approach to the COVID-19 response in Scotland, is due to be published on 22 February. The revised version will specify the Government’s approach to managing COVID more sustainably and less restrictively in the remaining phases of the pandemic.

As we’ve highlighted in a previous E-Update, ASVA has provided input from our sector into the review undertaken to update the Strategic Framework. Our submission emphasised that attractions cannot sustain the start-stop nature of the Scottish Government’s earlier approach, and we need to see a change in policy and messaging if we are really to start ‘living with the virus’ going forward. We also made it clear that the attractions sector has consistently demonstrated that it places visitor and staff safety above all other considerations, and does not need to be mandated to maintain this as a priority.

To read the First Minister’s full statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, please click here.

On Tuesday (8 February) ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison and Chair Susan Morrison were pleased to host Tourism Minister Ivan McKee MSP for a virtual meeting and wide-ranging discussion about the current challenges being faced by businesses in, and connected, to the attractions sector. During the open and honest discussion, a variety of key issues facing the sector were covered, including:

  • The impact of Omicron and related measures over the winter period
  • The lack of a recovery experienced by the vast majority of the sector in 2021
  • The rising cost of doing business within the sector
  • Staff absence and recruitment issues currently being faced
  • How two years without viable trading is impacting investment within the sector

Gordon and Susan also discussed recovery actions and how the Scottish Government can best support our sector in 2022. Discussion topics included:

  • How important it is for industry and consumer confidence that the Scottish Government gets the message across to domestic and international visitors that Scotland is open, safe and is again warmly welcoming visitors.
  • If the sector is to be encouraged to invest, we need reassurances that we will not be facing the same stop-start nature of trading that we have experienced over the last two years.
  • As there has been no recovery for the majority of the sector, further financial support measures must remain a priority. An extension of the current VisitScotland Days Out Incentivisation Scheme, coupled with a second round of funding for this programme – this time taking place when we don’t have capacity limits or government messaging saying ‘don’t go out’ – would help stimulate recovery.
  • Further financial support to help the sector continue to develop our product would also be warmly welcomed, be that support to train our wonderful people, help us explore new revenue streams in the digital arena or develop our green credentials.
  • The further extension of business rates relief and the extension of VAT at 12.5% would go a long way to helping safeguard the sector and boosting recovery.

Mr McKee acknowledged the points made and recognised that our sector is clearly one that did not see the green shoots of recovery in 2021. Whilst emphasising that there is not a limitless pot of money, the Minister provided assurances that the Scottish Government is keen to further support the recovery of our crucial sector and will look to work directly with ASVA on some of the key recovery proposals covered during the discussion.

ASVA will be continuing dialogue with the Scottish Government in the weeks ahead, looking at recovery actions to support the sector. If any members would like to raise any specific points with regard to this, please contact Gordon on gordon@asva.co.uk.

Members should aware that the Scottish Government’s Covid Status App and Covid Check Verification App have been updated.

The Covid Status App (for individuals to show their Covid status) has been updated to add a domestic tab for use in Scotland. The Covid Check Verification App (used by businesses to check QR codes) has been updated so that if a venue scans the QR code only a green tick will be seen. The green tick will replace the dates of vaccination currently displayed on the app.

As a result, businesses should now update the customer COVID Check (verifier) App to ensure the QR code shows a green tick when scanned.

As a reminder, members of the public are required to show proof of vaccination to enter:

  • late night venues open after midnight with alcohol and music and dancing
  • unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience
  • unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience
  • any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance

For more information, click this link.

As members will be fully aware, today (27th October) the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the latest budget announcement to UK Parliament. Key highlights impacting the tourism industry include:

  • A 50% cut in Air Passenger Duty for flights between airports in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which will be delivered via a new domestic band
  • A new rate of Air Passenger Duty of £91 on flights of 5,500 miles or more.
  • A new one year 50% discount on business rates for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England – Please note, this does not apply in Scotland, though it will be very interesting to see how the Scottish Government responds to this move from Westminster.
  • Temporarily increasing the headline rates of tax relief for theatres, museums, orchestras and galleries across the UK from 27 October 2021 to 31 March 2024, increasing the relief organisations can claim as they invest in new productions and exhibitions.
  • The National Living Wage will be increased by 6.6% to £9.50 an hour. 

Mr Sunak also announced the largest block grant for devolved administrations since 1998 in the Budget, with an increase in Scottish Government funding in each year by an average of £4.6 billion.

Further details of the Budget announcement can be found at this link.

Monday, 5 July, marked the start of a new advertising campaign designed to encourage people to choose a career in Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industries. Developed by the Scottish Government in conjunction with the industries and organisations including the Scottish Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality Scotland and Skills Development Scotland, the initiative is supported by £100,000 funding from VisitScotland.

The recruitment drive – which will run until 15 August – has been designed to address the staffing crisis which the industries are currently experiencing, with workforce shortages having been caused as a result of Brexit and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help businesses attract candidates to fill their vacancies, the advertising campaign is targeted at 18-30 year-olds throughout Scotland. It will encourage young people to play their part in the industries’ recovery by promoting the range of roles available in them. In addition to highlighting the extensive variety of career options suited to different skill sets and the diverse job opportunities available now, the campaign advertising will highlight the unique benefits of working in tourism and hospitality.

Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee MSP, said: “Tourism and hospitality businesses have been extremely hard hit by the pandemic and the ability to employ committed, talented and enthusiastic staff will be an important part of the recovery. We had pledged £25 million for tourism recovery in the first 100 days of this Government and this recruitment campaign will play a key part in that recovery. I hope this recruitment drive will encourage young Scots who perhaps hadn’t considered a job in this sector to look at the many opportunities available to them.”

As part of the campaign, a toolkit of resources is available that businesses, including those in the attractions sector, can take advantage of to boost their own recruitment activities. Including the hashtag #DoWhatYouLove in its assets, the toolkit is available here.

Yesterday (7th July) ASVA’s CEO, Gordon Morrison, and Chair, Susan Morrison, met with the new Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee MSP, to discuss the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and restrictions on the Scottish attractions sector.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Gordon and Susan relayed to the Minister the importance of our sector to the Scottish economy, the seasonal nature of the industry and what this means for any possible recovery, the impact that restrictions continue to have on viable trading, and the importance of continued funding support for our beleaguered businesses if we are going to be in a position to lead the full recovery of Scottish tourism in 2022.

Current visitation and turnover levels were discussed, along with recovery prospects this year and the key asks of the industry of the Scottish Government in the immediate to short term, most specifically clear and timely communications on notifications of changes to restrictions, and additional funding support to help the sector make it through another very challenging winter ahead. Issues with recruitment in the post-Brexit and COVID landscape were also discussed, as well as the impact on business operations at attractions of the current Test & Protect policy of a 10-day isolation period for anyone who is informed they are a close contact of someone with coronavirus.

Mr McKee advised that he found the discussion highly useful and is fully aware of the vital importance of our sector within the wider tourism landscape. He also stated that, whilst further funding will most likely depend on consequentials coming from the UK Government, he is keen to follow up with ASVA on what shape any further funding support for our sector should take. As a result, we will look to liaise with ASVA members on this key issue soon.

Overall, our first meeting with the Minister was positive and ASVA very much looks forward to continuing dialogue with Mr McKee in the months ahead.

Our colleagues at The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), have shared with ASVA the findings of their latest research into visitor sentiment. The research was carried out by insight-led consultancy Decision House to gauge the views of the public on visits to re-opening venues.

The latest wave of research (wave 9), was conducted after the Prime Minister and First Minister had announced the postponement of easing physical distancing and other mitigation measures, so respondents were aware of those political announcements and their consequences.
The research shows that, whilst there growing desire to visit attractions, and particularly attractions in Scotland, there are anxieties amongst a significant proportion when it comes to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, including physical distancing.  This throws up some interesting questions for the sector, all of which we will cover in our upcoming Members Meetup event  on 14th July –   Beyond Level 0 – How are Scottish Attractions Approaching the Lifting of Restrictions?

Some of the key highlights from the latest wave of research include:

  • Since late April, there has been another positive shift in appetite for visiting attractions when they re-open. In particular, some of those ‘waiting to see what happens for a short while’ are now ready to visit, although this hesitant group still represents around 40% of the market.
  • Appetite for visiting has continued to grow across all age groups, in the South of England, Wales and Scotland. Indeed in this wave of research, Scotland has the highest percentage of respondents (75%) who indicated they had either already visited or intended to visit as soon as opportunity arises.
  • Although confidence is clearly growing and anxiety around using facilities falling, 60% still express fear or concerns about visiting – especially on measures to limit crowds / keep distancing. Three-quarters of the attractions-visiting public are not yet ready to remove Covid-19 safety measures, the same as at end April.
  • Although falling slightly since the end of April, there remains notable support for some form of ‘proof of vaccination / exemption’, especially for indoor venues and among the over 55s, once the vaccine has been fully rolled out. Around a third of those who would ordinarily visit indoor attractions/events claim that they would not visit unless all visitors had some form of vaccine proof.
  • Evidence indicates that vaccine proof would be a trigger for tempting many from the more cautious segments to return to indoor attractions, but may alienate some current visitors. This is less the case for outdoor attractions, although around a third of those from the cautious segments might be tempted to visit by some form of vaccination proof.
  • Most safety measures will still be highly comforting to visitors, although the impact of providing hand sanitiser on feelings of safety has decreased over time, whilst measures focussed on limiting capacity have remained highly comforting.

We are hugely grateful to ALVA Director Bernard Donoghue for sharing the latest research with us and we look forward to welcoming him to provide further insights at the aforementioned ASVA Members Meetup on 14th July.

You can download the full report here.

On the back of this research, ALVA has produced guidance for visitor attractions wishing to maintain some mitigation measures after restrictions are lifted. This guidance is very much just that though and ALVA is clear that  it is definitely up to individual attractions to make their own decisions about what is right for them.

You can view the ALVA guidance at this link.

From an ASVA perspective, we accept that there will be differences across the sector, when it comes to what measures will be maintained. That is inevitable when you have the breadth of different businesses that we have in our sector. What should be a constant though is the need to listen to and understand the concerns and needs of your own staff and your visitors when you are deciding which measures may be best to maintain to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

ASVA will certainly support all its members in their own decisions on how to manage opening, and we know for many it is a very tricky balancing act to manage commercial viability and ensuing everyone feels totally safe. 

As many had been anticipating, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, 22 June, that there will be no further easing of Protection Level restrictions across Scotland for the time-being – with the move to Level 0 being delayed for at least three weeks to allow more time for the vaccine programme roll-out.

Current restrictions had been scheduled to be eased on 28 June, however they will remain in place until 19 July at the earliest. In her statement, Ms Sturgeon also announced, and provided details on, the publication of two important documents – the updated Strategic Framework for tackling COVID-19 in Scotland, and the Review Paper on Physical Distancing restrictions. 

ASVA members should note the following significant changes due to come into place from 19 July, providing the data allows, are:

  • Indoor physical distancing requirements – including those at visitor attractions – will be reduced from 2 metres to I metre. This is extremely welcome news for our sector; as members will be all too aware, the impact of  2-metre distancing has been very detrimental to attractions as this restriction prohibits so many sites from operating viably, and ASVA has been lobbying robustly for change on this issue.
  • Outdoor physical distancing requirements will be removed completely. There will, therefore, be no requirement to operate with any physical distancing restrictions in any outdoor visitor attraction setting.
  • There will be no limits on the number of people who can socialise informally outside
  • Indoor restrictions on social gatherings in a public place will move from 8 people from 3 households to 10 people from 4 households

In addition, Ms Sturgeon advised yesterday that, again providing the data allows, Scotland will move ‘beyond Level 0’ on 9 August – the hope is that the remaining rules can be lifted to allow life to return to close to pre-COVID normality.  There will however still be some restrictions in place. Key points that attractions should note are:

  • There will be no physical distancing requirements either in indoor or outdoor settings, so attractions will no longer need to ensure physical distancing within their venues.
  • Face coverings will still be required in certain settings. This is likely to include indoor visitor attractions, but ASVA is now seeking clarity from the Scottish Government on this.
  • Continued compliance with Test & Protect will be required. It is therefore likely that attractions will be required to continue to take contact details from visitors. Again, ASVA is seeking clarity from Scottish Government on this matter.
  • Targeted international travel restrictions will remain in place. On this matter, the updated Strategic Framework sets out that international travel restrictions will be in place ‘only for as long as necessary to respond to the threat of importation’ and that these restrictions will be ‘reviewed regularly and relaxed when it is safe to do so’.

Summarising the implications of the details included in the First Minister’s announcement, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: “It is disappointing, but not surprising, to hear that current restrictions will remain in place for another three weeks. This is very significant, as it means that restrictions which prevent many attractions from being able to trade at an economically viable level will still be in place in the summer. As a seasonal industry, this is likely to have major ramifications for the sector when we move into the winter months, as it will not have been possible for many businesses to have built up necessary funds to see them through the off season.

“It is, however, pleasing to see that we are finally seeing some movement on physical distancing. The relaxation of indoor restrictions to 1 metre on 19 July will make a significant difference to the viable operation at a number of attractions, so it’s very good news to see this being introduced. More encouraging still is that we now have clear direction of when and how we will see physical distancing restrictions removed across the board, which is essential for the sector’s recovery prospects.

“Whilst the news yesterday was generally positive, ongoing restrictions on international travel are going to continue to impact heavily on our sector. Many attractions are heavily reliant on international visitors, particularly those in traditional tourist ‘hotspot’ areas, so there will still be significant challenges for much of the sector until these restrictions are lifted.

“With the summer season being impacted by restrictions, it’s abundantly clear that there will be no full recovery possible for attractions in 2020. Recovery measures such as the planned introduction of the ‘Days Out’ incentivisation scheme, to encourage more domestic visitors to attractions in the off-season, will be very important to helping our sector recoup some of our losses in the main season. However, there’s no doubt that many will need additional support to make it through to next season. Our sector is the sector that will lead the full recovery of the tourism industry next year; it is therefore essential that our businesses are given the necessary support to help them make it through another difficult winter.’’

The First Minister’s full statement can be read here.

The Scottish Government’s updated Strategic Framework document published yesterday can be accessed at this link

The Review of Physical Distancing paper published by The Scottish Government yesterday can be found here

The First Minister announced that on Friday 14 May that, whilst most of mainland Scotland could move into Protection Level 2 on Monday 17 May, and some island communities could move straight into Level 1, Glasgow and Moray Speyside must remain in Level 3 for at least another week due to their high rates of COVID-19 cases.

Travel to and from Glasgow and Moray Speyside is therefore currently prohibited other than for permitted purposes. Visiting an attraction is not classified as a permitted reason. This means that visitor attractions in Glasgow and Moray should not be welcoming visitors from outwith their own Local Authority areas. Attractions in other areas should note too that they should not currently be enabling access to visitors from Glasgow and Moray. Information on Level 3 restrictions, detailing what is and is not possible, is available here.

Targeted financial support is being made available by the Scottish Government for affected businesses in Glasgow and Moray. The funding is being provided to businesses that are specifically impacted – ie. required to either remain closed or continue to operate under Level 3 restrictions but otherwise would have been permitted to open on 17 May had their area moved into Level 2.

Visitor attractions in Glasgow and Moray are eligible for funding support; the criteria for eligibility specifically states attractions are entitled to it. The grants will be paid automatically to businesses, there is no application process. The funding details are as follows:

Glasgow : If you operate a tourism business in Glasgow that the Scottish Government considers to be impacted by travel restrictions but are not specifically required to close or modify your operations by Regulation at Protection Level 3, you are eligible for:

  • a one-off grant of up to £500 for properties with a Rateable Value of £51,001 or over; or
  • a one-off grant of up to £250 for properties with a Rateable Value up to £51,000 or which pay Council Tax rather than Non-Domestic Rates

Moray : If you operate a tourism business in Moray that the Scottish Government considers to be impacted by travel restrictions but are not specifically required to close or modify its operations by Regulation at Protection Level 3, you are eligible for:

  • a one-off grant of up to £1,000 for properties with a Rateable Value of £51,001 or over; or
  • a one-off grant of up to £500 for properties with a Rateable Value up to £51,000 or which pay Council Tax rather than Non-Domestic Rates

More details on the funding support can be found here.

ASVA will continue to lobby the Scottish Government for further financial support for those businesses impacted by the latest restrictions. Throughout the pandemic, we have highlighted consistently that the level of financial support for our sector, whilst welcome, has not been at a level to support the sector through to recovery. We will continue to advocate for further support, not just for our members in Glasgow in Moray, but across the country, as it is very clear that there is no full recovery for our industry on the immediate horizon.

Today, a survey has been launched by ASVA and the Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism , to capture up to date information about current business performance, recovery prospects and confidence levels within the attractions sector. We would urge all ASVA members to complete the survey (which can be found here), as the information gathered from it will be used to inform and shape ASVA’s ongoing lobbying efforts with the Scottish and UK Governments. 

As visitors start to take advantage of the fact that many of Scotland’s attractions have re-opened, it’s important to remember those who would love to enjoy your visitor experience in person but are unable to visit due to personal circumstances or challenges.

Scotland’s unpaid carers are one such group; their often onerous responsibilities mean they are seldom able to enjoy days out and trips to attractions. Thanks to a pilot project however, these very deserving and often unsung heroes are being given an opportunity to enjoy virtual and online visitor experiences.

The Respitality at Home project- created through a partnership between VisitScotland, Shared Care Scotland and local carers organisations – is calling on tourism businesses to show their support of the country’s carers by offering them a virtual visitor experience.

ASVA is encouraging attraction members that are able to provide virtual tours, events and experiences to get involved in this very worthwhile scheme. Supporting it is a great way to recognise and show appreciation of Scotland’s 1.1 million unpaid carers, for whom short respite breaks are vital for their health and wellbeing.

Feedback from carers who have already enjoy virtual experiences highlight just how much they are valued:

  • “It was a really great event and was the first thing my husband and I have been able to do together in many months as one of us is usually caring for our son (to let the other have some time out of caring). It almost felt like a date!” – Tommy Dewar’s Whisky Rambles with Dewars Aberfeldy Distillery
  • It was great to see the animals live, our guide was excellent – a very interactive and fun session which was also educational and relaxing at the same time!” – A Walk on the Wild Side with Edinburgh Zoo
  • “I enjoyed learning about the castles with their different styles and hearing about them and the history from the experts” – Know your castles, Historic Environment Scotland

The Respitality at Home pilot – timed to coincide with Carers Week in mid-June – runs until the end of June.  You can find out more about the project and how you can get involved by contacting  Kerry Donaghy, Respitality Scotland Coordinator on 01383 622462 or respitality@sharedcarescotland.com or Hayley Burton, VOCAL Partnerships Development Officer on 0131 622 6666 or hburton@vocal.org.uk.

Kerry and Hayley would also be pleased to hear from ASVA members interested in discussing future opportunities to support virtual breaks for carers.