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STA Coronavirus Update

Wed 18 Mar 20

Scottish Tourism Alliance responds to Chancellor's announcement of economic package for businesses

“The headline commitment is substantial and welcome but this is a moment when the headline of policy is irrelevant, all that matters is how lifeline support gets to the front line of this economic crisis.

Details matter and we hope to work with government at all levels to secure the future of businesses of all sizes in our sector. It is mission critical for jobs and our future that support is made available in a way that businesses can receive and put to work for the good of us all. Small grants for small businesses are welcome but for most businesses at this level it won’t protect jobs for more than a few days and many businesses do not want the burden of extra debt.

The Chancellor’s acknowledgement of the importance of protecting families and jobs offers a level of comfort but supporting payroll as other countries have done is what is needed immediately.

Whilst the business rates relief for medium and large operators is very welcome, it doesn’t benefit all who operate in the industry and therefore alternative measures of relief such as an automatic deferral of VAT and PAYE due to HMRC and additional measures which will assist businesses in paying staff and avoiding redundancies which we are already seeing across the sector.

All across Europe governments have gone further in supporting employees.  The UK and Scotland needs to be at front of the most ambitious and supportive measures, it will pay back.  This is urgent. We know public resource is precious but if this is got right we will all, as taxpayers, save money in the longer term.

We look forward to a subsequent announcement by the Scottish Government in response to our asks on behalf of industry which was submitted early yesterday and are hopeful that the acknowledgment of the stark crisis that all tourism businesses and suppliers are facing will be reflected in any support packages for the sector.”


Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG)

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group met for the first time this morning.  The group is chaired by VisitScotland and includes representatives of the industry, the Scottish Government Tourism Team, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, transport sector and tourism organisations.
Attending the first meeting:
  • Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA)
  • Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterer’s (ASSC)
  • Scottish destination management association (SDMA)
  • Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA)
  • UK Hospitality
  • Lochaber Chamber of Commerce
  • Outer Hebrides Tourism
  • Wild Scotland
  • Loch Lomond National Park
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)
  • Business Gateway
  • Highlands & Islands Enterprise
  • South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Scottish Development International (SDI)
  • Scottish Government
  • VisitScotland
Remit of the Group
  • Provide a forum for consistent and comprehensive pan-Scotland analysis of the implications of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on tourism
  • Act as the one-stop-shop communications channel for the Scottish tourism industry in relation to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Ensure close working between VisitScotland, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Industry, health authorities and other relevant organisations and agencies
  • Gather, share, facilitate, interpret and disseminate information as it becomes available
  • Issue agreed messages to the industry and the media
  • Offer business continuity advice to industry
  • Agree relevant action and allocate responsibilities for this 
Outcomes from today’s meeting:
  • This is a massive threat facing our industry
  • What can we do collectively to face the challenges?
    • Needs of the industry
    • Asks of the Government
    • What actions can be deployed.
  • Need to discuss and agree the immediate, medium and longer term (recovery plan) actions
  • Repeat industry research led by VisitScotland, adapting some questions. Agreement that one survey should be conducted to ensure as high a response as possible.
  • Continuation of lobbying by the trade bodies. ACTION trade bodies
  • Need for joined up communication across the group.
  • Given announcement from the Chancellor today, the group will re-convene at earliest convenience.

A reminder of our asks submitted to the Scottish Government – 16 March

  • Scrapping of all business rates/local taxes for all travel and tourism businesses for 2020.
  • Deferring all corporation tax, VAT, PAYE and other tax payments for 12 months.
  • Significant emergency loan funding for all affected businesses (as Germany is already doing).
  • Paying % of the lost wages of employees on reduced time or temporary layoffs (As Germany & Denmark are doing)
  • Providing full benefits and support to all staff who are temporarily made redundant immediately.
  • Suspending the requirement for tour operators to refund customers who cannot travel (this affects the entire supply chain).
  • Requiring the banks and landlords to offer all affected employees and businesses repayment holidays of up to 12 months on mortgages, loans, rent etc. – maybe to ease with Scot Govt guarantees
  • Use the Scottish Investment Bank to support now  
  • Financial contribution from OTAs
  • Scottish Government to abandon introduction of TVL once and for all
  • Delay introduction of any and all new business regulations until impact of CV19 fully understood and dealt with
  • Encouraging suppliers, such as utilities providers, to offer deferred payments terms to hospitality businesses;
  • Look at all core imposed costs into business that have continued to rise and reverse out/stop  
  • Push the banks hard to be supportive of hospitality businesses experiencing unexpected trading difficulties and provide Scottish Government guarantee
  • Commercial landlords must be encouraged to defer rent payments with Government guarantees as necessary
  • Establish a SG underwritten business support fund to provide emergency cash flow via zero-interest loans and non-repayable grants
  • Commit to review business rates on similar terms to proposed UKG review
  • Significant additional resources to VisitScotland to promote Scotland as a destination (careful timing of campaigns)
  • Although a reserved matter, Scottish Government to press UKG for reduction in tourism and hospitality VAT to (5%) to stimulate demand and support recovery

Our conversations with Scottish Government/UK Government

We have the commitment of a call three times a week with the Cabinet Secretary, which will be more frequent if necessary.  Mr Ewing has stressed the importance of industry continuing to feed back through the channels of the STA and Visit Scotland of the impacts being felt on a daily basis.
We have had a call this afternoon with Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland prior to the Chancellor’s announcement.

Resources for businesses

COVID-19 Business Support helpline

A helpline providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19 has been announced. The helpline, which is now live, will be open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am to 5.30pm. 

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660 - callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

Based at Scottish Enterprise’s existing call centre in Clydebank, advisers across Scotland will answer questions from businesses related to COVID-19. The helpline will also help the Scottish Government identify the current challenges facing businesses.
For details of all other support available for businesses, please visit the VisitScotland Coronavirus Advice page.

Talking to the media

The STA receives numerous calls every day from journalists looking to speak to tourism businesses about the impact Coronavirus is having.  We are building a list of businesses that we can share with journalists to support the communication of the stark reality for Scotland's tourism industry.

If you are happy to speak to the media about your situation and concerns, please email our Communications Director, Mhairi Clarke – [email protected]

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