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Wed 18 Mar 20

Our response to the Covid-19 situation

We’re closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it evolves and alongside our activities to provide advice and support during this difficult time, we're proactively tracking the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the industry.

There’s no doubt that the threat of this global virus is causing uncertainty in the travel industry across the world and we’re hearing news of cancellations across the Scottish tourism industry.

Visitors take a wide variety of considerations into account before booking a holiday but as there are currently no travel restrictions in place in the UK, and the majority of air routes remain operational, it is not clear how the current situation will affect UK travellers. There are some signs that people are delaying booking holidays because of the uncertainty.

Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG)

Based on previous experience dealing with the impacts of Foot and Mouth disease, Avian Flu and SARS, we’ve reactivated our tried and tested emergency planning process and held the first meeting of the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) on Tuesday 17 March.

This group will enable tourism industry bodies across Scotland to respond in a coordinated manner to the problems which result from a COVID-19 Pandemic.

Round-up of discussion

  • 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 later today the group will re-convene at earliest convenience.

Overview of industry feedback

  • The situation is changing continuously with a big shift over the last day
  • Much of the industry are having to make very difficult decisions about whether they need to reduce staffing hours, operating hours, whether they need to lay-off staff or close completely
  • There is a huge concern about how long businesses can last with such little business. Reserves are extremely low and it’s a matter of weeks and not months for many.
  • The industry feels that what they need is some relief in terms of bills such as rates and PAYE and also access to money.
  • This is impacting all businesses, not just the small ones.
  • Insurance companies not responding to business interruption clauses as businesses not being told to close
  • We need to escalate the awareness of the impact this is having

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response 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.

The Group may need additional representation, either on an ad hoc basis depending on the subject at hand or on a permanent basis.

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

Monitoring the situation

We conducted a pilot survey from 9 - 16 March to establish the effect of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the tourism industry. This is a rapidly changing situation and it’s important that we can, alongside your valued input, monitor the impact of this outbreak. Initial results are currently being collated.

This research is allowing us to see not only the overall impact on Scottish tourism but also, the impact it is having across different regions, visitor markets and business sectors so that we can consider how best we might adapt our activities. It has also allowed us to inform the Scottish Government and other industry bodies. 

Advice and support

To help advise Scottish tourism businesses on the situation a coronavirus (COVID-19) advice page on has been set up and is seeing almost 50% of all traffic to our site. This page allows us to pull together advise on how the industry can support current and future visitors with the most up to date information.

We have also prepared guidance specifically for event organisers in Scotland in response to the growing concerns in the events industry.

Our contingency planning

We are meeting on a daily basis to look at ongoing issues with coronavirus, managing risk as it pertains to our own staff, and ensuring that visitors and potential visitors have up to date information through our websites and

We are closely monitoring the situation as it develops to ensure we are in the best position to work with the Scottish Government and other key partners to manage what is happening as effectively as possible.

Our marketing

We are constantly reviewing our marketing activity in line with government advice. Clearly if people aren’t travelling, we may change our activity or divert to different markets.

VisitScotland Expo 2020 cancelled

Due to a significant number of cancellations caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) it is with regret that VisitScotland has decided to cancel this year’s VisitScotland Expo that was due to take place on 1 and 2 April at P&J Live in Aberdeen.

As a major international event, with over 2,000 attendees from around 30 countries, this decision was not taken lightly. Expo was on course to be a great success at a brand new and exciting venue, so we are disappointed for all the buyers, exhibitors and staff.

We have been monitoring the situation for some time but it is clear that we are already seeing significant cancellations from key countries, as well as concerned enquiries about the event and hesitancy from attendees to travel.  With the numbers of cases of COVID-19 increasing across the world, we did not want to contribute to its potential spread across Scotland and beyond.

We will continue to connect buyers and the tourism industry and are currently developing ideas about how we can use technology and digital channels to make those connections - but we won’t be able to physically run the event this year.   We are already looking at how we can further support the tourism industry going forward and will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis.

We will make an announcement regarding next year's Expo in the near future.


If you have any feedback or information regarding this page or the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation please send this to [email protected].   

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