Nicola Sturgeon warns Scottish tourism industry it may have to wait until 2022 for 'normality' to return

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scottish tourism chiefs that they may have to wait until next year for normality to return – and suggested they may have to rely on “staycations” for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:05 pm
Exploring Scotland in a campervan is popular with travellers keen to keep socially distanced. Trˆigh Iar beach near Horgabost, Isle Of Harris, Outer Hebrides.

The First Minister said she was unable to make any pledges about the further lifting of restrictions this summer as she announced a new £25 million recovery programme for the industry.

She said that the new funding, which is expected to support the industry over the next two years, will support international marketing efforts to “ensure that when international travel does resume Scotland is at or near many people’s lists.”

But she told the Scottish Tourism Alliance conference that she was unable to say what rules they may have to operate under “beyond the next couple of months.”

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Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish tourism industry she cannot make any promises about lifting restrictions in the summer. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell

The new funding will also help pay for a holiday voucher scheme aimed at ensuring Scotland has a “more socially sustainable and inclusive tourism industry”, an incentive scheme to support visitor attractions, tours and experiences around the country and a new marketing fund for destinations.

Ms Sturgeon told the conference: “I do not underestimate just how horrendously difficult this past year has been. And I understand the enormous challenges that you are continuing to face.

"So let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you. You have shown incredible resilience, adaptability, ingenuity, and patience. In the past year.

"By cooperating and working with us you have helped to keep people safe and stop the spread of the virus.

“As a result with the roll-out of the vaccination programme. Something much closer to normality is very much in sight.

"And that's why we've been able to announce the initial return of tourism and domestic travel in April.

"Now the nature of the pandemic means that we are simply not able to provide detail beyond the next couple of months, but I do hope that the approach we have set out gives you more certainty and confidence about the future."

The new Scottish Government funding has been confirmed in the wake of the First Minister’s long-awaited announcement last month that hotels, bars, restaurants and attractions would be able to open from 26 April, when travel restrictions on mainland Scotland are also expected to be lifted.

However the government has not indicated how long its ban on non-essential international travel and strict quarantine rules will have to remain in place for.

She added: “The programme, which has been developed in partnership with the sector, will help us to stimulate demand for domestic tourism in the short term, including outside of peak times.

"And it will also support international marketing efforts to ensure that when international travel does resume Scotland is at or near the top of many people's lists.

"That's important because, as all of us know, the restrictions of the past year have created a huge demand for travel and tourism. Many people are already thinking about where their firs break will be.

"Initially the key market for Scotland will be staycations – people in Scotland and the rest of the UK taking breaks here in our country.

"But as the world returns to normality, we hope later this year or perhaps next year, demand will also come from visitors around the world.”