Domestic Tourism

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage domestic tourism. (S5O-04567)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We are clear that, where it is safe to do so, visitors from Scotland and across the United Kingdom are welcome to holiday in Scotland. We simply ask that people who holiday in or visit Scotland do so in a responsible way that respects our people, communities and environment. To help with that, VisitScotland launched a £3 million marketing campaign that encourages Scots to travel in Scotland and appreciate what is on offer in their own country. VisitScotland also worked with its counterparts across the UK on the good to go industry standard, which has allowed businesses across all sectors to demonstrate that they are adhering to the Government and public health guidance, and are safe to visit.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware that, in the Scottish Conservatives’ recently published job plan, “Power Up Scotland”, we say that domestic tourism is vital to Scotland’s economy, especially while international tourism is largely reduced due to the virus.

Will the Scottish Government take on board our proposal of a marketing campaign for the rest of the UK, and on what date will it be implemented?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We have to be mindful of the position with regard to Covid, and all exert due vigilance. We are welcoming to people who come to Scotland, but we have to be extremely careful about the precise position that Scotland and the rest of the UK are in at the moment, and each make decisions with regard to our personal responsibilities.

I am happy to work with anyone and everyone in order to promote tourism across these islands, but if the Conservatives wish to do something positive, clear, decisive and influential to help us all, it would be to indicate now that they will review their refusal to extend the furlough scheme. Beyond doubt, that is the most important thing to do.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is the height of hypocrisy for Tories to demand more action of this Government on tourism in the very same week that recently ousted leader Jackson Carlaw called for an end to the furlough scheme? Clearly, the cabinet secretary agrees that extending furlough through winter is absolutely crucial if we are not to see thousands of job losses in our tourism industry, so will he again approach the UK Government with further demands that furlough be maintained for the winter?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have sympathy with Mr Gibson’s remarks. Of course, I will continue to advocate the path of providing support for people who face almost certain redundancy towards the end of this autumn.

I have constructive relations with my UK counterpart, Nigel Huddleston; however, the question of what influence he will have with the UK Government remains. The problems are affecting tourism all over the UK, particularly cities, and particularly hotels in cities, not least in London. In some ways, it is surprising that there has not been a more timely response. The problem is that the matter is time sensitive. Large companies have to, quite rightly, issue redundancy notices in advance. The longer that the UK Government delays a proper, commensurate and sufficient response to the impending tsunami of unemployment, the greater the human misery will be. The matter is time sensitive and really important.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

Visitor attractions are an important part of domestic tourism. I am interested to hear the cabinet secretary’s response to calls from representatives of visitor attractions that distancing be reduced to 1m, as is the case in the hospitality sector. Even though they have been able to open for a brief time, visitor attractions will face a difficult time over the next few months and need to increase their income to get them through to next season.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have much sympathy with that call. I have had numerous conference calls with the Association of Scottish Visitor

Attractions, which is led very ably by Gordon Morrison and Susan Morrison. I am acutely aware of the fact that the 2m rule, which still applies to some visitor attractions, is making it extremely difficult for some businesses to operate viably. Indeed, the reduction may be the biggest ask that they have at the moment.

Some of those businesses have received financial support but, with a reduced number of clients or visitors due to the 2m requirement, it is difficult for some to operate. We are looking at that issue carefully, but we have to balance the public health issues against the industry issues, which is difficult. Sadly, over the past few days, we have all seen the rising number of people who have been found to have Covid. Therefore, as the First Minister has outlined, we need to be extremely careful.

Claire Baker raises a very serious point; it is one that I am considering constantly, as are my officials. As soon as it is safe to do so, we would all want to see a reduction of the social distancing requirement from 2m to 1m for visitor attractions, as well as other establishments.