Scottish travel agents are at a serious disadvantage and hundreds could collapse because they cannot access the same government financial support as the rest of the UK, according to the SPAA.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, which has 120 member companies and 92 associate members, said agents in Scotland could only claim one grant per business rather than £25,000 per branch, as is the case for the rest of the UK.
The SPAA has made an urgent appeal to the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon to address the ‘inequality’ of the situation.
President Joanne Dooey said: “At a time when world tourism is experiencing an indefinite standstill and thousands of jobs are at stake in the travel industry, travel agents are being let down by the Scottish government, which has opted to ignore the same delivery mechanism for these grants which has been adopted by the rest of the UK.
”Without access to grants per business premises rather than per business, the future for hundreds of travel agencies is terminal.”
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Barrhead Travel, which has more than 30 branches in Scotland and more than 20 in England, has backed the warning. President Jacqueline Dobson has also written to the first minister requesting an immediate change.
She said: “The outlook for our industry is bleak at the moment. The grants offered by the UK and Scottish governments do not align. For our English stores we can claim one [grant] per property. Our footprint in Scotland is much larger, yet we can only claim one £25,000 grant.
“This support will not even begin to cover our financial obligations and demonstrates the vast inequality in support offered by the two governments.”
The company said most of its 800 staff, 600 of which are based in Scotland, have been furloughed thanks to the government’s job retention scheme but said it still needed to provide a service to customers in need of help.
“We require additional financial support to allow us to do this. The Scottish government must urgently make these grants available to retailers to ensure there is a healthy future on the high street,” she added.
Dooey said her own three-branch agency chain Love To Travel is not eligible for government support because she cannot combine the rateable values of her shops to reach the required threshold for the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
She said: “I employ 13 staff over three locations in one council area and as the council won’t combine the rateable values of the three, and not one shop reaches the £18,000 threshold, I am ineligible for grant support.
“This is because the council aggregates the rates of all the properties in their areas, in this case North Lanarkshire, and this means I am over the £18,000 threshold for the small business rates relief scheme. Even though I pay rates on all of my properties, I can’t access any level of support as, whilst my individual businesses are below the threshold for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, the councils in Scotland are aggregating all outlets into one business. If each of my outlets was in a different council territory, I could have qualified for three grants – but as it stands I get nothing.”
She added that without support there were bound to be “many business casualties”.