The majority (96%) of Scots who travelled abroad since the start of the pandemic felt very or fairly safe, a poll by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association reveals.
Just 4% of overseas travellers felt ‘not very safe’ with no travellers reporting that they ‘did not feel safe at all’.
The survey highlights the biggest barrier to travel is the potential to have to quarantine on return to Scotland (39%) or potentially having to quarantine on arrival in their destination (36%). One in five Scots thinks the cost of Covid tests in the UK is a big barrier to overseas travel.
As many as 70% of respondents said they usually travelled overseas at least once in a typical pre-pandemic year, with almost a third of them going two or three times.
The average frequency of trips abroad was 1.5 a year. But only 10% of those surveyed have been overseas since March 2020, while 35% have cancelled at least one holiday, 28% have postponed and 17% have rebooked.
The finding comes from a poll into Scottish traveller sentiment ahead of today’s UK-wide Travel Day of Action.
More than 250 members of the SPAA and their associates including airlines, tour operators and pilots are expected to protest outside the Scottish Parliament today to demand sector support for travel, clarity over the data being used to ground travel, a plan for a safe return to international travel and a low cost, easy-to-access testing regime.
The SPAA has asked for a face-to-face meeting with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss why agents face “nothing short of destitution” following a period of active lobbying the Scottish Parliament to recognise the value of outbound travel to the nation’s economy.
Association president Joanne Dooey said: “We’re hoping that the first minister comes to meet us to explain why, despite a world-beating vaccination programme and easily accessible, albeit expensive testing, we’re further behind at opening up travel than we were 12 months ago when we had no rapid testing and no vaccination.
“Our survey of ordinary Scots shows that almost two-thirds of Scots feel devastated, disappointed, confused or upset at the current travel restrictions and more than half (57%) would travel overseas within the next 12 months if they were able – with 17% of all surveyed saying they would be willing to travel in the next 3 months or sooner. We want the Scottish government to show us their data, to trust the vaccine and to make testing more affordable.”
She added: “Scotland needs its travel sector and we’re in grave danger of losing much of it. Outbound travellers spend in our country and without outbound flights we don’t have inbound travellers who spend across our country including in some of the most remote parts.”
The SPAA will also be lobbying for robust, accessible and affordable Covid testing.
Dooey said: “Twelve months ago, we never envisaged that we’d have such easy-to-use, rapid and robust testing. So why are we not using it in a cost-effective way to stimulate travel and all of the economic benefits which outbound travel brings?
“The travel sector will be out in force to keep up pressure on the Scottish government for support for travel agents during this disastrous ordeal for our whole industry. We’ve challenged the first minister to come and meet us so we can explain why we feel that our businesses and the wonderful people we employ seem to be being sacrificed.
“Today’s group will include travel agents who have had to remain open since March 2020 to handle refunds, cancellation and rebookings so we’ve been unable to take the advantage from the furlough scheme which others have managed.
“As we don’t receive income until a traveller departs – even if they originally paid us for their travel – we’re operating on negative income from refunds. We’ve used up our life savings, dipped into our pensions, remortgaged our houses, taken out business loans and taken second jobs.
“The Scottish government keeps telling us that we’ve had support in the form of rates relief but this doesn’t pay for salaries, rent, bills and loan repayments. The sectoral support fund didn’t support all agents and was given to us to support us until March 2021. Fresh air isn’t sustaining us, or Scotland’s future connectivity.”
Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson said: “Literally millions of people who work in the travel industry have lost their jobs, millions more fear for the future and are suffering every day while governments continue to restrict travel without constructive engagement or support for the industry. At the same time, by constantly lurching in and out of policy, they’ve created huge confusion and inflicted even more economic pain on the travel industry and our customers with no real regard for the consequences.
“This is no idle warning – the UK travel industry is at risk. The ongoing financial distress, uncertainty, cancellations and industry-wide job losses are taking their toll in more than just a professional capacity.
“I have daily conversations with colleagues, peers and business owners whose mental health has rapidly deteriorated as a result of the situation our industry finds itself in.
“I have listened to stories of depression, marriage break ups, financial ruin and people who genuinely feel like they can’t go on because of the stress and worry they face day in, day out. Colleagues across our industry are suffering enormously because of the uncertainty they face.”
The SPAA protest, part of Travel Day of Action across the UK, takes place outside the Scottish Parliament building on Wednesday 23 June from 1230 – 1.30pm. All participants have been asked to take a lateral flow test prior to joining the event and to observe all Scottish government guidelines on distancing while at the protest.