The SPAA has joined criticism of Scotland’s plans to exit lockdown, saying the government had “closed the door on the sector’s faces once more”.
Lockdown restrictions including the closure of non-essential retail could begin to be eased from late April, the first minister announced on Tuesday.
However, the Scottish government failed to provide a timeframe for the wider easing of lockdown in line with its UK counterpart’s roadmap announcement on Monday, instead saying more details would be published in mid-March.
Nicola Sturgeon said she anticipated a “phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers” could happen from the last week of April.
But she said there would need to be “trade-offs” to ensure the success of the reopening, citing the example of restrictions on international travel.
Joanne Dooey, SPAA president, said on Tuesday evening: “What the travel sector in Scotland needed from today’s statement was a glimmer of hope, but that door was firmly closed in our faces once more.
“There had been signs of travel booking enquiries beginning to flow through after the announcement yesterday, so there was some hope. But the strength of position from the Scottish government against travelling meant people were holding off to hear what was said today.
“Sadly, there is nothing in today’s statement which gives us any hope that bookings will increase as they seem to have done in England following Boris Johnson’s bullish comments yesterday.”
Dooey said the SPAA would “strike a note of caution” over large percentage sales increases reported by operators in England, saying they could cloud relatively small actual booking numbers, and insisted the travel industry would not be able to survive ongoing curbs.
She said: “The travel sector has been decimated by the pandemic and it should be remembered that percentage increases don’t always show the whole picture. An increase from one booking to five bookings is still a 500% increase.
“What we all need to see now from the Scottish and UK governments is a positive commitment to engage with the travel sector to find a clear path of out this and a way to stimulate the recovery of an industry which can’t survive through these continued restrictions.”
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