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STA Update - 8 April
Although for some of us it’s the holidays (or should be the holidays) and many colleagues are now off on furlough, it’s been another flat out day of meetings with those in the industry; civil servants, agency tourism colleagues and ministers.

Thanks to all who have given up their time to join us on these calls – here below is a summary of the two main meets of the day plus other announcements and links to advice and support.

TEAM STA 

Summary of the STA Council meet with Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP -  8 April 2020

For full list of attendees, please click here.

Issues for discussion:

  1. Grant eligibility
  2. Self-employment – particularly the requirement for three-year trading history
  3. Furlough – flexibility around furlough, part-time furlough and concern regarding the flow through of cash for April payment of staff/quicker access
  4. Small and medium businesses who have fallen through the net and are not able to access support, for example, small B&Bs, coach operators, events venues – there is still an immediate need for cash
  5. Recognition that we have the need for ongoing support for a lengthy period

Cabinet Secretary Update

Fully accept that the packages of support don’t cover all businesses.  The Scottish Government has used most of the £2.2B that was allocated initially.  In Scotland we have more businesses within the tourism sector and there is an issue around how far the money goes. 

The aim of the Scottish Government is to try to tide businesses over and Mr Ewing acknowledged that businesses who have not received as much as they would have done down south feel aggrieved

As far as the gaps go, Mr Ewing has advocated that the residual funding should be deployed in order to fill gaps.  He did express the view that B & Bs who don’t get rates relief should get some assistance to tide them over and confirmed that this argument has been put forward in house.

In relation to the Job Retention Scheme, Self Employed Scheme and Business Interruption loan Scheme, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that difficulties have been recognised, particularly regarding self-catering businesses, those who have been trading for less than three years and the need for flexibility in furlough and he has highlighted a series of these problems to the UK Government on the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Scheme.  Mr Ewing acknowledged that the UK Tourism Minister understands these points and has a good grasp of these issues.

The Cabinet Secretary has also highlighted to the Tourism Minister that many businesses because of the RV exceeding the threshold, have been excluded from the £25,000 grant altogether and asked that more resource focused on this.  He has raised the point that the Business Interruption Scheme is not attractive to many businesses.

Mr Ewing did confirm that hopefully soon, within the next week, decisions will have been made on how the remaining £100m funds will be allocated and will advocate these be allocated to support the sector and business falling through the gap – he also stated that the Scottish Government has and will continue to push UK government for more funding to be made available, also stressing the disproportionate number of tourism business in Scotland vs England skewing the consequential pay out, plus pressing on other issues of support that are reserved.

Also discussed at the meeting:

  • (Steve SLTA) cited inconsistencies in the interpretation of the grant criteria within local authorities and in the flow of grants to businesses.  There is need for greater clarity around eligibility and a direct communication from COSLA/Scottish Government around the release of the grants.
  • (Tom NOEA ) outdoor events and suppliers – they have been acknowledged in the UK Government as a sector group but this has not happened in Scotland.
  • (Alan Sail Scotland ) Marine Sector – could there be support for marine businesses that are operating in rural communities?
  • Marc Crothall referenced the suggestion at a morning meet to help address the concern of delayed flow of furlough payments and the length of time this is taking, especially for businesses that don’t have access to grants.  Suggestion ask to government to get banks to agree to increase overdrafts automatically in the short term to ensure that those businesses are not having to make rash decisions and lay people off.
  • (Fiona ASSC) – referenced clarity on evidence for grants   
  • (Gordon ASVA) the change in tone in communications from tourism businesses.  The mood has changed and conversations with many members across different sectors indicate despondency, anger and frustration as they realise that the support packages are not going to save their businesses
  • (Gordon ASVA) Visitor attractions, they have gone through a fallow winter period, anticipated a healthy season and invested in training and development but it is unlikely that they will even be ready for the season in 2021. 
  • Mental health of people within the industry is starting to deteriorate with people becoming over exhausted, overworked and having to take pay cuts.
  • (Bernard ALVA) Flexibility in furlough – the possibility for those staff who have been furloughed to volunteer back if they wish for their employers. 
  • (Gemma SDMA) Furlough perhaps following the Dutch approach – they have acknowledged that where a business is happy to top up, the government is allowing these individuals to do some work for the business.  Businesses need to bounce back and this means the workforce working in some capacity.
  • (John BACTA) Suggestion that we have a sliding scale that operates in bands for allocating grants based on Rateable Value
  • (Victoria Wild Scotland/Rob OHT) The indicators from Outer Hebrides and outdoor adventure sector are  looking at 18 months with little no work or income whatsoever. 
  • Several stated that many other businesses are falling between the gaps which make up the heart of the sector.  Small grants would make a huge difference and keep the rural economy afloat.
  • (Willie UKH) referenced they are also making case to Treasury for grants to be paid above £51k – he will provide paper to Scottish Government – Calum (UKH) also stated how typically rateable values are 30% higher than they are in  the UK which has a bearing on a greater % of properties vs England are missing out.  It was also stated that UKH had heard from the UK Minister that HMRC are hoping to begin furlough payments between 22-25 of April.
  • (Caroline Go Rural) is there an appeal process if a business gets turned down for the grant? 
  • (Rob OHT ) Confusion around lockdown dates – we need clarity as visitors are asking about booking in the future.  Is there a date that people can work to?
  • (Gemma SDMA) Can a credit note be given instead of cash refund to protect cashflow at the moment?
  • (Sarah T SCSTG) ref need for rural workers working in solitary situations could they go back to work?


Cabinet Secretary response to conversation

Acknowledged that the mood has changed and that we’re looking at an 18-month recovery gap for many sectors within the industry such as events, marine, adventure tourism and visitor attractions.  The effect has been catastrophic and we do need to turn our thoughts to recovery at some point.

The immediate problem is to focus on the financial package and various schemes.  There is a need to improve the staff furlough scheme and it seems a willingness by the UK Government to do this.  Marine day trips – it has been identified as a gap and the Cabinet Secretary has asked for more evidence and info on that and also information/thoughts on the 140 day rule for self-catering businesses – feels that an element of flexibility could work and that 140 days may be on the high side.

The Cabinet Secretary said he would like to see more support and survival packages and with regards to grants and the rateable value of property, he said that he feels there is a case for the sliding scale – this would perhaps enable the Scottish Government to deal with the businesses who are falling between the gaps here in terms of Rateable Value and the number of properties.

Mr Ewing acknowledged that he is increasingly of the view that things are looking more difficult as time goes on and there is a lot of work to do in working with the STA and associations and Scottish Government is fully engaged in supporting the industry.

The issue around mental health has been noted and will be taken forward by the Cabinet Secretary as will all of the points raised at today’s meeting and both Mr Ewing and Scottish Government officials on the call today have highlighted the need for any evidence and information on all of the issues discussed to come through the channel of the STA, and indeed any new issues which have not been brought to the table to date.

Mr Ewing concluded by thanking the STA stating these meets were very useful and asking that Council members submit any other comments in writing via the STA so they can be presented in one consolidated submission to his office for he and his and fellow cabinet colleagues' consideration and taking forward in their representation to UK Government too.

UK Tourism Industry Council Meeting 8 April - summary

Marc, our CEO dialed into the weekly UK meeting immediately after the STA Council meet – many of the comments and points made mirrored those tabled the STA Council – the summary of this weeks invited commentators is below.
 
Simon Vincent, Co- Chair of the UK Tourism Industry Council opened the meet saying the fact is that it still remains very tough in the industry and that the forward outlook for business and in particular for events is still very bleak with many events still being called off in Q3 and Q4, quoting COP 26 in Glasgow as one.  The government needs to recognise that, as was also voiced by the STA Council, there will be the need for long term support for the sector to see it through to full recovery.

Patricia Yates from VisitBritain referenced there had in Q4 been a 54% drop off in overseas visits and 56% in overseas value. She stated the primary emphasis needs to be on domestic recovery first and that there is a requirement to make this case to the Treasury for funding to support.  International market returning are very likely to be at the end of the recovery chain.

Airlines UK, representative, as with many others in industry saying their members are calling for the furlough periods to be extended beyond the current term of three months, and likely longer period too.

Kurt Jansen CEO Tourism Alliance echoed the same regarding the need for flexibility in the Job Retention Scheme, specifically to allow for some employees to work voluntarily in the business whilst furloughed to prepare it for readiness and also for many this will help reduce stress and matters of mental health. In relation to the Self Employment Scheme, he highlighted that many who are self-employed are retired and do so as a part time job to top up their pension income and on the basis of qualifying for the current scheme, needing to prove that 50% of that income was from self-employed status, an ask is for any declaration of pension income to be treated separately from earnings.  As also recommended by the STA, many on the TIC stated the Job Retention Scheme should allow for a tapering out as not all businesses will be back to full trading capability immediately nor will there be likely demand .
 
Michael Hurst representing the business and events sector highlighted that event planners and booking agencies should also be treated in a similar way to conference and event venues/tour operators.  He cited significant risk to the events supply chain quoting of 1500 suppliers surveyed; only 5% had been successful in gaining support and 60% had said that they had less than three months liquidity. He pointed out that if events were to be a means for recovery, much of the essential equipment needed to deliver major events such as arena seating, portaloos, marquees etc may not be accessible if these business do not survive.

A small businesses TIC member stated the case for the need to know soonest the thinking of government as regards timelines for lock down and social distancing relaxation so that they can plan for recovery, stating that many hundreds of thousands of similar businesses would be wanting the same.

Kate Nicholls, CEO UK Hospitality supported the idea of inviting attendees from other government departments to be invited to future TIC meetings as this would assist with the wording of future government communications to the sector by their having a better understanding of tourism matters before policy announcements are made.

The Minister closed the meeting by saying that whilst he unfortunately had no answers to timelines or to many of the points raised he would still continue to push hard and work on all matters that have already been raised with his colleague at the Treasury.
 

Free of charge ecommerce technology launched to help hoteliers continue to trade during lockdown

Cheshire-based software company, Hop Software, has developed a free-of-charge online shop to enable hotels across the UK to provide a click, collect and delivery food and drink service to local customers.

Hotels across the UK have been forced to shut their doors and cease trading during UK lockdown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in a very unsettling time for the hospitality industry with fears around whether businesses will survive the next few weeks without securing bookings or generating any revenue.

Hospitality software company, Hop Software, which provides world-class tech solutions to hoteliers, along with Digital Marketing solutions, have developed a free-of-charge online click, collect and delivery platform to offer hotels the opportunity to sell their food and drink services, take secure payments and provide local customers with the option of collection or delivery.

The Smart Order Time feature ensures the ultimate safety of both hotel staff and customers by allowing customers to choose a convenient and safe time to collect or have their orders delivered directly to their doors.

Consumer needs and behaviours are constantly adapting to our ‘new way of life’. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted hotels, dine-in restaurants and bars around the world. Hospitality businesses are turning to tech solutions and online platforms to help maintain a revenue streamline.

Food and drink delivery services from restaurants and takeaways are set to have an increasingly important role in keeping the nation fed.

Research from CGA shows that just over half (53%) of the public are either currently using, or planning on using, food delivery services as an alternative during the current crisis, with 13% ordering deliveries from a restaurant or takeaway for the first time, or more frequently, in the last two weeks.

Hop Software is one of the most advanced cloud-based PMS systems on the market, offering an industry-leading tech hotel solution; flexible, cost-efficient and outstanding value for money.

Combined with expertise in Digital Marketing, offering flexible and affordable packages focused on latest data and insights, to deliver anything from strategies to campaigns, Hop guarantees a scale of marketing initiatives and tools, to support businesses through the current difficult situation, and beyond, for continuous success.

Visit the website to learn more about the company’s products and services

For more information, please contract sales@hopsoftware.com or call 0345 301 0034

UK Government webinar - Coronavirus: helping employers to support employees 

A webinar is available which offers an overview of the support for employers in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus on their employees and businesses.

Click here to view.

HMRC Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Q & As

HMRC has made a Q & A log available which may offer you more clarity around areas which you have questions on in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Click here to download.

Funding competition: Business-led innovation in response to global disruption

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million to respond to new and urgent needs in UK and global communities during and following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The competition opened on Friday and will close on Friday 17th April.

Your application must demonstrate:
  • a clearly innovative and ambitious idea, which would realistically and significantly meet a societal need that has emerged or increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic or the need of an industry that has been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted
  • that you have the capacity and capability to deliver the project successfully and on time during the working restrictions of Covid-19
  • the ability to start your project no later than June 2020
  • value for money
The UK Government is interested in solutions, which tackle the new or emerging societal or industry needs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, including but not exclusively:
  • community support services
  • couriers and delivery (rural and/or city based)
  • education and culture
  • entertainment (live entertainment, music, etc.)
  • financial services
  • food manufacture and processing
  • healthcare
  • hospitality
  • personal protection equipment
  • remote working
  • retail
  • social care
  • sport and recreation
  • transport
  • wellbeing


For more details and information on how to apply, please click here.

Resources for businesses

Please click here to visit the Scottish Tourism Alliance Advice page where you will find a number of valuable resources and information to support your business.

Mental health 

Hospitality Health, the charity which supports the mental health and well-being of those working in the hospitality industry has added a new section to its website, COVID-19 with supportive links which may be helpful to staff unable to work at the moment.

The charity was founded last year by a good friend of the STA, Gordon McIntyre, Associate Dean of Hospitality and Tourism at the City of Glasgow College and has a variety of support resources on themes which have been extended to offer additional advice and suggestions for coping with the current crisis and the impact this has on our mental health.

Whether you’re struggling to ‘turn off’ after a day of working from home or feeling a lost sense of purpose in being unable to carry out the role you normally would, you’ll find some useful links and also slides which are delivered by a specialist trainer.

Find out more here.
 

Job Opportunities 

If you are seeking part-time or full-time employment please follow the links to see what vacancies are available.

Hospitality Unite 

A free-to-use jobs portal to help workers from the tourism and hospitality sectors who have found themselves displaced as a result of the COVID-19 - www.harri.com/hospitalityunite
 

My World of Work

Skills Development Scotland are also highlighting immediate job opportunities on their national website - My World of Work

Talking to the media

The STA receives numerous calls every day from journalists looking to speak to tourism businesses about the impact Coronavirus is having.  We are building a list of businesses that we can share with journalists to support the communication of the stark reality for Scotland's tourism industry.

If you are happy to speak to the media about your situation and concerns, please complete this form

We'll be back tomorrow!

We know that many people are taking the Easter weekend off so we'll be bringing you Friday's update a day early - watch out for it hitting your in box tomorrow evening.

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