Scottish coach industry benefits from £9 million to mitigate impacts of Omicron

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Details of a financial package worth up to £9 million for Scotland’s tourism sector, and which will be administered by Visit Scotland, were confirmed in January by Tourism Minister Ivan McKee. Intended to mitigate the impact of public health measures introduced to limit the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the funding package will be split between affected businesses in a number of areas: coach operators; day tour operators; hostels; inbound tour operators; the outdoor and marine sector, and; visitor attractions.

The Minister said: “We recognise that the public health measures necessary to limit the spread of Omicron have had a severe economic impact, especially for affected businesses in the hard hit tourism sector. We have now allocated up to £9 million to help ease the impacts of the pandemic on Scotland’s world-class tourism sector and ensure that affected businesses can survive what is clearly an especially tough winter period and be ready to trade fully in the spring and summer months. We know this won’t cover all losses and will continue to press the UK Government for more comprehensive support.”

VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead added: “Scotland’s valuable tourism industry is still facing significant challenges posed by the pandemic. This funding will provide crucial support to businesses affected by the necessary steps taken to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant. We recognise that many businesses are struggling, and we are working to ensure that those eligible can access this funding as simply and as quickly as possible. Further details on this will be shared next week.

The £9 million funding package includes £6 million from the £375 million of business support that was previously announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plus a further £3 million that has been repurposed from Phase 1 of the Tourism Recovery Programme. Since the start of the pandemic the Scottish Government, through VisitScotland, has provided more than £46.7 million in business support to affected parts of the tourism sector, in addition to the £25 million tourism recovery programme which is being delivered by members of the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG).

The money is intened to recognise the economic impact of the steps people were asked to take from early December 2021 and the restrictions in place affecting some sectors since then. Eligible businesses will receive a top-up payment of £6,800 under the fund.

Strand One of the support funding provided by the Scottish Government supported coach operators in Scotland whose turnover in 2019/20 from coach tourism and private coach hire was more than 55% of their total turnover. Strand Two was created to support coach operators in Scotland whose turnover in 19/20 from coach tourism and private coach hire was more than 40% of their total turnover.

Figures published by VisitScotland show that Parks of Hamiton received the largest amount in Strand One funding at £700,000. Maynes, Edinburgh Coach Lines and City Circle received amounts over £300,000, and 20 further operators received six-figure sums. A further 87 operators received amounts ranging from £4,500 to £96,000.

In Strand Two, Prentice Westwood received the highest amount, £273,000, with a further five operators receiving amounts over £100,000. A further 10 operators were awarded funding of between £9,000 and £88,500.

Lochs & Glens received £192,000 in Strand One funding from the Scotland Coach Operators – Covid-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund. JONATHAN WELCH