Summer is saved as tourism sees light at the end of the tunnel

Brodick beach is packed with visitors during last weekend's heatwave in the shadow of Goatfell.

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By Hugh Boag

Summer has been saved on Arran with the great news that tourism can start up next month and will be back in full swing by the end of June.

The disappointment of losing the Easter trade can be tempered by the fact that it will now be all systems go to get businesses resumed ahead of the summer season.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the timeline for the phased reopening of the tourism and hospitality sector was ‘massively welcomed’, adding: ‘It is the most positive news we have received in a long time.’

The first date of hope is April 26 and, on the day the summer timetable starts on the ferries, travel across Scotland will be permitted and tourist accommodation can reopen, although self-catering will be restricted in line with the rules on indoor gathering.

Outdoor hospitality will be allowed to open till 10pm with alcohol permitted. Indoor hospitality will be permitted, but without alcohol and closing at 8pm.

May 17 should see, given the progress of the vaccination programme and what has been learned about its impact on reducing transmission of the virus, a further re-opening of hospitality: bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to stay open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted but with two-hour time-limited slots for customers.

The Scottish government’s timetable for easing restrictions states: ‘We know that the coronavirus is unpredictable and is adept at mutating in order to survive.

‘It is also vital that we allow enough time between different sets of easings to assess what effect they have had on the R number and other virus indicators. For that reason, it is too early now to give specific dates beyond May.

‘However, we understand the need for people and businesses to plan and so, to give a broad sense of likely timings, from the start of June, we would aim for Scotland to move back to level one.

‘This will allow further relaxation across all areas of the economy and society, while still applying physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and the FACTS guidance. From the end of June, we hope that we will be able to move to level zero.’

Ahead of all this residents, on Arran can look forward to the reopening of hairdressers and barbers from April 5 along with the reopening of non-essential ‘click and collect’ retail, garden centres, homeware shops, not already open, with all shops opening three weeks later.

Addressing the Scottish parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed: ‘The hospitality sector will begin to reopen from April 26.

‘From that date, cafés, restaurants and bars will be able to serve people outdoors – in groups of up to six from three households – until 10pm. Alcohol will be permitted and there will be no requirement for food to be served.

‘We expect that libraries, museums and galleries will also reopen from April 26. We also expect all remaining retail premises to re-open.

‘All tourist accommodation will be able to re-open from that date too, subject to any wider restrictions that remain in place, for example, on hospitality.’

She confirmed that the Scottish Government ‘intends to discuss with the aviation sector later this week how and when non-essential travel to some international destinations may be possible again’.

On travel restrictions, the First Minister said: ‘We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter.’

Mr Crothall said: ‘The STA has been in discussion with the Scottish government on almost a daily basis over the past few weeks to highlight the need for a clearer route out of lockdown to be given to tourism businesses and our supply chain, not only to allow for the necessary timeframe to plan for reopening, but to protect the many thousands of jobs which are at risk.

‘The announcement will offer some very much needed light at the end of what has been the darkest tunnel for our industry.

‘It’s absolutely critical that continued tailored financial support, by way of grants, is made available to those who won’t be in a position to open and trade viably until we move into the much lower levels; the up-front restart grants will be very welcomed to assist with that outlay.’