Coronavirus: A glimmer of hope for Edinburgh's tourist sector

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

  • Published
The Real Mary King's CloseImage source, The Real Mary King's Close
Image caption,
The Real Mary King's Close tourist attraction employs 40 staff

The boss of one of Edinburgh's biggest tourist attractions has praised the planned reopening of Scotland's tourism sector on 15 July as a lifeline.

Juliana Delaney, chief executive of The Real Mary King's Close, said every week of lockdown meant more jobs were lost.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said the date was conditional on moving to the third phase of easing restrictions.

Tourism leaders and business owners across the capital welcomed the news, announced at Holyrood on Wednesday.

Ms Delaney said: "I'm pleased and delighted we have a date to work towards.

"I want to thank Fergus for the plans to lift the restrictions for the industry and want to say a big thank you for saving jobs and the health and wellbeing of people.

"Every week we delayed meant jobs were being lost and the health and wellbeing of the unemployed would have created another 'pandemic'."

Image source, Galab Singh
Image caption,
Galab Singh outside one of his shops on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Galab Singh of Gold Brothers, who employs 500 staff in Edinburgh's tourism area of the Royal Mile, said it was encouraging the Scottish government had finally realised the importance of bringing tourists back to the capital.

He said: "Today's news of a tourism reopening date is very welcome.

"I'm sure the sector will also look forward to a reduction in the social distancing and a financial package to have the tourism sector sustainable as this industry will find it extremely difficult to cope with what could turn out to be three winters.

"It's also very important to know what the City of Edinburgh Council have planned to attract people to Edinburgh which we think is the key location in any tourism reboot strategy for Scotland.

"With City of Edinburgh Council having closed Marketing Edinburgh we do need a strong message with a very attractive offer that brings people back.

"It's also good that the travel industry is lobbying the government hard to change the air passenger quarantine so that Edinburgh can attract our friends from near and far."

Image caption,
Tom Ponton, owner of the Oz Bar in Edinburgh, called for the two metre rule to be lifted

Tom Ponton, owner of the Oz Bar in Edinburgh, said: "Although I welcome a date we cannot operate with the two metre physical distancing rule.

"I am, however, relieved the Scottish government has started to listen to businesses at last, it's been nothing but a political game during the lockdown.

"This is the toughest adversity I've ever faced in the 40 years I've been in the trade."

Gordon Morrison, of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, said he had been looking at other countries which had already lifted their restrictions.

He said: "This news is very encouraging for us because now we have a date to aim for.

"However, there are still significant challenges for us such as the two metre physical distancing rule.

"We will be significantly reduced, down to 20-30% capacity which makes it economically unviable to reopen and make money.

"We do welcome the date but we would like to know if some parts of the sector could open before then."

Image source, Andrew Johnson
Image caption,
Andrew Johnson, director of the Camera Obscura on the Royal Mile, said 50% of his 400,000 a year visitors were from overseas

Andrew Johnson, director of the Camera Obscura on the Royal Mile, said 50% of his 400,000 a year visitors were from overseas.

He said: "It is fantastic we have a date.

"We will have to work with the two metre rule as best we can but it would be better if we didn't have to.

"It would be enormously easier to operate if we could reduce that distance for visitors to move around the attraction."

Image source, Beth Edberg
Image caption,
Cranachan and Crowdie owners Beth Edberg and Fiona McEwan outside their shop on the Royal Mile

Beth Edberg, from the Cranachan and Crowdie shop on the Royal Mile, said they only received 5% of custom from locals.

She said: "This date is welcome and we are excited. We have lost three months and now it is time to get back to doing what we do best.

"We are getting ready to welcome customers again and painting the facade of our shop."

Cameron Boal, holiday let firm TravelNest's marketing vice president, said: "The Scottish tourism industry, along with the rest of the UK, has been hit exceptionally hard by the lockdown.

"At TravelNest, we've seen the impact of this on holiday let owners across the country, with cancellations far outstripping bookings.

"The announcement that Scotland's tourism sector could reopen from 15 July is simply fantastic news and offers real hope for the rest of the 2020 summer season.

"In the last two weeks, we've started to see bookings coming in as traveller confidence returns, and this news is what our owners have been waiting for."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "As distance is reduced, the risk of transmission is increased - and therefore we will continue to make judgments that are safe in terms of the suppression and transmission of the virus that allow our economy to operate as close to normal as possible."

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