Businesses in the tourism sector have been told by the Scottish Government to prepare for reopening from July 15.
Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing warned “nothing can be guaranteed” amid the coronavirus pandemic and it would be subject to infection numbers.
But he told MSPs the government hopes to give the go-ahead to the sector to resume work at the lockdown review on July 9, with firms advised to get ready to reopen six days later.
The minister acknowledged Scotland’s tourism industry has been “devastated” by lockdown.
Ewing urged the UK Government to lead a tourism recovery plan Britain-wide backed by funding.
He announced the July 15 date, he said, in acknowledgement of the need for clarity in the sector so firms can take bookings, plan staff rotas and, if necessary, procure personal protective equipment (PPE).
The tourism secretary said it was also because it is expected that “general travel restrictions can be lifted on that date”, as he promised to work with public transport operators on restoring tourist travel in mid-July.
At present, people are asked to only travel locally for recreation – for example, to beauty spots or public spaces – which in official advice is given as no more than five miles.
Ewing said: “The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges across the entirety of the Scottish economy, but it is very clear there are exceptional circumstances facing this sector that must be recognised.
“We have acted as quickly as we can to address the significant financial challenges faced by businesses and provide a comprehensive package of support.
“We are also pushing the UK Government to do more, including a review of VAT rates and to consider extensions to schemes such as the coronavirus job retention scheme.
“I’ve been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity which today I can provide.
“Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on July 15.”
But he added: “This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map.
“Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”
Lockdown measures are reviewed every three weeks, with the next review on June 18 expected to move Scotland to phase two of its plan to ease restrictions.
That could allow two households to meet indoors, more than two households to gather outdoors and for outdoor spaces of pubs and restaurants to reopen.
Phase three, which could begin from July 9, should see the lifting of travel restrictions, multiple households allowed to meet inside and outside and the full reopening of pubs, restaurants and retail.
Museums, cinemas, libraries, galleries and gyms are also set to reopen their doors with social distancing and other hygiene measures in place.
It comes after the National Trust for Scotland warned it may not be able to reopen some of its historical tourist sites – like the Bannockburn Visitor Centre – for another two years if social distancing restrictions remain in place.
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