Travel workers are planning to protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday to show their anger at international travel effectively being “banned”.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SCAA) has published an open letter, calling for greater government support for the sector.
The Scottish Government says travel abroad is not advisable at the present moment. A traffic light system is in place with countries ranked either red, amber or green.
People arriving from red list countries have to enter managed isolation at a designated hotel for ten days while amber list arrivals have to self-isolate at home.
People coming to Scotland from any of the 12 green list countries and territories have to take a test when they arrive, but are otherwise free not to self-isolate.
Joanne Dooey, president of the SCAA, wrote: “We, the travel industry in Scotland, will be outside Holyrood at 1230 on Wednesday, June 23, and we challenge you to meet us, face to face over our respective facemasks, to tell us why travel has been given the red card, while football is permitted to boogie with mass fan zones. And we’ve got plenty more questions for you too.
“Come and meet our members and tell them why you have effectively banned travel.”
The planned protest comes just months after the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) announced plans to launch legal action against the Scottish Government over the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
The NTIA said the move was being made with an “extraordinary sense of disappointment and frustration”, but that the hospitality and late-night sector, in particular, had been “driven to the edge of insolvency”.
Earlier this year, the boss of Edinburgh Airport warned the new Scottish government must meaningfully engage with airports and airlines to ensure the aviation sector bounces back from the pandemic.
Dooey wrote that pilots, cabin crew, tour operators, airport workers and travel agents all needed support and would be attending Wednesday’s protest.
She said: “The government is duty-bound to support businesses which cannot trade due to restrictions – travel agencies may remain technically open – but with nothing to sell and no one to sell to.
“On the other hand, level two support has been granted to other businesses which are able to trade in a reduced capacity such as hospitality businesses and taxi drivers.
“How can we get the message through to you that you may allow us to physically open our doors, but there is absolutely no income for us?
“You have allowed us to open in name only – officially open but not actually capable of trading.”
The Scottish Government said the travel restrictions currently in place are necessary to avoid new variants being imported into the country.
A spokesperson said: “We do not underestimate the significant impact the pandemic continues to have on the tourism sector, both outbound and inbound. International travel restrictions are important in limiting the importation of further cases of the virus, in particular new variants, which could undermine the rollout of our vaccine programme.
“Scotland is offering the most comprehensive non-domestic rates relief in the UK for retail, hospitality and aviation and this includes travel agents. We were the first country in the UK to extend 100% non-domestic rates relief into 2021-22.
“Eligible travel agents benefited from sectoral grants of up to £25,000 per premises this year in addition to other support including strategic framework business fund grants, restart grants, furlough payments for staff, and non-domestic rates relief for retail premises.
“We are working with airports on route recovery, to help rebuild connectivity for business and inbound tourism once we are able to safely lift travel restrictions.”
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