The Scottish travel industry is planning to protest outside the Parliament on Wednesday over the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an open letter to the First Minister, Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president Joanne Dooey asked “why travel has been given the red card, while football is permitted to boogie with mass fan zones”.
The letter pointed out that since March last year, travel agents have had nothing to sell and no one to sell to. “They’ve had to remain open to service repatriations and re-bookings, but they’ve been overlooked as retail operations and left with little sector specific funding support.”
What support they have been given – which depended solely on their rateable value of premises and omitted home workers – has gone, explained Dooey.
“The irony of the furlough scheme – which ought to have been a lifeline for their finances – is that despite having nothing to sell, agents had to remain open to handle the many thousands of customer bookings which have been futile,” she continued.
“You’ll enjoy meeting the pilots who, just to qualify, passed at least 14 exams and underwent endless flight training and who may soon be navigating your online groceries instead of scheduled or charter flights from Scotland.”
Also planning to protest will be cabin crews, tour operators and airport representatives – each with their own unique problems during the pandemic.
The letter argued that the industry needs financial support commensurate with restrictions, with the Scottish Government “duty bound” to offer this to those that cannot trade.
Dooey noted the support 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 letter added.
The letter claimed that the outbound tourism sustains more than 26,000 jobs in Scotland and that outbound travellers are worth almost £1.5bn to the Scottish economy.
Finally, Dooey questioned the fact that while the travel industry has demonstrated its ability to operate a Covid-19 testing scheme, “thousands of football fans are permitted to mingle, mix and meet whilst being encouraged only to self test?”
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