The tourism industry needs more support from Government if it is to avoid a “travesty” in the form of business closures, MSPs have been told.
Much of the sector has been forced to close in recent weeks, following the loss of most of the busy summer season due to Covid-19.
Appearing before the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee at Holyrood on Thursday, Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) chief executive Marc Crothall told MSPs that financial support would boost the mental health of people in the sector.
He said: “We are in a far more desperate state than we were a few months back.
“The money has dried up and the cost of overheads are far greater now than they were last year.
“The mental health of our sector is getting really tested, so any delay, or any slow down or if that future support were not to be forthcoming soon, we’re going to see many more casualties along the way and that will be a travesty for the sector as a whole.”
Mr Crothall also called for support to be ready to launch at the time it is announced.
In December, Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing announced £104 million of extra support for the sector – but more than three weeks later, criteria and application processes are still being finalised.
“Unfortunately the criteria and the mechanisms for the delivery of those grants were not in place at the time of the announcement,” Mr Crothall said.
“A huge amount of work is being done by the various agencies and the local authorities to get in place the mechanism for that delivery.
“I had a long conversation yesterday with the Finance Secretary and Mr Ewing and we’ve made our views very clear, as have others, around timing, transparency, consistency, communication, but importantly the need for pace to deliver this money into business.”
Mr Crothall went on to criticise the amount offered to businesses, saying: “The headline figure of the total amount available is a sizable number, when you actually break it down into the amount of money each business is going to get, it’s virtually nothing.”
The tourism boss told the committee that grants given by the Scottish Government intended to support businesses for weeks or months amount to less than the daily running costs of some larger hotels in the country.