Latest COVID information – update for Scottish visitor attractions on First Minister’s statement to Parliament

In her latest COVID statement to the Scottish Parliament today, Tuesday 14 December, the First Minister announced that further protective measures are necessary to slow the spread of the Omicron variant whilst the pace of the booster vaccination programme is accelerated.

The First Minister advised that people are strongly recommended to limit, as far as possible, the number of people outside their own households that they interact with. She also stated that the Scottish Government intends to amend regulations to put a legal requirement on those running businesses or providing services to ‘take measures which are reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of transmission’, such as steps to control customer flow.

Ms Sturgeon said that guidance will be issued this week to make clear what that means for different sectors. Following her announcement, ASVA reached out to the Scottish Government to seek clarity for Scotland’s attractions sector. 

With regards to what the ‘protective measures’ are likely to be, ASVA’s understanding is that it is unlikely there will be mandated regulations such as physical distancing or one-way systems. Instead, the requirement will simply be that businesses must take appropriate action to limit crowds and control queuing.  We are very confident that most of our attraction members are already operating with COVID protocols that will satisfy this requirement.

Our CEO, Gordon Morrison said: ‘’I continue to emphasise to the Scottish Government our sector’s commitment to minimising transmission risks and the exemplary standards it has adhered to throughout the pandemic. In addition, I’ve highlighted the fact that the vast majority of attractions have voluntarily retained many COVID-mitigating protocols, above and beyond current requirements, to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.  And whilst our understanding is that the ‘practical measures’ the First Minister referred to are likely to be measures already widely in place across our sector, I have noted my concerns that if certain requirements – most particularly 2-metre physical distancing –were to be mandated once more, there would be serious economic consequences for visitor attractions.”

The First Minister also announced today that £100 million to support the hospitality sector will be made available. Whilst this is welcome news, there has not yet been an indication of how this will be distributed. ASVA has therefore sought clarification on whether attractions with hospitality elements will be included – as we certainly believe they should be.

Gordon continued: “We have been advocating strongly for financial support for our sector and I have been at pains to ensure Government officials are aware that not only have attractions not seen any kind of recovery this year – with visitor numbers down by 65.6% compared to 2019 – many attractions, just like hospitality venues, are reporting cancellations of Christmas events. They are also now seeing a further downturn in visitor numbers and significantly reduced trade in their cafes and restaurants. Sadly too, whilst the Days Out campaign had been expected to drive visitation, this has not had the benefits anticipated due to the public’s concerns about rising COVID cases.

“We will keep our sector updated as soon as we have further clarity and guidance. In the meantime, I’d like to reassure our members that we will continue to advocate on your behalf and do our best to ensure our sector receives the support it needs to navigate through the current stage of the pandemic.”