Barrhead Travel boss Jacqueline Dobson has warned 30,000 Scottish travel jobs are at risk unless the government steps in to provide additional support.
Dobson’s intervention comes after first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday (22 September) urged Scots not to take overseas breaks during the October school holidays.
Sturgeon told people to think of the October break as an "opportunity to further limit social interaction", adding: "Please do not book travel overseas for the October break if it is not essential."
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association branded Sturgeon’s comments "unnecessary, wholly gratuitous, and extremely damaging for the Scottish travel industry".
Dobson on Wednesday (23 September) said it was now incumbent on the Scottish government to provide the Scottish travel sector additional support to help it weather the coming months.
Echoing the SPAA, Dobson said Sturgeon’s comments were already causing "chaos and confusion" among travellers, and directly contradicting the Scottish government and Foreign Office’s own guidance on international travel.
“This conflicting message is another body blow to an industry on which 30,000 Scots depend on for their livelihoods," said Dobson.
“There has been a clear demand for last-minute holidays in September and October, but this statement has caused real confusion and concern among Scottish holidaymakers.
"We have been inundated with calls from customers asking for advice on what they should do – whether to follow the first minister’s guidance, or the Scottish government and Foreign Office’s published rules. This conflict has caused chaos among concerned holidaymakers."
Dobson said as an Abta member, Barrhead was bound to recognise Foreign Office guidelines. "While our staff are doing our best to support our customers, this conflict means they will not necessarily get their money back from tour operators if they cancel if there is no specific advisory against travel," said Dobson.
“We have worked hard to ensure the health and safety of all our employees and customers and are following the government guidelines on Covid-19. We fully support the public health message, however, this has to be balanced by proactive measures to support our industry and the people who work in it."
Dobson went on to highlight some of the "long-term damage" the Scottish travel sector had already suffered, including a halving of Emirates flights to Dubai, Tui pulling out of Aberdeen until next year, and the risk of losing key US routes.
She added vital connecting services, via London and Amsterdam, had also been reduced, making long-haul destinations less accessible.
“We are asking the first minister, not just on behalf of Barrhead Travelm but on behalf of the whole sector to engage with us today to protect the long-term sustainability of an industry that is a key driver of the Scottish economy.
"Protecting public health and protecting jobs need not be mutually exclusive.”