More than 250 SPAA members plus representatives from airlines, operators and pilots are expected to protest outside the Scottish parliament today.
The demonstration is demanding sectoral support, clarity over data use, a plan for a return to international travel and low-cost testing.
SPAA president Joanne Dooey said: “We’re hoping that the first minister comes to meet us to explain why, despite a world-beating vaccination programme and easily accessible, albeit expensive testing, we’re further behind at opening up travel than we were 12 months ago when we had no rapid testing and no vaccination.
“Today’s group will include travel agents who have had to remain open since March 2020 to handle refunds, cancellation and rebookings, so we’ve been unable to take the advantage from the furlough scheme which others have managed.
“We’ve used up our life savings, dipped into our pensions, remortgaged our houses, taken out business loans and taken second jobs.”
She added the sector was frustrated at the treatment of the industry.
“The Scottish government keeps telling us that we’ve had support in the form of rates relief, but this doesn’t pay for salaries, rent, bills and loan repayments. The sectoral support fund didn’t support all agents and was given to us to support us until March 2021.”
An SPAA survey found widespread support for the lifting of restrictions.
“Our survey of ordinary Scots shows that almost two-thirds of Scots feel devastated, disappointed, confused or upset at the current travel restrictions and more than half (57%) would travel overseas within the next 12 months if they were able – with 17% of all surveyed saying they would be willing to travel in the next three months or sooner,” Dooey said.
“We want the Scottish government to show us their data, to trust the vaccine and to make testing more affordable.”
The SPAA survey found 96% of Scots who travelled overseas between March 2020 and today felt very or fairly safe. Just 4% of overseas travellers felt “not very safe”; with no travellers reporting that they “did not feel safe at all”.
Since March 2020 only 10% of those surveyed have been overseas, while 35% have cancelled at least one holiday, 28% have postponed and 17% have rebooked.
The SPAA is also lobbying for robust and accessible testing that does not cost more than in other countries “such as England”.
The survey outlined the biggest barrier to travel for Scots was the risk of quarantine on return to Scotland (39%) or potentially having to quarantine on arrival in their destination (36%). One in five Scots said the cost of Covid tests in the UK was a big barrier to overseas travel.
“Twelve months ago, we never envisaged that we’d have such easy-to-use, rapid and robust testing. So why are we not using it in a cost-effective way to stimulate travel and all of the economic benefits which outbound travel brings?” Dooey added.