The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has accused the Scottish government of failing to provide the country’s travel sector "a glimmer of hope" as it seeks to emerge from months of lockdown.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday (23 February) detailed Scotland’s first cautious steps out of national lockdown, with non-essential retail – such as travel agencies – likely to be able to reopen from late April.
However, the SPAA said Sturgeon’s address offered little to fuel any hope bookings might increase "as they seem to have done in England" following what it described as Boris Johnson’s "bullish" comments.
Domestic leisure travel could resume from as early as 12 April south of the border, with a cautious 17 May return forecast for international travel, subject to a review by a newly-reconvened Global Travel Taskforce.
"What the travel sector in Scotland needed from today’s statement (Tuesday) was a glimmer of hope, but that door was firmly closed in our faces once more," said SPAA president Joanne Dooey.
"There had been signs of travel booking enquiries beginning to flow through after the announcement yesterday (Monday), so there was some hope. But the strength of position from the Scottish government against travelling meant people were holding off to hear what was said today.
"Sadly, there is nothing in today’s statement which gives us any hope that bookings will increase as they seem to have done in England following Boris Johnson’s bullish comments yesterday."
Dooey, though, said figures from travel firms claiming large percentage increases in booking volumes in England off the back of Johnson’s statement "as opposed to actual booking numbers" should be viewed with caution; Jet2.com and Jet2holidays claimed a 1,000% increase in bookings in the 24 hours following the announcement, easyJet 337% and easyJet Holiday 630%.
"The travel sector has been decimated by the pandemic and it should be remembered that percentage increases don’t always show the whole picture," said Dooey. "An increase from one booking to five bookings is still a 500% increase.
"What we all need to see now from the Scottish and UK governments is a positive commitment to engage with the travel sector to find a clear path of out this and a way to stimulate the recovery of an industry which can’t survive through these continued restrictions."