International leisure travel from Scotland is unlikely to restart from 17 May, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has told Holyrood.
Sturgeon said it was the Scottish government’s view that the 17 May "at the very earliest" date for a resumption of international travel, set out last month by Boris Johnson in his Covid roadmap, "would not be achievable".
She also stressed that both pre-departure and post-arrival testing would likely be necessary "for some time to come".
"Reducing the risk of importing new cases, and new variants, is directly relevant to the issue of international travel," said Sturgeon.
"We intend to discuss with the aviation sector later this week how, and when, non-essential travel to some international destinations may be possible again.
"We are certain this will not be achievable before 17 May. However, our view is that it may well not be possible for a further period after that.
"And, even when overseas travel does resume, it is very likely a requirement for pre-departure and post-arrival testing will remain in place for some time to come."
Sturgeon did, however, confirm Scotland’s "stay at home" message would be lifted from 2 April, and replaced for three weeks with "stay local" guidance.
Some businesses will be permitted to reopen from 5 April, but the majority of retail premises – including travel agencies – and tourist accommodation will reopen from 26 April.
She added there would be 100% business rate relief for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses during the next financial year (2021/22).
Sturgeon said she hoped all of Scotland would be free from the majority of the country’s Covid restrictions by the end of June, with all of Scotland moving to "level zero".
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said the fact international travel was on the government’s agenda would be "music to the ears of Scottish travel professionals".
"The SPAA is now focusing on our role in the aviation taskforce being set up by the Scottish government to look at ways to open up travel in a safe and sustainable manner," said Dooey.
"We are now actively engaged with the government as the voice of the travel professionals in Scotland and, alongside the aviation and airport representatives, we’ll be working to develop a methodology to allow travel to take off once more."
Dooey also reiterated the "hugely significant" role travel plays in Scotland’s economy, as well as the economic benefits of both outbound and inbound travel and tourism.
"We’re keen to play our role in this task force to identify the role that measures such as testing and vaccination programmes and vaccination certificates or passports will play in this," said Dooey.
"We hope that, through this forum, we can play our role in getting travel moving again and that we can also agree a government support framework for our industry and the wider sector following the enforced grounding which the pandemic caused."