Date set for return

Macdonalds threat to 1800 jobs as tourism gets restart date

Fergus Ewing

Fergus Ewing: calling for VAT review (pic: Terry Murden)

Another hotel chain announced that hundreds of jobs could be axed just hours after an announcement that Scotland’s tourism industry will be back in business from 15 July if the Covid crisis allows.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing announced the planned date for the reopening of the sector, including pubs, hotels and restaurants, and said he was in talks with the UK government over possible VAT relief.

He unveiled a new Scottish Recovery Tourism Taskforce to look at the sector’s needs, and the development of a new domestic visitor marketing campaign. 

Tourism business groups welcomed the announcement but called for a relaxation of the two-metre rule to make reopening viable and a speeding up of grant support amid reports that failure to secure funding has forced some firms to close.

The announcement came ahead of an announcement by Macdonald Hotels, that it could cut 1,800 jobs due to a fall in custom during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Bathgate-based group has 31 hotels and resorts throughout Scotland and England and has begun issuing consultation notices to its 2,299 employees.

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Group deputy chairman Gordon Fraser said: “Our monthly cash outgoings are still running at £2 million while we are forced to remain closed. Even after cutting all non-essential spending and with senior management and our remaining staff accepting reduced salaries, the current situation is simply unsustainable.

“There is no realistic prospect of us returning to anything approaching normality for the foreseeable future and, whilst its enormously regrettable, we simply must take these steps to ensure that we have a meaningful business when this situation ends, enabling us to bring back as many of our employees as possible.”

Macdonalds is the latest in a number of other hotel groups that have ceased trading or announced they will be forced to make large scale redundancies, including the Crieff Hydro chain and Apex Hotels. Staff at the Kimpton Blythswood Square and Grand Central hotels in Glasgow were told they are at risk of redundancy as luxury operator InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) moved to restructure its teams in Scotland. Seven hotels in the Specialist Leisure Group in the Highlands and Borders have ceased trading.

Mr Ewing said: “The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges across the entirety of the Scottish economy, but it is very clear there are exceptional circumstances facing this sector that must be recognised.

tourist, tourism, Chinese tourists

Tourists may start to return in July (pic: Terry Murden)

“We have acted as quickly as we can to address the significant financial challenges faced by businesses and provide a comprehensive package of support.”

The taskforce is in addition other measures specific to the tourism and hospitality industry such as a full year’s non-domestic rates relief and grant schemes which are not available elsewhere in the UK.

Mr Ewing said efforts were being stepped up to encourage more support from the UK government.

“We are also pushing the UK Government to do more, including a review of VAT rates and to consider extensions to schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme,” he said.

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