A STARK reminder that the recession facing the UK is going to be very different to downturns past hit home when it emerged that venerable Scottish company David Urquhart Travel had ceased trading.

At a time when we are in danger of becoming inured to mass redundancies and companies collapsing, the news that another business had reached the end of the road because of coronavirus was perhaps not the most shocking revelation, unfortunate though that event undeniably was. It was the failure of a company that seemed to have a fighting chance of survival in the “new normal” that caught the eye.

Amid the ongoing conversation about how the tourism industry might stage a comeback from the pandemic, a consensus has formed that the “staycation” market offers the best chance for hotels and attractions to recover revenue in the short term.

It is a view based on the likelihood that air travel will be restricted for the foreseeable future, and on the assessment that tourism destinations in the more rural and remote parts of Scotland will be best equipped to deal with an ongoing social distancing regime.

READ MORE: David Urquhart hotels for sale as travel business is wound down

Golf, hill walking, cycling and fishing would seem to be pursuits that can be enjoyed without getting too close to fellow travellers, though this point must be caveated too, amid mounting fears that a staycation trend may lead to the coronavirus spreading to rural and remote areas.

Yet, despite the prospect of more Scots holidaying at home this year and perhaps into 2021, it was not enough to persuade the bosses at David Urquhart Travel, which employed 57 people, to carry on.

This is a business which had provided coach tours around the UK and Ireland for nearly four decades, and was seemingly primed to take advantage of the staycation trend.

Outlining their decision to wind up the firm, along with two other businesses in the David Urquhart Group, the directors said: “The ongoing coronavirus has had a dramatic impact on all business sectors, but especially those within the travel and tourism industry where it is impossible to establish when operations will return to normal.

“The directors have made the decision, in the absence of interested parties, to wind up the coach tour business in an orderly manner over the next few months.

“This is not a decision which has been taken lightly. The coach tour company has served loyal customers for more than 37 years, throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and has been a prominent figure within the leisure and hospitality industry.”

READ MORE: Scott Wright: Furlough extension vital to survival of Scottish tourism and hospitality

Of course, without being privy to precise financial details it is hard to build a clear picture of a company’s well-being.

And it should be noted in this case that the David Urquhart Group expects all creditors to be repaid in full from the proceeds of the sale of three hotels owned by one its other subsidiaries, Hart Hotels.

But the fact that directors of such a long-running concern as David Urquhart Travel could not see a way for that business to successfully navigate the choppy waters underlines just how deep and unpredictable they expect the downturn to be.

A big part of the problem facing all tourism and hospitality businesses right now is the lack of visibility over when things can realistically expect to return to normal, a point the directors of David Urquhart acknowledged in their statement.

That uncertainty was driven forcibly home yesterday by the Scottish Tourism Alliance as it called for a date to be set for the industry to reopen.

“With the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, tourism is starting to revive with reports of bookings for destinations like Cornwall on the increase,” chief executive Marc Crothall said.

“Scotland’s tourism industry needs a date now for reopening to allow the necessary period of planning for safe reopening and to offer confidence to all who live here and wish to travel here that Scotland’s tourism industry will open for business within the coming weeks.”

The STA’s call reflects conversations I have had with the owners of tourism-facing businesses in recent days, which revealed a deep level of frustration over the lack of a definitive roadmap for the way ahead.

Their questions are numerous and varied. For example, when hotels are able to re-open, at what level of capacity will they be permitted to trade?

Will hotels be allowed to open their bars and restaurants, and, if so, how can they operate while the requisite degree of social distancing is maintained?

Moreover, what level of infrastructure will have to be put in place to protect patrons’ health?

On the flip side, what level of service can a hotelier provide if they do not know how many staff they are able to employ? The industry welcomed last week’s news that the furlough scheme has been extended until October. But details on how much employers will be expected to contribute to wages from August have still to be finalised, which will make it challenging to know how many staff can be brought back.

The catch here is that the things that make guest stays memorable come at a cost, and if a business cannot afford to employ a top chef, sommelier or cocktail maker, the appeal of a venue will unfortunately suffer. There is also a risk if bars, restaurants and hotels reopen with reduced capacities, as it would surely undermine their ability to conjure the atmosphere that is very much the beating heart of the industry.

Hopes that staycations will prove to be the tourism industry’s salvation must also be tempered. Ever since the Covid-19 crisis began, people in tourist hot spots, such as the Highlands and Islands and the Lake District, have been worried that they will be deluged with visitors eager to escape the big towns and cities, heaping unwelcome pressure on their ability to cope should those tourists bring the virus with them.

As Neil Lapping, founder of travel firm Macs Adventure, told me, a “critical part” of the debate on reopening the industry in rural areas is “whether local communities will welcome tourism.”

He said: “I think that is one of the biggest blockers. Let’s say for example, the Outer Hebrides, do they really want tourists from Glasgow? That’s one of the biggest pieces that is getting missed in the conversation about whether it is responsible. There is still a long way to go in tourism in terms of seeing meaningful domestic travel.”

For Scottish tourism, the journey to reopen will be a long and winding road.