IT is almost two weeks since a bit more of Scotland’s tourism industry was able to open its doors for business; a long-awaited moment which when announced, offered such an enormous boost to the sector.

A light at the end of the tunnel had appeared; a path had been shown out of the dark months that saw our industry grind to a standstill. A sense of renewed optimism had started to permeate through the sector.

I took the opportunity to travel across the country, stay over with my family and check in with many of our members and colleagues across Scotland to see what reopening looked and felt like and get a feeling for levels of business confidence and optimism.

The reality is different to what we had all imagined. We knew that the road to recovery would be long, slow and painful but we had not anticipated the length of time we would continue to be merely in the foothills of recovery.

The relaxation of the two-metre rule for our hospitality sector and the updated announcement on air bridges brought some hope but the reality is we need our wider UK domestic market to be holidaying in Scotland and spending money in our local economies.

The level of current and forecast activity is sadly not going to be enough to sustain the majority of tourism businesses and the supply chain will suffer the knock-on impact. Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost this year.

Scotland will effectively go ‘back to school’ in two weeks; the holidays will be over. The virus will still be here, as will the financial worries and challenges we are all experiencing which make us so much more cautious about spending any money, whether it’s a lunch out, an overnight stay or a week away.

So much is still unknown, the feeling of insecurity and worry is starting to overshadow those feelings of optimism as we move towards the end of the summer.

This month, the average occupancy for Glasgow and Edinburgh hotels was between five to seven per cent, August is circa 10% and creeps up to just 15% in September, with the exception of a few who are trading at around 35 – 40%. Typically, they all need at least 60% occupancy to break even.

Through no fault of businesses, many simply cannot afford to retain the majority of their employees if demand is not there and from this point to the end of the year, we anticipate there being upwards of 70,000 tourism jobs lost.

The window for activity this summer is simply too small and I know of an increasing number of enquiries businesses have had, and myself from families south of the border who have either cancelled or intend to cancel holidays in Scotland due to concerns around possible quarantine.

Our message that Scotland’s tourism industry is open for business and the warm welcome for which we are so well known have both fallen short of what would be required to generate the activity we need to sustain our sector, thousands of jobs and what is one of the most important economic drivers for our country beyond this year. I am hopeful that the VisitScotland marketing campaign into England that started last week offers reassurance that all are welcome in Scotland and that bookings start to flow through.

The removal of business rates and any additional levies and costs which continue to burden the sector must now be removed and a long term, blended, specific package of support for tourism offered by the government as a final lifeline for the industry as we move into the second of three winters in 2020.

Marc Crothall is the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance