The next Scottish Government and new Scottish Parliament has a lot on its plate over the course of the next five years, with both businesses and the economy reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Scottish businesses want MSPs from across the political spectrum to provide the answers on the great challenges and issues facing us now and those over the course of the next five years of the Parliament and beyond. How will our MSPs work with business to support jobs and economic growth? How will their manifesto promises be funded? How will the next Scottish Government get the economy growing again?

Our MSPs must now collectively come together and tackle the challenges facing our economy and our communities, in partnership with business

One such key issue is supporting an accelerated restart of international travel, which is sorely needed for our struggling aviation, travel and tourism industries which have all been devastated by travel restrictions during the pandemic.

The complete lack of inward bound travel to Scotland has had a seismic impact upon our businesses and economy. Before Covid-19, Scotland had around 3.5 million international overnight visitors in 2019. VisitBritain forecasts suggest international visits to Scotland will have declined by 78 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, with spend having declined by 85% to £388 million.

The recent confirmation that the Scottish Government will adopt a traffic light system, aligned with the UK Government, acted as an important first step to signal that Scotland is open. An aligned four nations approach has been agreed with the same 12 countries on the green list of both Governments. Businesses need to see continued alignment to avoid confusion for operators and customers, and avoid competitive disadvantage between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Whilst we expect a significant increase in domestic tourism, which Scotland welcomes with open arms, it will not replace the business activity generated by international visitors.

The expectation from businesses is also muted. Recent research from the Scottish Tourism Alliance has stated that 54% of rural hotels in Scotland are expecting their businesses to have less than 50% occupancy in June and July. The situation is even worse for hotels in our cities, with 98% of hotels in cities reporting occupancy levels of below 50% for June and 87% of city hotels reporting occupancy levels of below 50% for July.

There continues to be a level of complexity as well as extra cost for customers when thinking about travelling. The industry has invested millions into creating safe, welcoming and enjoyable experiences for all. Governments must re-double their efforts to improve, and over time completely remove, the additional conditions travellers have to abide by, including costly testing options and self-isolating requirements.

The recent easing of restrictions yesterday will provide some optimism for much of Scotland’s retail, leisure and hospitality businesses. It has also finally provided a starting point for our airports and travel industry to begin properly operating again. Sadly, for the time being, Glasgow and Moray have not been able to ease to level two like the rest of Scotland.

It is important that the businesses which are impacted receive quick access to emergency business support grants to get the financial support they will desperately need, and for these areas are able to move quickly to lower levels once data allows.

We know it will take time but with collaboration between Government and industry, we are confident that the travel and tourism sector – Scotland’s jewel in the crown – will shine brightly again.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce