May has been a “stop/start” of a month in terms of forward movement, with so much being thrown up in the air and a great deal hanging in the balance.

The Scottish Parliamentary Elections, Glasgow and Moray being held back in Level Three while on the cusp of reopening, the brief appearance of sunshine followed by an almost biblical deluge of rain (every day…) and, more recently, the anxious conversations across Scotland’s tourism industry around the Cabinet reshuffle as we waited to hear news of where tourism would sit, and with whom.

For many years, the STA team and me, our board and sectoral member council, have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of tourism and ensure that all political parties have the best possible understanding of its importance as one of Scotland’s main economic drivers; not only what tourism does, but what it can do.

The STA is the largest member organisation for tourism businesses in Scotland and the leading representative body for our industry – we comprise over 250 trade associations, businesses, destination groups and other organisations with an interest in tourism – our reach is far and wide. We offer the best possible representation of the issues and challenges we face as an industry through continuous engagement with more than 70 per cent of tourism businesses in Scotland; our mission is to shape a vibrant tourism industry for Scotland’s visitors and people.

The STA works hard to influence the creation of industry-friendly policy through evidence and insights to enable Scotland’s tourism industry to reach its growth potential; over the years, this has been no easy task.

We compete with every other sector for time in ministerial diaries, opportunities to present evidence and to get air-time to talk about the challenges faced by the sector.

Not so very long ago, before our overarching message focused around recovery and restart, our dialogue was built around one consistent theme – the fragile state of the sector.

We spent years campaigning to remove barriers to sustainable growth; the amount of regulation the industry has had to contend with, the rising costs of doing business over many years, Brexit and migration proposals which subsequently cut off a vital part of our workforce and of course the additional levies that had started to creep into our landscape. This was before anyone had heard of the word Covid.

Tourism requires a detailed solution in the short to medium term, for long-term recovery and sustainable growth. Our industry has benefited hugely from Fergus Ewing’s support as Tourism Minister; his enthusiasm, understanding and keenness to uncover the detail that makes a difference to policy, particularly throughout the pandemic.

We welcomed the news that tourism will sit within Kate Forbes’ economy portfolio, supported by Ivan McKee in his new ministerial role. Tourism ‘doesn’t just happen’ and our industry won’t get through the pandemic and move to a place where we can realise our growth ambition without supportive policy and indeed robust promotion.

We must harness a collective energy, with government and public sector continuing to work closely with the sector; I am heartened by the fact that within the past 10 days, the STA has had meetings with both the First Minister and Mr McKee.

As we move towards what we hope will be the final stages of the pandemic and a further loosening of restrictions, it would be easy to think ‘job done’. In fact, the opposite is true, we are only now embarking upon a new chapter for the tourism sector, with what we very much hope is a seat at the table and a breadth of understanding of our industry from all within the political spectrum.

Marc Crothall is the chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.