The Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce has published its recommendations for supporting the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Taskforce, which includes in its representatives national tourism organisation VisitScotland, was charged with looking at what priority rescue measures both the Scottish and UK governments can take to bolster recovery.

As a result, the Scottish Government is being urged to extend the business rates holiday for the tourism sector for another year, in a bid to help the key industry cope with the impact of Covid-19.

The Taskforce is also calling on the UK Government to extend the current reduction in VAT for the hospitality sector.

READ MORE: Appeal for Scots to support Scottish tourism during pandemic

Scottish ministers are considering the report, which also calls on them to fund a marketing campaign, aimed at boosting visitor demand and confidence.

The group also wants further “additional targeted grant support” to be made available to help those tourism and hospitality businesses that have not been able to raise enough cash to survive the “coming six-to-nine months of off-season”.

And it says Holyrood ministers should get behind a call for the UK Government to temporarily remove the Air Passenger Duty charge on flights “if this can be aligned with longer-term Scottish Government Climate Change ambitions”.

As the taskforce published its recommendations, Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall said: “The devastating impact of this pandemic will make recovery incredibly challenging, if not questionable, without the assurance of continued targeted support from both the Scottish and UK Governments.”

The Scottish Government is now considering the recommendations, but Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing conceded that the tourism sector had faced “unimaginable challenges this year, with no clear end in sight”.

Mr Ewing said Scottish ministers were working closely with the industry to “listen to exactly what support they need”, adding that the recommendations in the report “take this support to the next level”.

But he insisted the UK Government must step up and provide the “much-needed finance” to get the sector through the winter months.

Mr Ewing said: “There are also specific recommendations for the UK Government. They must step up and provide the much-needed finance the sector requires to get through the coming winter and beyond.

“I urge the UK Government to consider the recommendations in detail and work with us to support recovery.”

And Mr Crothall stressed it was “imperative” the two governments work together with the sector “to take action now in supporting and implementing the recommendations set out in the taskforce report”.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “The recommendations outlined today by the Scottish Tourism Recovery Task Force offer a long and short-term plan to rebuild the sector as it recovers from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

"They provide the building blocks for the recovery of Scottish tourism, but one that needs the collaborative efforts of national and local governments and industry leaders to succeed, through funding and long-term infrastructure and skills programmes.

“As shown throughout this pandemic, there is no lack of interest in the Scottish tourism product in the UK, with the country featuring heavily amongst the top destinations of visitor surveys and travel lists.

"Internationally, whilst restrictions are in place just now, interest in Scotland remains high. Prior to the outbreak of covid-19, international overnight visits accounted for a quarter of all stays in Scotland but almost half of visitor spend.

“VisitScotland will be focusing on regaining the confidence of those key international markets moving forward, for business, events and leisure visitors, and ensure Scotland remains front of mind as we emerge from the pandemic.

“A thriving tourism industry is essential to lead Scotland’s recovery. It is a force for good by not only providing jobs and economic benefits to every corner of the country but also bringing benefits to our wellbeing and society.”