The coach industry in Scotland will be eligible for further modest Scottish Government support after it was confirmed as one of six sectors that will benefit from an up to £9m package to mitigate the Omicron variant’s impact on tourism.
Visit Scotland will administer the scheme. It was responsible for the Scotland Coach Operators – COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund, for which second round payments have now been publicly confirmed. The latter tranche has seen 15 coach operators benefit from a total of £1,282,500. When combined with the first round, that takes to £9,679,000 the total paid to 126 operators via the scheme.
Specific details of the new funding stream are expected to be published by Visit Scotland next week, but it has already been welcomed by one member of the coach industry. While the new money will not provide anything like the same level of backing as the Support and Continuity Fund, they point out that “anything is better than nothing.”
Says Visit Scotland: “The money is designed to recognise the economic impact of the steps people have been asked to take from early December 2021 and the restrictions in place affecting some sectors since then. Work is underway to establish how we can ensure that the funding goes to businesses in the quickest way possible.”
The tourism top-up funding has been allocated following discussions with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group. In addition to coach operators, other sectors that will be eligible are day tour operators; hostels; inbound tour operators (outdoor/marine); and visitor attractions.
Tourism Minister Ivan McKee adds that the money is to “ensure that the affected businesses can survive what is clearly an especially tough winter period and be ready to trade fully in the spring and summer months.”
Mr McKee adds that the Scottish Government continues to press Westminster for “more comprehensive support.”
Since the January print issue of routeone went to press, it has emerged that the second strand of the Support and Continuity fund saw per-vehicle payments maintained at the same level as those in the earlier round despite initial expectations that they would be at a lower level. As a result, the average per-operator payment in the second round was £85,500, compared to £75,644 previously.
“As there were enough funds remaining, all successful applicants for strand two were awarded the same amount per qualifying vehicle as awarded in strand one,” a Visit Scotland spokesperson says. Nine applications to the Support and Contingency Fund’s second round were unsuccessful and there was a £317,500 surplus from the £1.6m it was allocated. That money has been returned to the Scottish Government, Visit Scotland has confirmed.
Under the second round of the Fund, Prentice Westwood Coaches has received the most, at £273,000. Festival Travel, JD Peace, Whitestar Coaches and Johnson Transport have also each received six-figure sums. Three other businesses have been awarded over £50,000 and seven further operators have received sums varying between £33,000 and £9,000.
List of all Scotland Coach Operators – COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Fund awards on the Visit Scotland website.