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A major split emerged publicly this week in the hospitality and tourism sector as the UKHospitality Scotland organisation gave its positive reaction to a Scottish Parliament  committee’s vote on regulations for short-term lets.

UKHospitality sees itself as the authoritative voice for more than 700 companies, operating around 65,000 venues in a sector that employs 3.2 million people.  The body speaks on behalf of a wide range of leisure and ‘out-of-home’ businesses, from FTSE 100 enterprises to niche groups and independent single-site operators

Commenting on this week’s vote by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee to push ahead with regulation of short-term lets, UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Willie Macleod said: 

“There are further Parliamentary stages to be gone through before the Statutory Instruments can be finalised, but this should result in a more even-handed competitive position with the heavily regulated hotel industry.

“Regulation of short-term lets is long overdue, so it is encouraging to see the Scottish Government pushing ahead with legislation that will benefit consumers and assist with awareness of, and compliance with, relevant regulations

“The past few years has seen a boom in short-term letting, which has brought with it a host of issues for residents and customers and highlighted serious issues around fairness. This is not about stifling innovation. Regulation is necessary in order to ensure that customers are protected and there is a level playing field for businesses.”

Local tourism groups like Destination Management Organisation SkyeConnect have taken the opposite view.  Earlier this week, they stated: “As many of you are aware the Scottish Government seems determined to press ahead and approve legislation that will permit all 32 local authorities in Scotland to introduce a licensing scheme for self-catering and B & B properties within two years from April.

“The legislation includes other types of accommodation such as pods, cabins and yurts and the powers for local authorities to introduce planning control areas as they deem necessary.

“It is believed that in addition to the main consultation held by the Scottish Government in autumn 2020 there have been more that 300 responses to the call for views to the Committee's own consultation. Thank you to all of you who submitted your comments, copying SkyeConnect in and it seems from all angles that there is overwhelming opposition to this legislation at this time, in the middle of the pandemic when the tourism industry is on its knees.”

In a recent snap survey of Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers members, three quarters of respondents said Scottish Government messaging is having a negative impact on bookings.

Three hundred businesses responded in the first hour alone, with a third coming from the Highland region.

  • 75% said Government messaging was having a negative impact on bookings.
  • 96% have doubts about a tourist season at easter,
  • 90% have doubts about a summer season.
  • 75% also reported feeling ‘negative’ or ‘somewhat negative’ about business over the next 12 months.
  • 40% of respondents said they have received no bookings at all
  • another 50% reported bookings being down in comparison to ‘normal’ years.

SkyeConnect’s Project Manager, Alistair Danter, also runs a self-catering business. “Bookings across the sector are extremely low or non-existent. In my own case, I have had a few tentative enquiries, but no bookings. Business confidence in our sector is at an all-time low and we need support from Government to survive. That support is not just financial.

"We would like to hear positive messages that demonstrate there is a clear strategy.

  • For example, has inbound international travel been ruled out for this year?
  • Will people in the UK be able to travel between areas in different levels of lockdown?
  • Will multiple households be able to holiday together?

"We appreciate the timescale is uncertain, but businesses need to be able to prepare and adapt operations for whatever lies ahead.”