My Column

Staycations can give us all a break.

  • Date: Thursday 6th August 2020
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If you had asked any of us at the start of the year whether a fortnight’s holiday staying in sunny Scotland was on the cards, I am sure many of us would have laughed and dismissed the notion immediately in favour of much warmer, drier climes.

However, much has changed in recent months and so many of us are now delighted to join the staycation bandwagon and embrace all that Scottish hospitality has to offer, in an effort to make the most of the summer. It couldn’t happen quickly enough for many hotels and restaurants across the country, who heavily depend on peak season trade to see them through the rest of the year.

The impact this trend is having on our domestic economy is certainly a positive step forward, and as you drive through tourist spots, many hotels, restaurants and B&Bs are at capacity – a positive sign that our nation is coming out to support local businesses and help with the recovery.

On my travels, its been hugely encouraging to see people venture out to eateries again and to witness confidence building amongst these businesses, as their hopes for a modest rebound in trade turns into a reality.

As lockdown eased in the middle of July, Scotland’s £723million self-catering industry was well placed to provide us with a place to relax and unwind in some of the most beautiful settings around the country and the sector has enjoyed a significant increase in bookings for those looking to escape it all.

This is, however, of course, not the full picture – whilst many are able to take advantage of customers ‘getting away’ and spending time in Scotland, many businesses have had to take the difficult decision not to open at all this year. For some, the numbers simply don’t add up, especially when there is only a matter of weeks of peak season remaining.

The upfront investment in both stock and staff, not to mention the added elements of social distancing considerations and enhanced cleaning to keep themselves and customers safe, set against a reduced operating capacity, have left operators with little option but to remain closed, in some cases.

Whilst Scotland is slowly getting back on its feet, the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) chief executive, Mark Croathall, spoke last week about how the optimism around the industry being able to reopen was not yet matched by the reality on the ground.

With public confidence still extremely fragile were we hoping for too much in thinking the recovery would be quicker?

The Scottish Government has responded to these concerns, with the announcement of two further grants for tourism businesses in the last week.

The new funding packages, worth £15 million, will support the tourism sector. A £14 million Hotel Recovery Programme has been created in an effort to secure up to 3,000 jobs at Scotland’s larger hotels until the start of the summer 2021 season.

VisitScotland will also deliver £1 million in grants to self-catering businesses that have not received any other Scottish Government COVID-19 support, offering a one-off £10,000 grant to eligible businesses to see them through the winter season.

It will take time for everyone to get used to operating in a COVID world and this will be especially apparent in hospitality, where entire new ways of working, operating and even engaging with customers, have had to be considered.

It is great however to see some businesses use the online technology at our fingertips to help achieve this. I have now been in numerous venues where the use of QR codes to register track and trace information or showcase menus and complete ordering have made the experience easy, clean and user-friendly.

Overall, whilst many of us have enjoyed a little more freedom of late, the opportunity to get out and meet friends and perhaps indulge in a change of scenery, the economy depends on us spending at home and our businesses are hoping people continue to visit and spend, but with caution and respect.

This tricky balance shines a light on the difficulty these businesses face – but with many using this situation as an opportunity to explore their home country, perhaps even for the first time, could this staycation trend stick around in the long term? I certainly hope so.

SIDE (302 words)

Racism has been top of the headlines recently across the world and unfortunately it still exists within Scotland – especially in football.

However, the Black Lives Matter campaign has not only allowed businesses and brands across the globe to take a stance, it has provided Scottish football supporters with a new platform to make their voices heard locally to show their support, and rightly so.

This should be a discussion happening within the football community, especially if we want to eradicate both racism and sectarianism completely from the game.

Players are unfortunately still racially abused at games, which in the 21st century should be a thing of the past. Frankly this behaviour has no place in our stadiums.

Thankfully charities like Show Racism the Red Card have worked tirelessly for years to reduce racism within Scottish football, working alongside the Scottish Premier Football League (SPFL).

The Scottish anti-racism charity is now calling on the SPFL to take a stance and it make its opinion clear about players taking the knee.

Players such as Scott Brown, captain of the SPFL Champions, Celtic, and Livingston captain Marvin Bartley have already shown their support.

Previously the league had said it was up to individual players whether they would like to make the gesture, however Show Racism the Red Card called on the SPFL to promote a stronger, unified message.

At the weekend’s opening round of fixtures, players wore specially commissioned t-shirts supporting the charity and players from all 12 top-flight teams featured in video messages.

It is promising to see the SPFL now working alongside the charity and PFA Scotland to support the cause and show their opposition to racism.

The kick-off of Scottish football was a success, and although the SPFL remained clear that it was the players’ decision, this is still progress we need.


LAUGH (136 words)

The cost of living is continuously on the rise. We are used to seeing the price of essentials such as bread and milk go up, however the news regarding the cost of printer ink certainly caught my attention.

Many of us don’t have to worry about the mundane topic of printer ink, and why should we? But with so many of us working from home this has changed.

I found it incredibly amusing to hear that printer ink is actually much more costly than certain luxury items.

Instead of buying printer ink, you could buy a bottle of vintage scotch, Chanel perfume or a premium champagne - and you would still be better off!

Which? found that consumers buying branded ink could spend nearly £100. With that in mind, I know what I will be buying.


WEEP (143 words)

It’s a sign of the times, but the famous Argos catalogue will soon be no more.

The news that the retailer will no longer print the directory has shocked shoppers across the country, but should we be surprised?

In a world where some say the internet provides everything that the high street can offer and more, it’s no shock that Argos is choosing to focus online.

In its hey-day, the catalogue was the most widely-printed publication. In fact it’s estimated that over a billion copies have been printed over the years. However, with its rapid decline, there seems to be no more need for it.

With the evolution of retail, Argos has acknowledged that its online presence is much more important for shoppers.

It may be the right thing to do, but the Argos catalogue was iconic and will no doubt be missed.



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