A business body has called for tiered restrictions on communities to be continually reviewed to help town and city centres to survive.
Aberdeen Inspired has welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for Scotland to move to a new five-tier system to help tackle coronavirus.
Although business leaders have stressed there needs to be clear evidence for imposing restrictions and that they should be regularly reviewed.
However, the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association (ACSHA) issued an open letter outlining their concerns over the new system and how it will impact the industry.
Hoteliers fear the move will have a “severe” impact on the number of people travelling to other regions and booking rooms.
And retailers are also concerned about their livelihoods.
The Scottish Retail Consortium said closing non-essential shops in Level Four – the highest tier – will do little to reduce coronavirus rates.
Under the new restrictions, level four would also see all hospitality businesses closed, while level three would see them allowed to open only for food, with the sale of alcohol both indoors and outdoors not permitted.
Level two would allow alcohol to be purchased outdoors or indoors with a main meal, however restrictions may apply.
Under levels zero and one, purchase of alcohol and food would be permitted across all sites, however again time restrictions may apply.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Aberdeen Inspired welcomes the introduction of a localised tiered approach, which we have advocated for some time, while cautioning against a blanket approach.
“However, we understand concerns highlighted by the retail sector on, for instance, the proposed closure of non-essential shops under Tier 4. Respecting the need to protect public health, there needs to be a clear evidence base to legitimise imposing such a restriction.
“While the tiered system brings further clarity the fact remains that city centres continue to struggle more than most, particularly with the default working from home position having a devastating effect on so many of our businesses.
“We all understand that public health remains the priority, but Aberdeen Inspired is urging the rapid continuation of dialogue around not only further direct support for our city centre businesses, but a constant review of the evidence, including all mitigating measures that have or could be put in place, that will give the confidence to safely bring more of the office sector back into our city centres, at a time when it is needed most for the survival of many local businesses reliant on this passing trade.”
Meanwhile, hoteliers in the north-east have claimed the Scottish Government’s five-tier system will act as a deterrent in attracting visitors – and that it has failed to ignite an economic recovery.
Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association (ACSHA) has issued an open letter outlining their concerns over the new system and how it will impact the industry.
Chairman Frank Whitaker has claimed the new system has failed to “restore some degree of confidence to hotels”.
He said the action will continue to place “restrictions on hospitality businesses and continues to encourage working from home.”
The letter comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined the new five-tier approach, spanning from levels zero to four, and explained how it will be used in certain areas where the prevalence of the virus is high.
She said she anticipates the general population living under the effects of Covid-19 for some time, but the ACSHA questioned the framework and said it “does not balance the introduction of a five-tier alert system with a route towards starting an economic recovery.”
The letter states: “This should be feasible with regulation on how all types of businesses can effectively implement key preventative measures to enable them to operate safely.
“Hotels, pubs, restaurants, shops, public transport – we already do so.
“Why can’t offices also apply the same ‘risk assessment and risk management techniques’ to manage the virus?
“Instead, the five-tier alert system continues to place restrictions on hospitality businesses and continues to encourage working from home.
“If bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and offices remain closed or restricted, where is the incentive for both the transient leisure and corporate customers to travel to a destination and buy hotel rooms?
“If advice is that you should not travel out of an area in a higher tier, does government not understand how that affects hotel room sales in a different destination?
“The answer is severely.”
Mr Whitaker continues: “The country will clearly be moving in and out of tiers of restrictions for some time to come. There are clearly many more months of a start-stop approach to the economy to come. And it is clear that severe impact on our ability to generate revenue will continue for months to come – at best.
“ACSHA member hotels are good businesses that under any other circumstances are viable but many risk becoming unviable because of restrictions on our ability to generate revenue.”
Members have argued there will be “long-term, potentially irreparable, damage to city centres and destinations” risking jobs and the livelihood of workers.
The letter continues: “It is clear we’re in this for some time to come, so let’s focus on moving towards how we can safely work under conditions designed to mitigate the virus, not just react to the virus.
“There has to be a much better balance between mitigating health risks and encouraging economic recovery, and yesterday’s announcement is an opportunity missed to restore some degree of confidence to hotels.”