By Malcolm Roughead OBE, Chief Executive, VisitScotland

There may be a bright spot on the horizon with the news of a Covid vaccine, but right now tourism businesses across the country are still in survival mode and need all the support our Governments can give.

Large sections of the industry right now remain closed, are unable to operate fully or, like events, were never able to restart in the summer.

Government support is ongoing and VisitScotland has administered and added support packages for businesses in the events industry, self-catering, B&Bs and delivered financial support to destination groups across the country.

The report from The Scottish Tourism Task Force, a short-life working group developing independent recommendations to Scottish Ministers and the UK Government on the necessary actions to support tourism and hospitality recovery in Scotland, was published.

Over a period of three months task force representatives met collectively and in sectoral subgroups to consider the key actions needed to stimulate demand, support business recovery and employee retention and unlock investment.

These recommendations were submitted to Scottish Ministers and UK Government for consideration earlier this month and can be found on the Scottish Tourism Alliance website.

What the recommendations amount to is not only a way to help the industry in the short-term, but a way to get tourism back onto the strong pre-covid footing and help it develop and achieve its full potential.

The industry is waiting to hear how the recommendations will be taken forward, but they amount to a clear opportunity to invest in the future of our industry, which is by any measure a global leader.

Tourism is a vital industry for our country. It puts Scotland on the word stage, it creates jobs – some 217,000 – and delivers £11.5 billion to the economy each year. Scotland cannot do without this important industry, or the business owners, operators and skilled workers who have driven its success in recent years.

We should all be proud of the passion, commitment and innovation delivered by businesses during these hard months.

Just imagine what can be achieved once this crisis passes and this energy is directed to building up tourism once more; sustainably and responsibly.

However, we should be in no doubt of the challenge ahead.

Support from the Scottish and UK Governments has been essential and welcome. By working together and, with a greater understanding of the true value of our sector, I’m certain tourism in Scotland can be taken to new heights, delivering even more for our communities and economy.