With a UK-wide rail strike scheduled to take place next week, the Scottish licensed trade is warning that the impact on tourism and hospitality businesses working to recover after the pandemic could be “very serious” – with this summer shaping up to be a “perfect storm” for the industry.
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association), cautioned that greatly reduced train services would also potentially impact on staff and public safety.
“To put it bluntly, the hospitality sector just can’t take any more,” said Mr Wilkinson. “Businesses are slowly recovering after the pandemic and just when most are feeling optimistic for the first time and looking forward to a good summer, along comes a national rail strike which will deter people from travelling into our towns and cities.
“If there are no trains or if the last train home is 6.30pm, people won’t bother going out at all and who can blame them – nobody wants to be worrying about how they will get home after meeting friends in the pub, enjoying dinner, attending an event or going to a nightclub.
“There’s also the safety aspect to consider as every business and venue wants to ensure that their staff and customers can get home safely late at night – many rely on trains to get home.”
Planned strike action next week, he said, will affect events such as the Royal Highland Show, and concerts and other events in cities and towns across the country. “We are already aware of hotel and restaurant bookings being cancelled,” Mr Wilkinson added. “Hospitality businesses cannot afford to lose any more trade, particularly as we approach the crucial summer season.
“We urge both the UK and Scottish governments to intervene. After enforced closures and restrictions during the pandemic and the spiralling cost-of-living crisis now having an impact on licensed hospitality and many other sectors, it is crucial that across the UK there are reliable and efficient train services along with late-night public transport provision.”
According to ‘UK Hospitality’s Next Challenge’, a study from Barclays Corporate Banking published today, the hospitality and leisure sector’s post-pandemic recovery could be severely hampered by the cost-of-living crisis and a widespread lack of staff.
It reveals that hospitality and leisure businesses in Scotland report that their utility bills have already spiked by 36% year-on-year on average while over nine in 10 (96%) hospitality and leisure businesses in Scotland are struggling to recruit personnel.
“With soaring utility bills and other cost increases, serious staffing issues and now disruption on the railways, this summer is shaping up to be a ‘perfect storm’ for Scotland’s hospitality businesses,” said Mr Wilkinson.