We cannot simply forget that a number of “ Red Flags “ were already flying over the Scottish economic landscape heading towards the end of 2019. Our much vaunted North Sea oil industry was feeling the the negative impact of both rapidly declining oil prices and the increasingly influential and vociferous renewable energy crusaders plus the Brexit clouds weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. All this had resulted in nervous markets, investors, business leaders ,employees and consumers.
Of course we still had our whisky and we still had our tourism industry.
Or at least we did have until someone decided to eat an undercooked bat in their local Wuhan deli ( subject to an urgent WHO enquiry, which hopes to report back in approx 10 years time ??? ); resulting in a nationwide lockdown, social distancing, track, trace and isolate new reality.
The traditional start of the Scottish golf season has evaporated with closed courses, clubhouses and pro shops. Visitor bookings for this season have been decimated; fallen victim to a global restriction on travel, closed hotels, restaurants and pubs with vast numbers of hospitality and leisure staff furloughed for the short term but with time running out rapidly for many good healthy businesses suddenly faced with zero turnover and no real confidence on a date for the resumption of trading.
Scottish courses are now looking at a phased opening commencing end of May but this process will only continue if we demonstrate acceptance of social distancing measures and there is no reversal of figures in relation to new covid 19 cases . Currently there are no plans for the opening of clubhouses.
It is deeply concerning to see the number of clubs expressing genuine concern about their future existence. A number of well known courses have become highly dependent on the international visitor market; as have many of the local hotels, bars and restaurants.
Whilst every sector will push their entitlement for special treatment, for Scotland to secure not only a strong recovery out of Corona lockdown but establish the vital financial base to see us successfully deal with a Brexit future we need to very quickly re-establish our tourism market and our incoming golf tour industry will be a key element of that strategy.
Allowing air travel, opening up hotels and all the usual attractions needs to happen ( in a safe and healthy manner ) to build the necessary confidence within the travel industry and convince any potential visitor that Scotland is very much back in business and able to provide the great experience we have become renowned for.Many have talked about getting back to normal but we need to be aiming way higher and better than this.
The Scottish golf industry and the Scottish tourism industry in general needs to be focussed on delivering the very best product possible and make it available to as wide a range of customers as possible. As a result of our Scottish Government’s no doubt well justified delay in relaxing some elements of the lockdown we have seen reports already of bookings from England being cancelled for this year and those crucial bookings instead going to English venues. This damaging situation needs to be resolved as a matter of genuine urgency. With the prospect of many UK families electing for a staycation this summer Scotland has to maximise every asset at the country’s disposal and produce ( under challenging restrictions ) such a fantastic experience that will inspire a whole new generation of visitors to return on a regular basis.
Golfers considering travelling here to Scotland are well aware of the quality of our courses and the great traditions of the game. What they require at this time is clarity on when Scotland will be fully open and able to deliver the ultimate Scottish golf experience in a safe and relaxing environment.
We have much work to do.