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International golf visitors – What’s the plan?

Monday 17th May has come and gone. The first of two key dates intended to signal the U.K. Government’s grand plan for resuming life as normal as we know it in these islands. Our very own Scottish Government will of course defiantly issue its own carefully stage-managed version of the above with some “get tough” variations.

We can all agree the UK vaccination rollout programme has been a significant success to date. As of last weekend over 3 million ( 55% pop ) persons in Scotland had received a 1st jab and 1.62 million had now received their second.With vaccine targets regularly exceeded and the familiar key indicators on new cases, hospital admissions and related deaths driven down to very manageable levels, pressure has been ramped up on our elected representatives and their scientific / medical advisers to approve ever more rapid unlocking of restrictions.

It all sounds very encouraging but where do we stand in relation to actually welcoming international golf tourists back to Scotland ?
The brutally honest answer is nobody really knows with any degree of certainty what that date is, what lingering guidelines may have to remain and just what state our famed Scottish hospitality industry will be in.

The Government ( U.K.) plan was to introduce a series of significantly reduced restrictions 17th May, followed by a 5 week assessment period and then assuming no major increases in new cases or outbreaks of new strains combined with on-going vaccinations, test, track,trace and isolation , we would move back to “ near normal “ on 21st June.

This was never going to be straightforward and so it has proven. Concern over concentrated levels of new cases in a couple of areas in Scotland has prevented them being moved to the anticipated lower risk status. A major blow to countless businesses fighting for survival and bitterly disappointing for their customers desperate to support their favourite haunts.

Scotland’s media seems obsessed with discussing potential holiday destinations, the exorbitant costs for the obligatory pre-flight tests and of course the endless criticism of the U.K. policy on open & closed borders.

The 21st June definitely looks optimistic right now. The cautious approach adopted by our Scottish Government throughout this pandemic suggests it will demand at least another 4 – 5 weeks after this date to determine any final dates.

What we actually need across the entire Scottish Golf Tourism industry is clarity.

We need to know definitive dates for the full unrestricted opening of our hospitality businesses. We need to know arrival criteria for our clients in terms of vaccinations, negative test and documentation. There cannot be any requirement for any quarantine nor any 3hr queuing at U.K. Border Control.

If forced to advise on “ best guess “ dates for a possible Scottish Golf Tour this year I would be looking at mid August earliest extending through Sept, Oct and into early Nov. With a number of top professional championships scheduled through these months in Scotland, planning your visit to coincide with these appears to be an exciting combination.

We all have responsibility to adopt measures to ensure we stay as safe and healthy as possible but we also have to rebuild our economy, support our tourism and hospitality industries and send the strongest possible message to the golf world that Scotland, The Home of Golf is determined to get back to business.

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