First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a package worth £375 million in business support to mitigate the impact of public health measures introduced to limit the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Extra funding has since been announced in the Scottish Budget to help recovery.
VisitScotland have been administering payments worth up to £28.8 million to the tourism and events industry as part of the £375m package.
The funding included up to £9 million for tourism and £19.8 million for events.
The money is designed to recognise the economic impact of the steps people were asked to take from early December and the restrictions in place affecting some sectors since then.
Omicron Business Support Fund
VisitScotland are opening a new fund to support businesses within the six sectors which were most affected by Omicron but were not eligible to receive any previous COVID-19 funding in 2021.
Payments worth more than £5.8 million have already been paid to tourism businesses since the tourism top-up funds opened in January 2022. This funding recognised the economic impact of the public health advice from 8 December 2021 and the restrictions in place for some sectors between then and 21 January 2022.
Our teams have worked to deliver money to those most severely impacted and we have listened to feedback throughout that process. We’ve heard directly from some businesses which were open and incurred a loss during that period but were not able to receive the top-ups because they had not received payments in 2021. For example, businesses which have changed ownership or were unable to provide financial evidence required due to it being new to business in 2021.
This new Omicron Business Support Fund will be open to businesses operating in the following six sectors – coach, day tour operators, hostels, inbound tour operators, marine / outdoor and visitor attraction. These are the sectors which, after discussion with STERG, sector leads and the Scottish Government, were agreed to have been the most severely impacted by Omicron.
The fund will open on 23 March and businesses which meet the eligibility criteria will be able to submit an application form. Applications will close at 5pm on Wednesday 30 March 2022.
Events Industry Support Fund 3
VisitScotland have also opened a new fund for event businesses which have previously not had access to COVID-19 event funding support.
The Events Industry Support Fund 3 is for businesses in the events industry, which have not previously received event-related COVID-19 business support funding, which are still trading and operating, and which have suffered a financial loss due to the cancellation or restriction of events in Scotland between 8 December 2021 and 31 March 2022 due to the Omicron restrictions.
It is open to the self-employed (through limited company or as a sole trader), partnerships and incorporated businesses. Businesses must have a place of business in Scotland or be physically operating in Scotland to deliver or supply to the cancelled or restricted events.
Grants to eligible businesses will be based on annual earnings and when the cancelled or restricted events were due to take place.
The fund will open at 12pm Thursday 24 March and businesses which meet the eligibility criteria will be able to submit an application form. Applications will close at 5pm on Thursday 31 March 2022.
COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity top-up fund
Tourism top-up funding
The £9 million COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity Tourism Fund package included £6 million from the £375 million in business support that was previously announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and £3 million that was repurposed from Phase 1 of the Tourism Recovery Programme.
After discussions with Scottish Government and the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG), it was decided that the following sectors would be eligible for top-up grants:
- coach operators
- day tour operators
- inbound tour operators
- outdoor / marine
- visitor attractions
The sectors covered by the Scottish Government announcement are those which were previously managed by VisitScotland and have been most significantly impacted by Omicron advice and restrictions.
We’ve contacted businesses previously supported under all of the funds to claim the COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity (Tourism) top-up fund. This process is now closed.
To qualify for the top-up grant, a business was required to still be trading and to have been open and incurred a loss specifically between 8 December 2021 and 21 January 2022.
Eligible businesses received a top-up payment of £6,800 under the COVID-19 Business Support and Continuity (Tourism) Fund.
The £9m funding also provided additional grant to previous recipients of our Destination and Sector Marketing Fund. This was focused on the extension of the existing seasonal campaigns already planned and will help drive short-term demand in support of recovery.
A separate fund for tour operators was also opened after the Scottish Government announced a further £7.5 million for the sector in the Scottish Budget.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said that the additional funds are in recognition that supporting this sector will help drive recovery in retail and tourism across Scotland.
There is not an application process but businesses which previously received funding and may still be eligible have been contacted directly by VisitScotland.
Events top-up funding
On 3 January, it was announced that part of the £19.8 million events funding package would go towards events businesses impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions put in place in December last year.
Eligible businesses, which have previously received support through the Event Industry Support Funds or the Pivotal Event Businesses Fund, and who had to cancel or postpone events between 8 December and 31 March, are receiving top-up payments through the Omicron top up funding for events businesses. There will be no application process.