International visits plea to save golfing industry from ‘collapse’

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THERE must be a route to allow international tourism to resume, or Scotland’s golf industry could be ruined, an MP has urged.

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, has urged the UK Government to set out how tourism can continue during a debate in the Commons last night,

She argued that Boris Johnson’s Government should provide support for the sector as so much of its business relies on tourism from overseas, which has now ground to a halt and is not likely to resume any time soon.

It comes after the PM announced yesterday that all visitors to the UK who are permitted entry will now have to self-isolate in hotels for 10 days to ensure they do not spread coronavirus.

Ms Chamberlain, who is the deputy chairwoman of the Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Golf, said her constituency has been particularly affected by the decline along with many parts of Scotland.

She said that between 70 and 100 golf facilities in Scotland attract tourists from abroad, particularly North Americans, who are now unable to enjoy the sport due to the pandemic. Not only are clubs affected, but tour operators, caddies and surrounding hotels have also been hit by the lack of business.

She explained: “Clubs and businesses which rely on international tourism are facing an increasingly bleak picture for summer 2021.

“With the prospect of domestic restrictions being lifted as the population is vaccinated, the Government must commit to supporting the golf industry which relies on inbound international tourism.”

The MP called on the Government to implement a “deposit guarantee scheme” to protect tour operators in the event of continued restrictions on international tourism throughout the summer.

She said: “As the ‘home of golf’, much of the tourism in Fife is from international visitors travelling from across the world to play on our world famous and iconic courses.

“I am acutely aware of the devastating impact that Covid restrictions, both on internal and external tourism, have had to the entire golf ecosystem in Fife – not just the clubs, but the caddies, the tour operators, the drivers, the hoteliers – the list goes on.

“These businesses need certainty about when international travel will re-open. And they need further support – starting with a deposit guarantee scheme for tour operators, which would protect them in the event of continued restrictions throughout this summer.”

She said the Government had to “provide certainty for timescales on reopening international travel” and added: “I hope the Government will provide a positive response, and signal support is coming for Fife and for all parts of the country where golf tourism is significant.”

Chairman of the APPG, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey added: “The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf has been working closely with industry bodies during the pandemic to support challenging the government on its decisions regarding golf in England and providing help to MPs and golf in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“Tourism is a huge part of golf in the UK, Scotland and Fife in particular, and the points Wendy has raised in Parliament are extremely timely, so I urge all home nation governments to look at them very closely to see how they can best support such an important industry to us all.”

Scotland is the only nation of the UK which has allowed golf clubs to remain open throughout the pandemic, with two people allowed to play together at any one time.

Scottish Golf announced that a full season of events would be taking place this year, following cancellations last year, however many clubs are still set to suffer a loss of earnings if they cannot accommodate visitors from abroad on their courses.

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