Fife golf tour businesses lose two years of income after falling through support scheme gaps
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain has called for more funding for Fife Council to support local businesses, such as JSC Travel and Elite Golf, that have fallen foul of gaps in the various Covid related support schemes.
The two local companies, which provide luxury tour experiences and transport for international golf visitors using converted coaches, approached Ms Chamberlain after failing to meet the narrow criteria set out in four different funds.
These include Coach Grants, Tour Funds and Day Tour Funds, all administered by VisitScotland, while also being ineligible for access premises related support.
Despite making representations to the Scottish Government and VisitScotland, no solutions have been offered and there are no plans to review the strict criteria currently in place.
The Lib Dem MP is now calling for more discretionary funding to be made available to Fife Council, specifically to target small local businesses with bespoke business models which do not fit neatly into the criteria for national support schemes.
Sarah Charles of JSC Travel told Ms Chamberlain: "We are a small family business and rely on international visitors for our income.
"When the support schemes were introduced last year I felt certain we would be able to access some funding support, but we applied for everything and got nowhere.
"Because of the very specific and unique service we provide we are not classified as a coach operator or a tour company, and we don't have a separate businesses premises."
Speaking to Elite Golf operators Dean Barbour and Colin Hunter, Colin added: "Like many local businesses we have be hit hard by Covid and have lost a lot of income, which over two years has added up to a substantial amount.
"The restrictions may be easing but realistically it will be next summer before we can return to the level of business that we need to operate."
Ms Chamberlain said: "The tourist sector is absolute vital for our local economy and there is no doubt that many small businesses that rely entirely on international tourism have been among the worst hit.”
She added: "That is exactly why the support schemes were introduced, but they are less than useless if the funds aren't getting to those that need it.
"The best way forward, and what I am calling for, is for more discretionary funding to be made available to local authorities. So that local decision makers have the flexibility to help those that have missed out or need it the most."
Both JSC Travel & Elite Golf Transport provide transportation/tour experiences to mainly international golfing clients.
Their business focus on providing luxury travel (i.e. not taxi/private hire) and they operate converted buses (e.g. 16-seater converted to eight comfy seats).
They do not need a coach operator’s licence due to number of people transported and do not need private hire licence as they are contracted on an exclusive basis (often by larger incoming tour operators).