Easter weekend is traditionally the start of the tourism season and this could be the first full year of trading since the Covid pandemic began, according to VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead.
"We have heard of stronger bookings in the months ahead, and consumer research is showing a rise in interest in holidays and day trips, with a fall in concerns around Covid and travel,” he said.
"While the return of international visitors will be important for the long-term recovery of the industry, people in Scotland still have a key role to play in helping businesses get back on their feet.
"We are urging people across Scotland to support the tourism and events industry in any way they can, be it holidays, day trips, eating out, or visiting an attraction or taking a tour. The impact of tourism spreads far beyond the industry itself."
Providing some cause for optimism is a study suggesting staycations will be big this year. The survey of 2,000 people by hotel chain Travelodge found that almost a fifth of those having an Easter break say it is their first holiday since the pandemic struck, and two thirds were escaping this weekend because they have had a stressful start to 2022.
One in five said they were having an Easter break in case they cannot afford to go away later in the year, and more than two thirds said they still feared travelling abroad because of Covid. Shakila Ahmed of Travelodge said: “Our latest travel index shows the staycation is set to be big again in 2022, which is great news for the UK hospitality sector.”
David Weston, chairman of the Scottish B&B Association, which has about 400 members, said his sector has been hit hard – but the Easter weekend was an opportunity for the beginning of a bounceback. "Broadly, people are optimistic, and anecdotally a lot of members seem to have good bookings, but I wouldn't want to give the impression it's all wonderful,” he stated.
"Obviously, they're in a tough position. After the last two years, Scottish tourism is in a dire situation, financially. We desperately need a strong start to the season and good occupancy.
"We're all keeping our fingers crossed we're going to have a brilliant Easter and it's going to the start of a great season of Scottish tourism."
Also painting a mixed picture was Leon Thompson, executive director of UKHospitality Scotland, which represents bars, cafes and hotels. He said the Easter weekend was looking good for its members, with visitors from north and south of the Border and some international – “but we're still not out of the woods yet”.
He forecast business being “quite flat after this weekend...Some hotels are looking at an occupancy rate of 65 per cent this [month], versus 85 per cent in April 2019”, and he flagged increased costs such as energy bills that have jumped by up to 200 per cent, and pandemic debts. "Businesses are desperate to get back on an even keel – but it's difficult to know when we'll get back to the 2019 position."