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Iconic restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh close amid fears for inbound tourism

16 July 2020 by

Three long-standing restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh have closed their doors for good as the projected value of inbound tourism to Scotland falls from £2.54b to £939m.

Glasgow restaurant Esca announced on Wednesday it will not reopen, having served over 740,000 customers in the city centre over the past 22 years. The restaurant, which said it was proud to have been "among the first to present genuine, rustic, Italian cuisine within Glasgow", shared the news of its closure on Facebook in a "final farewell" message thanking its customers for their "unwavering support".

The message read: "It has been a painful decision, however due to increasing costs, the economic climate and the long-term effect the Coronovirus pandemic has had on us all, sadly, our small business is no longer a viable one.

"Esca has been a monumental achievement for us that we will always look back on with great pride. It has been a labour of love, and although we are closing…..the memories will always remain."

In Edinburgh, the Apartment Bistro, popular with Bruntsfield locals for its set menus and simple bistro fare, announced it had closed after over two decades' of trading. A simple statement on its website announced it would not reopen due to the government's guidelines.

Also closing permanently is the UK's longest-running vegetarian restaurant Henderson's in Edinburgh, which announced it would not be reopen its three outlets after the pandemic forced it into liquidation.

Henderson's of Hanover Street, the "Edinburgh institution with an international reputation", opened in 1962 as Scotland's first vegetarian cafe. Its founder, Janet Henderson, together with her husband Mac, a farmer, created a restaurant that was celebrated by diners for its passion for healthy dishes made with organic ingredients. The restaurant had longstanding relationships with artists, musicians and actors visiting the city and went on win multiple awards, culminating in Best Vegetarian Establishment at 2019 Food Awards Scotland.

In a statement, a member of the family spoke of "challenging times" and said that coronavirus had been "the final straw".

At the end of June, chefs Dominic Jack and Tom Kitchin confirmed the permanent closure of fine-dining restaurant Castle Terrace in Edinburgh., saying it was "no longer financially viable", due to the pandemic, along with the current guidelines and no upcoming tourist trade in Edinburgh.

The closures follow a projection by UKinbound that the value of inbound tourism to Scotland was set to fall from £2.54b in 2019 to £939m in 2020.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, acknowledged that while the government's latest economic recovery plans recognised "the value of hospitality and tourism to the UK economy" the measures would "unfortunately not help the many businesses that are involved in inbound tourism.

"Our survey results unsurprisingly reinforce that those tourism businesses that rely wholly on international visitors for their livelihoods are on their knees and that the risk of widespread redundancies and the collapse of previously successful businesses is a very real threat without further government support."

According to UKinbound, before the pandemic the UK was the seventh most visited country in the world but said that generally there was a "low awareness" in the UK of how much international visitors contributed to the country's national and regional economies.

Croft added: "Our inbound tourism industry is a vital part of the UK economy and we simply cannot recover or level up our economy without the value that international tourism brings to all regions of the UK."

Earlier this week it was reported that a lack of momentum across the hospitality and tourism sectors in Scotland, particularly in city centres, could see restaurants and bars choosing to stay closed, despite lockdown restrictions having lifted on Wednesday.

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