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The tourist trade on Arran is going through a tough time with many businesses ready to write off the entire 2020 season.
With no significant changes expected to lockdown soon and months of restrictions ahead, the summer forecast looks bleak.
At the moment the restriction on CalMac to bring visitors to Arran ends on July 15, but this could be extended, with many believing it could be September, at the earliest, before any visitors will be allowed.
A recent survey conducted by VisitArran involving 68 participants from across the leisure sector found that while 56 per cent of businesses were able to apply for COVID-19 grant support, 44 per cent were not.
Businesses were asked if a potential continued COVID-19 lockdown would totally jeopardise their business. More than 10 per cent warned it could happen by the end of May, with a further third warning they could go out of business by the end of September without any trade and more than half – 53 per cent – in serious jeopardy by the end of the year. Only 16.67 per cent said their business wouldn’t be jeopardised.
Asked what support would help their business, most responses came from self catering providers who said a lack of parity with England saw many ineligible for grants as a result of the criteria. They also called for a rebate in agency fees, support for loss of lets, a rates reduction and easier access to the Job Retention Scheme. They also said there would have to be a new model for changeovers, given COVID-19 spread.
Bed and breakfast owners said they needed business support grants, recognition B&Bs pay council tax and not business rates and said insurance is unclear.
An Arran webinar, hosted by Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, looked at challenges for the island and planning for recovery after COVID-19. John McGuire from NAC Business Development was on the panel along with VisitArran director Alastair Dobson from Taste of Arran.
The informal meeting was well supported and proved a great opportunity to share ideas and gain an insight into how other businesses are faring. Another meeting is planned.
Meanwhile, Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson has urged islanders to have their say as the Scottish Government publishes an update on what life might look like when coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted.
COVID-19: A Framework for Decision Making says the current lockdown is pushing the number of infectious cases down but concludes the virus continues to pose a serious threat to public health in Scotland.
Mr Gibson is also encouraging islanders to read the Scottish government’s ‘Test, Trace, Isolate, Support’ paper, which will be a ‘key aspect’ in the next phase of the battle against coronavirus.