All change as resort and hotels reopen for business

A very different welcome awaits at Cruize with hand-sanitiser and perspex screens between tables.

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Arran’s biggest hotel complex, Auchrannie Resort, reopened its two hotels, restaurants and bars on Wednesday as tourism continued to open up on the island.

However, the resort’s biggest priority at this time is to look after the safety of guests and team members, and initial accommodation availability has been constrained to test new Covid-19  safe operating procedures. The resort will look and feel very different but staff at the Auchrannie are confident of giving their guests the usual fantastic service and welcome.

Auchrannie opened with the resort at almost 50 per cent occupancy, however, by next week occupancy will have grown to more than 90 per cent. The resort expects to operate at this level until the end of October and into the winter, subject to sufficient ferry capacity being available.

For guests checking in it will be a very different experience, with a glass fronted reception and keys, and hotel information contained in a sealed plastic bag. In the rooms ornaments and other unnecessary items have been removed, being replaced with hand-sanitister. All the rooms have been deep cleaned and this will be carried out after every guest.

Restaurant capacity will be lower than normal due to physical distancing and Covid-19 regulations. Despite the relaxation to one metre for restaurants, Auchrannie has retained two metre distancing principles and also installed screens throughout the restaurants and other areas of the resort to make sure that guests feel safe and secure when dining.

Auchrannie first welcomed guests and team members back to the resort on July 3 when the self-catering lodges and retreats reopened. Despite some ferry capacity issues and little notice to open, which impacted booking levels, Auchrannie’s occupancy averaged just under 70 per cent for the period from July 3 to 15. Weather was good during most of this period and guests were able to enjoy Brambles beer garden and takeaway service which opened on July 6.

Bike hire, segway and archery reopened on July 11 and all guests are overjoyed to be back at Auchrannie and on the island, even though many of the usual services and businesses were still closed. ASPA will reopen on July 22. As yet, there is no confirmation of a date for reopening of pools, playbarn, gym and games hall.

Co-founder and managing director Linda Johnston told the Banner: ‘Incomes for island businesses will continue to be impacted by the effects of physical distancing and coronavirus regulations both within premises and also due to Arran having lower visitor numbers because of constrained capacity for passengers on the ferry.

‘The hospitality industry on Arran has been particularly badly hit in 2020, having suffered heavy losses through ferry breakdowns and cancellations in January and February 2020 and then missing half of the summer season due to Covid-19. The hospitality industry now faces another hard winter which is loss making even during normal times.

‘The industry is delighted about the reduction in VAT announced by the chancellor last week which has thrown a much needed lifeline to this hard hit sector, giving businesses a better chance of surviving and recovering from the impacts of Covid-19. The temporary reduction on VAT, to 5 per cent until January 2021, will also help to protect jobs and avoid redundancies. It is hoped that visitors and locals will support the hospitality industry by buying local Scottish products, eating out and holidaying at home this year.’

Meanwhile The Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot also opened its doors this week with the owner Robbie Crawford admitting they were ‘all just a wee bit nervous’.

The hotel, which is operating at 60 per cent capacity welcomed its first guests midweek but id full to its reduced capacity all weekend and has healthy advance bookings. The bar has implemented the reduced one metre rule but the dining capacity is reduced in the restaurant as social distancing here remains at two metres, with plastic screens installed between tables. The hotel has returned to 40 full-time staff, down from the usual 70 at this time of year.

‘It is a learning curve for everyone. I just want to keep the guests, the staff and the community as safe as possible,’ Robbie added.

The Ormidale Hotel in Brodick also opened on Wednesday for drinks and bar meals inside, after a successful trial with its popular beer garden. Trevor Helliwell said: ‘We’re all set up, socially distanced and ready to go. We have taken all precautions and are observing government guidelines and delighted to say we can now operate using one metre physical distancing. We have capacity inside for up to 72 but please, please follow signage and instructions from staff. There are no bookings and it is on a first come, first served basis.’