Arran could salvage a third of tourist trade

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Arran could yet salvage a third of its 2020 tourist season trade, according to the Arran Recovery Group.

Tourism contributed £69 million to the Arran economy last year and supported more than 1,500 jobs. Income this year, at the end of July, is estimated at just £7 million, but if the island can maintain the dramatic change in ferry capacity utilisation, that could increase to £23 million and potentially more if Arran can develop further autumn demand.

Early indications are that deferred holidays from the spring are being replanned for
the autumn, with October and November accommodation bookings already running ahead of last year. Forward booking is excellent and there is a very strong demand for self-catering accommodation.

There is no doubt that the island is extremely busy with visitors and hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes all reporting brisk trade. More have also signed up to the government’s Eat Out and Help Out discount dining scheme which started this week.

The figures come as the umbrella recovery group public their latest draft plan to help compile the shape of the recovery of the island’s economy.

Recovery group chairman Tom Tracey said: ‘When we started this process in early May the outlook was very bleak. We are far from out of it but we now have a safe and responsible basis for recovery. That is, assuming we can continue along this path. Recovery will not be a “return to”, but a different place that we cannot quite see yet, but it is taking shape.’

‘Whatever happens, we need government, at all levels, to urgently establish an Island Survival Plan that recognises tourism in general and islands in particular as a special case requiring additional support,’ Mr Tracey added.

With the increased capacity the group says there have been no significant problems with locals or visitors accessing the ferry. At the start of August approximately 50 per cent of the month’s sailings still available with the 80/20 rule still in place to allow for ‘turn up and go’ passengers, but this may be reviewed to 90/10 as has happened on other islands.

However, there are still problems with passengers not understanding the new procedures onboard the ferry. Social distancing, wearing a mask throughout the journey etc. It is felt more publicity and communication are required to reinforce the message and CalMac is considering a voice message on board.

The recovery group also says a second business survey has provided more excellent qualitative and quantitative information. Initial findings show 93 per cent of businesses have experienced a loss of revenue, 48 per cent a loss of customers, and 53 per cent cited their business is or may be at risk.