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Capacity restrictions on the Arran ferries will lead to a £55 million loss in Arran tourist revenue since the pandemic began in April last year, new figures show.
And the loss of the second ferry for the first two months of the summer sailings will add another £3 million to the loss.
The findings have been made by the Arran Recovery Group (ARG) and come just two days after the MV Isle of Arran finally returned to the Brodick to Ardrossan route to give much needed back-up to the MV Caledonian Isles, as both vessels are still operating under capacity restrictions.
The May bank holiday and warm sunshine saw Arran have its busiest weekend of the year last weekend, but the tourist trade will need all the business they can get in the coming months if they are to survive.
Arran remains, with the rest of North Ayrshire, in level 2 restrictions, which has at least allowed the vital summer season to get under way, but the losses will take a long time to recover from.
Commenting on the current situation an ARG spokesman said: ‘The pandemic capacity restrictions will cause a £55m loss in Arran tourist revenue between April 2020 and July 2021. There will be a further £3m loss, caused by the MV Isle of Arran diversion to the Outer Hebrides and the Campbelltown sailings. In addition to the financial impact, last year’s ARG survey identified significant negative impacts on the community. Since then, the situation has deteriorated. Work is ongoing to capture and project real lived experiences of islanders.
‘We continue to work with all agencies, local and national, to secure an island recovery. However, all of the above suggests recovery will be significantly longer than first anticipated.’
And while there was relief that the MV Isle of Arran was back on the Arran route this week, it was also, from yesterday (Thursday), drafted into the Campbeltown service. However, in a timetable change, these services will now be via Brodick on a Thursday and Friday, while the Saturday timetable remains the same.
The ferry had away to help on the Stornoway and Islay routes due to major repairs needed to the MV Loch Seaforth which is now back in service on the Ullapool-to-Stornoway route.
Robert Morrison, operations director of CalMac, said: ‘We recognise that this has been an extremely challenging time for customers and staff, and again apologise for the disruptions over the past few weeks.
‘We are looking forward to getting back to operating the normal summer timetable service and to welcoming passengers onto our ferries.’
Following the Scottish parliamentary elections in was announced last week that the Scottish Government will spend at least £580 million on ferries over the next five years, as reported in the Banner last week.
The ARG spokesman added: ‘We welcome the new government endorsement of the last government plan to spend £580m on ferry and infrastructure.
‘However, past experience and current performance suggests we require a fundamental change within the transport service for the islands: Transport Scotland/CMal/CalMac. Only a detailed credible plan, with strong leadership and the involvement of island communities will restore confidence in the transport service. Low confidence means slow recovery.’
The Brodick mini golf and Little Rock cafe has been packed with visitors all week. 01_B23tourist01