Hotels close as holidaymakers cancel mid-term breaks
Some Scottish hotels say they are being forced to close their doors in a bid to stay in the black after new coronavirus restrictions sparked a flurry of cancellations.
Hotels, bed and breakfasts and self catering accommodation are allowed to stay open under the new rules announced yesterday by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to stem the rise in coronavirus cases across Scotland.
However, some said they are unable to do so after a ban on alcohol sales indoors across the country, rules stating that stand-alone restaurants will have to close at 6pm and a travel advisory for people living in the Central Belt, meant many holidaymakers had rushed to cancel planned breaks.
The news comes as top chefs including Tom Kitchin warned that the restaurant industry “would not survive” without further support.
Moor of Rannoch Restaurant and Rooms, in the Highlands, said it had taken the decision to close for the next two weeks in a bid to “break even”.
It said: “A number of guests have already cancelled their bookings over this period, meaning that we are potentially looking at trading at an occupancy level which will not break even. We are in a position where we feel we are not able to offer our guests the experience which they have booked and paid for.”
Gary Curley, owner of the Sligachan Hotel and Seamas’ Bar on Skye and a director of tourism group Skye Connect, said he has seen a flurry of cancellations since yesterday’s announcement.
He said: "The Hotel was fully booked for October. Not anymore. There have been a flurry of cancellations overnight as a result of concern and utter confusion about the rules. We have already closed Seamas’ bar. This is devastating after we worked so hard to create a welcoming, but utterly safe environment. We now face a long winter with no income.
"The Government’s £40million support package for the hospitality sector is a joke. It equates to less than £1000 per week, per business across Scotland. That will not save a single business. The damage has now been done to our sector and we urge the Government to fully compensate all businesses affected by the Government’s measures.”
Crieff Hydro chief executive Stephen Leckie said that many tourists had cancelled their breaks immediately after the First Minister’s announcement yesterday - amid confusion as to whether a pre-booked holiday constitutes “essential travel”.
He said: “What we’re hearing now is many cancellations, people in the Central Belt who feel they are not able to travel.”
Ms Sturgeon yesterday said that people in areas with high levels of coronavirus – namely the Central Belt – should avoid unecessary travel. However, she insisted that there was not a mandatory travel vban in place.
She said: “We are not imposing mandatory travel restrictions at this stage, and specifically, we are not insisting that people cancel any half term breaks they have planned.
“However, in general, we are advising people living in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley not to travel outside the health board area they live in, if you don’t need to - and likewise people in other parts of Scotland should not travel to these areas if they don’t need to.”
Chef Mr Kitchin, who has four restaurants in Edinburgh, including the Michelin-starred The Kitchin, said that more support was needed for the sector. Ms Sturgeon yesterday unveiled a package of £40 million to support the hospitality sector through the coming weeks amid further lockdown measures and as the UK Government’s furlough scheme comes to an end.
He said: “It's not just about the restaurants, it's about our suppliers - the whole chain. Without our industry being opened, our fishmongers and butchers, our growers, our fishermen - everyone that's involved in that - they're not going to survive on doing home deliveries. If the support isn't there after this and if we keep continuing to do this. I just don't see how it will continue really.
"We all know what happens when that furlough gets taken away - it's not rocket science. We need support. We will not survive as an industry."
Kenny Blair, manager of Buzzworks Holdings, has 12 venues across central Scotland and is having to close all but one of them for 16 days from Friday due to the new restrictions. Mr Blair said more than 300,000 people have visited his venues – including Vic's and The Vine, both in Prestwick, South Ayrshire - since they reopened in the summer and only two customers have tested positive for the virus, with no onward transmission or outbreaks within the business.
Pubs and other licensed premises in five health board areas across the central belt have to shut to all but takeaway customers over that period, however Mr Blair said only one of his venues, Lido in Troon, will be financially viable if operating on that basis.
Mr Blair, who employs around 500 people, estimates he will lose £1 million in revenue over the 16 days and he has concerns for the future if the restrictions are extended.He said: "We have the impact on staff who are fearful about what the future is for them, and it substantially weakens businesses like ours from a financial point of view.
"Many businesses in hospitality across Scotland are already substantially weakened and this may be the final straw for them. We are hoping that we get to reopen 16 days after we close, but if that's not the case we will have to make some serious decisions about our workforce."