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Coronavirus / Tourism could be decimated by Covid-19

TOURISM based businesses could be forced to cease trading if the coronavirus crisis persists through the summer, according to chairperson of the Shetland Tourism Association Emma Miller.

At a meeting on Monday afternoon accommodation providers said that bookings had been cancelled and concern was growing as to how the tourism season is shaping up in 2020.

Miller said that many of the accommodation providers were small, single-handed operations whose disruption over the summer could cost owners half their annual income.

She added: “If it’s going to continue all summer it is going to put a lot of folk out of business. In a small place like Shetland it will be very difficult for folk to bounce back.”

A meeting with town centre association Living Lerwick was planned for this evening with another to be set with tour guides who would have “different issues to accommodation providers”, according to Miller.

STA chairperson Emma Miller.

She added that it appeared a grant of £3,000 from the Scottish Government for affected businesses looked to be on the cards, but there was no details of how this would be implemented. It was likely to only take effect from the new financial year in April, so some losses already suffered would not be covered.

There is also uncertainty over cruise ship activity with a visit on Saturday by Astoria cancelled and another two under review, according to Miller, with the schedule to be re-assessed at the end of April.

“That’s going to have a significant impact on so many local businesses, retailers and cafes if we do not have cruise ships in this summer,” she added.

While she acknowledged that people were now being asked to avoid unnecessary contact, she urged people to shop and do businesses as locally as possible.

Many businesses were now offering deliveries and non-contact collections.

Miller added that on the face of it Shetland had a high number of cases, but she believed that was more due to the small population and that there were probably many more undiagnosed cases elsewhere.

“The public are at no more risk here than anywhere else. From a visitor point of view we are not saying ‘do not come here’,” she added.

Meanwhile VisitScotland’s Shetland manager Steve Mathieson said that the industry was following government advice regarding travel and visitors with no special plans to curtail tourism.

He said that the organisation’s coronavirus advice page is being updated on a regular basis so that businesses “can support current and future visitors as the situation evolves.”

A helpline providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on Covid-19 has been announced by Scottish Government.

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660 will be open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option one to speak to the Covid-19 team.