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Transport / Hotelier says no group bookings on north boats is another hit on tourist trade

Capacity of both the NorthLink passenger and freight boats have come under scrutiny over recent years. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

NORTHLINK Ferries has been criticised by an owner of three hotels in Lerwick for not taking any group bookings for at least the next six weeks.

Robert Smith, whose company Brudolff owns the Lerwick, Shetland and Kvelsdro hotels, says he has lost potential bookings as a result in what is an already shortened tourist season.

A spokesperson for NorthLink Ferries confirmed that due to the situation with Covid-19 group bookings are off for the time being.

They added that this situation is reviewed on a weekly basis looking to six weeks ahead.

Social distancing is in place on the NorthLink Ferries and as a result the capacity of the Hjaltland and Hrossey is a much-reduced 335.

The boat is a lifeline service for islanders, but Smith said no group bookings is hitting the tourist and hospitality sector.

He said a group which wanted to stay at one of his town hotels in September were called by NorthLink a couple of days ago and were advised that their ferry booking had been cancelled.

“The group didn’t want to be cancelled, but they had no choice,” Smith said.

“By cancelling anything in the next six weeks or so, with such a short season, those few bookings left in the calendar for  group tourism have gone.

“If you want an example of an industry at the mercy of a monopoly on the passenger ferries here you have it.

“What chance does Shetland have with any kind of tourism industry if this is the way NorthLink are allowed to act? The tourism industry in Shetland is on its knees, and this is the best they can do to help.”

Tourism opened up in Scotland earlier this month, with people able to travel freely to Shetland in line with government guidance.

Hotels were able to reopen from 15 July, as were visitor attractions.

Flights connecting Shetland and Inverness, meanwhile, are due to relaunch on 3 August, meaning that now only Bergen remains off of Loganair’s Sumburgh timetable.