BUSINESSES involved in tourism have been “outstanding in ensuring the safety of their customers over the last couple of months”, according to the chairperson of the Shetland Tourism Association.
Emma Miller said members of the association have “done this while bearing extra costs, having a reduced income and continuing to support their staff to ensure they can pay bills and feed their families”.
Her comments came after new restrictions were imposed by first minister Nicola Sturgeon in the last couple of weeks, including a reduction in the size of gatherings and earlier closing times for pubs and restaurants.
Miller said the tourism sector “generally continues to be badly affected by this pandemic”.
Some of the smaller tour guides were tentatively offering tours with less numbers for a short time, but this was “immediately stopped when the limit of six people came in”, she said.
“Quite a few of the STA members have been unable to claim meaningful, or in some cases any, financial support due to funding stream restrictions and whatever season they may have managed to salvage is now at an end.”
She said the restrictions in Scotland introduced earlier this week will not have a major impact on the tourism sector.
“Accommodation providers can continue to provide their service and tours had already been stopped by the previous limitations,” Miller said.
“Those members who are offering meals or bar services will see an impact, and I’m genuinely disappointed for them when I know how much work has gone in to ensuring they are providing the safest possible service in line with every rule that has been asked of them.”
Members of the tourism association span a wide range of sectors, from accommodation, retail, crafts and food and drink to transport, sport and leisure.
The airline connecting Shetland to the Scottish mainland, meanwhile, says it will “defer the further gear-ups in services” that it had planned as a result of the new restrictions.
Sturgeon had also advised people against travelling abroad during the October holidays, bringing a further hit to the travel sector.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles confirmed the airline’s third daily flight between Aberdeen and Sumburgh will now not resume at the end of October as planned.
It had also previously been announced that Edinburgh flights will be shared between Orkney and Shetland for the coming winter season.
Hinkles said to maintain two flights each weekday between Edinburgh and each of Orkney and Shetland, the flights will be combined.
One will travel the route Edinburgh-Kirkwall-Sumburgh-Edinburgh and the other will be Edinburgh-Sumburgh-Kirkwall-Edinburgh.
Hinkles told a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum recently that bookings were around 60 per cent down compared to last year.
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