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Business / Local tourism survey paints ‘slightly more optimistic’ picture than expected

AN ONGOING assessment of the local tourism sector is providing slightly more optimistic results than expected.

The project, carried out by tour company Island Vista on behalf of the Shetland Tourism Association to gauge how the industry is doing in the pandemic, has found that the vast majority of businesses feel they can survive if they get the right support.

It comes after Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael this week stressed the need for continuing government help for the sector, which has been heavily impacted from the coronavirus pandemic due to travel being limited.

The data gathered so far suggests that 98 per cent of local businesses have already reopened with around half operating as they had before, while 44 per cent have had to diversify products or services.

The tourism association said measures like continued VAT reduction and non-domestic rates relief would help the sector.

But the the survey said challenges remain in areas like staff shortages, reduced capacity due to restrictions and changes in booking patterns.

Earlier this month both the Busta and St Magnus Bay hotels said they would temporarily stop serving lunches due to a lack of staff.

Shetland Tourism Association chairperson Emma Miller. Photo: Shetland News

Shetland Tourism Association chair Emma Miller said: “Shetland businesses have shown remarkable resilience in the face of this pandemic and we are seeing that in the ongoing research being carried out.

“Earlier in the year there was deep concern about more businesses maybe not being able to survive, but thankfully that has not come to pass at the levels we might have expected.

“There is still a long way to go to recovery though and it’s vital that we get accurate local information to be able to lobby for the right ongoing support regarding VAT, rates, staffing, transport issues and other challenges facing our sector.”

The lockdowns and restrictions of last year hugely impacted the tourism industry, and in 2021 travel around the UK only reopened in late April.

Meanwhile the cruise sector only reopened last week having been off limits since early 2020.

Island Vista’s Jolene Garriock said she was “really heartened” by the responses received so far.

“While it has been very interesting doing the project so far, it has been a bit of a challenge,” she added.

“Many businesses are busy at the moment, so don’t have time to take part in the survey. That speaks for itself really.

“We look forward to hearing from more businesses over the next couple of months, which will provide us with a more accurate picture of how local tourism businesses are progressing since restarting.”

The assessment, which is funded by VisitScotland, involves an initial online survey and a follow-up call. Businesses are encouraged to voice their concerns, while Island Vista is on hand to signpost companies to available support.

It is open to all tourism businesses and information provided is strictly confidential.

If anyone would like to take part whose business has not been contacted yet, get in touch via survey@islandvista.co.uk.