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Isle of Skye facing ‘devastating' losses following coronavirus fallout

26 March 2020 by
Isle of Skye SkyeConnect weekly economic impact report

Tourism hotspot the Isle of Skye is facing devastating losses following the collapse of the 2020 tourist season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A survey of 140 businesses by SkyeConnect, the island's tourism board, surveyed more than 900 businesses for a new weekly economic impact report with the highest number of responses came from self-catering or B&B holiday businesses.

The report found that four in 10 tourism businesses have lost more than 50% of their bookings for the season. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the majority of respondents said bookings for the year were either stable or up by as much as 20%.

Of the businesses to respond 40% said they had let staff go or cancelled planned seasonal employment while 12% of businesses had lost more than five staff as a result of the crisis. Additionally, a third of businesses said they could only survive for another four weeks without direct government support. Another third of respondents said they could only last for two-three months.

SkyeConnect chairman Dave Till said: "We know government is doing everything it can to prop up the economy. But it is only by gathering hard data and speaking to businesses that we will be able to make the case for many different kinds of support to ensure no-one slips through the cracks. We need to keep our businesses afloat so that the island economy can prosper once again when the crisis is over."

Since the government mandated lockdown Café Sia has pivoted it's business to a takeaway delivery-only service. Owner Tom Eveling reports his customer numbers are down 800 compared to the same month last year. He said: "our projections show we stand to lose half a million pounds of revenue in the next three months."

After a record year in 2019 at Dunvegan Castle and Gardens with 170,000 visitors the estate is facing a devastating fall in revenue, according to estate director, Hugh Macleod. He said: "The timing of this shutdown and restriction on movement, travel etc is of course the worst timing possible for everyone on Skye in the tourism sector and all other sectors, frankly. The key point is if this tourist season is a write off the estate's revenues will be 94% down."

Following government advice to stay at home Till is recommending visitors who had booked trips to the island postpone their trips rather than cancel them to support the island's economy. He added: "Many small businesses can't afford to make three, or four months' worth of refunds in one go. By doing this you could save some accommodation providers and tour operators from going out of business."

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