COST OF LIVING CRISIS: Call for extra help for hospitality sector in Highlands amid warnings some tourism businesses may face being mothballed over winter due to rising energy prices
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Extra help is needed by the hospitality sector in the Highlands to deal with the cost of living crisis.
That is the view of Inverness bed and breakfast owner David Shayer who warned rising energy prices could lead to some tourism businesses being mothballed over the winter.
He made his comments as the new Prime Minister Liz Truss announced a series of measures to limit energy bill rises for all households for two years while businesses will also get help, with prices capped for six months.
While there is some relief among businesses in the region for additional help, they are awaiting further detail from the UK government before making judgement.
Mr Shayer, of Aye Stay in Bishops Road, said utility bills had risen five times and he was sure they would rise further going into winter.
"Anything will help but extra cover will be needed for the Highlands with the weather being more severe and tourism being such a big part of the economy," he said.
Mr Shayer said businesses were having to absorb the rises as it was impossible to pass them all on to guests.
"It is going to make businesses question whether to stay open over the winter or mothball," he said.
"We are trying to develop a winter market for Inverness and the Highlands but the impact of energy prices will make people question whether it is economically viable or not to be open."
Donald Begg, of family-run Begg Shoes, said the Prime Minister’s announcement was a relief for customers and employees who had been negatively impacted and were concerned about energy price hikes.
"The package announced in terms of supporting business is not clear at this stage but help is welcome in any way," he said.
"We understand that everybody sees that the cost of living pressures are not isolated to the cost of heat and light so we have already committed to early adoption of a significantly increased Real Living Wage rate in September, moving to a minimum rate of £11/hour, which we hope will help us maintain happy, healthy and motivated store teams during a really challenging economic period."
David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), called for more detail about the help offered and said: "Clearly, this energy crisis is not going to go away any time soon, and FSB argues that much more needs to be done by the UK government to support smaller businesses, including giving them the same two-year cap received by domestic consumers – businesses need certainty and six months is not enough."