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Inverness ranked number one in Scotland for safe and legal escape from Covid-19 constraints

By Tom Ramage

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Inverness Castle.
Inverness Castle.

Inverness has emerged as Scotland's top destination for people looking to get away safely- and legally - from Coronavirus constraints.

Amidst gloom and many high profile hospitality closures, the pull of the Highlands has remained steadfast, with Inverness bucking nationwide hotel occupancy trends last month.

The latest STR hotel trends insights showed Inverness enjoying room occupancy levels of 70.7%, while Glasgow plummeted to 26.9% and Edinburgh’s 3 Star market dropped to only 30%.

The impact of moving to tiered restrictions has been a hammer blow to urban hotels in the Central Belt but Inverness has been one of the areas least affected by the virus.

Highland remains in Tier 1 and, despite many hotels in the Inverness having to trim and furlough staff in response to the earlier national lockdown, booking levels are creating optimism for Winter and Spring 2021.

The October STR figures build on VisitScotland’s own consumer research and marketing data from summer and Autumn.

Of those planning a winter trip between November and March 2021, the Highlands remains the number one choice of those living within Scotland and the wider UK, with Edinburgh in second place.

Inverness’ popularity and the relatively low prevalence of Covid-19 has been good for visitors, too, with August average room prices (£77) almost half of what they were in August 2019 (£142).

Emmanuel Moine, chairman ofInverness Hotels Association, believes that - where travel guidance allows - the city will be a safe and attractive option for visitors this Winter and into the first quarter of 2021.

“The hotels in Inverness did a great deal, very early, to make sure visitors felt safe and able to enjoy everything the city and the highlands has to offer," he said.

“Obviously, although the Highlands is a very big area, geographically, the population is relatively small and this has given people confidence to come here. The visitor trends show that Covid 19, and restrictions, have clearly impacted consumer confidence Scotland-wide but we have been very fortunate to be able to still welcome people to the city.

“Inverness remains a very good choice for short breaks and trips and we look forward to seeing people safely over the coming weeks.”

While the travel sector in general has struggled with restrictions, Inverness has demonstrated strong market resilience.

In August, room occupancy rates were 85% while September’s figures stood at 86%.

The 70.7% occupancy rate for October is down 23.6% from the highs of October 2019 but, given the many trials of 2020, demand remains strong for a Highland getaway.

In comparison, Glasgow’s October occupancy rate was 67.6% lower than the same month in 2019 while Edinburgh’s 4 Star hotels were down 77.2% on October 2019.

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “I am delighted Inverness remains such a popular destination, despite restrictions and the challenging year which the tourism, events and hospitality sectors have faced. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the industry and it will need our support for some time.

“Many hotels in the Highland capital joined the Good to Go scheme as soon as it launched and have been working hard to adhere to government and public health guidance, as well as carrying out the Covid-19 risk assessment to reopen safely.

“Inverness and the Highlands are great places to live and visit and staycations have proved extremely popular since restrictions were eased in July. It has been encouraging to see so many domestic visitors and there is evidence to suggest a new homegrown audience is discovering and enjoying what the Highlands has to offer.

“Right now, we are encouraging local people in the Highlands to discover what’s on their doorstep, in line with current government guidance. This is the perfect time for them to treat themselves to some amazing food or an overnight stay, whilst helping to support tourism in its time of need.”

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