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Tourist confidence in Inverness 'has not returned'

By Louise Glen

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David Shayer. Picture: Gary Anthony
David Shayer. Picture: Gary Anthony

Bed and breakfast owners in the Highlands claim bookings are still significantly down on previous years.

The Scottish Guest House and Bed and Breakfast Alliance (SGHBBA) claims bookings have fallen by 40 per cent on previous years - with many owners facing a bleak future if help is not given to the sector.

It says bookings are significantly lower than previous years, citing a lack of overseas guests and no significant uptake from the normally large English market.

David Shayer, who owns Aye Stay B&B in Inverness and is a founder member of the association, said: “The market for private owners of guesthouses and B&Bs in Inverness continues to be poor with bookings not materialising.

“In a staycation market, we need English visitors, of which there are 65 million.

“The English market had a date earlier than Scotland (for reopening), and while the demand was there, people booked for England.

“We are seeing hotels slashing their prices to fill rooms. Bigger business can write it off over a 10–year plan, they can ride it out longer.

“We are feeling caught up in a political climate which is affecting business. The sentiment is real that English don’t feel welcome and are staying away and spending their money south of the border.”

He added: “There are popular pockets that are seeing bookings such as the NC500 route, motorhoming, glamping, camping, self catering in remoter areas, caravans – but we are not feeling it.”

Fellow member Peter Ross said: “It is critical that the government understands how our sector is lagging behind other accommodation businesses and the hospitality sector and takes action.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise that even with the reopening of the economy, this is still an extremely difficult time for many businesses across Scotland and that unfortunately business support cannot, and is not intended to, make up for all losses.

“In addition to the regular Strategic Framework Business Fund support we have provided Restart Grants of up to £19,500 for eligible tourism and hospitality businesses. This is in addition to a range of tailored support, including the Small Accommodation Providers who Pay Council Tax Fund (SAP-CT) and the bespoke £3 million B&B Hardship Fund. We worked closely with key stakeholders on these tailored funds and they are in recognition of the importance of B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering premises to the Scottish tourism economy.

“Between non-domestic rates relief and the April restart grants, more funding has been allocated to business support than the consequentials currently available from the UK government for these activities.

“Future targeted grants for businesses may be considered if we receive further consequentials from the UK government.”

READ: Historic Inverness city bridge facing threat of closure as repair bill soars

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