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Hospitality in crisis

Auchrannie shuts as hotels call for more clarity

Auchrannie will close until February

A resort on Arran has become the latest to shut its doors over winter as more than 100 hotels and restaurants call on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to give earlier clarity on lockdown measures.

The announcements came as the Scottish Government announced an easing of travel and meeting over Christmas but offered no prospect of relaxing restrictions beyond the festive period. The new arrangements will apply across the UK from 23 to 27 December.

In Scotland Christmas “bubbles” of three households should contain no more than eight people over the age of 11.

Opposition parties have accused the Scottish government of sending out “mixed messages” by allowing people to meet at Christmas while simultaneously urging them not to do so.

Many health experts have warned that the move is likely to lead to a spike in cases of the virus – and potentially deaths – in January.

In England a three-tier system will come into effect from 2 December with 55 million in the toughest tiers and backbench MPs threatening to rebel.

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Hospitality businesses face the biggest challenges and have issued more warnings of the damage that is being caused by the restrictions despite stringent measures to make customers and staff safe.

Auchrannie co-founder and managing director Linda Johnston said the hotel would lose run up an even bigger loss by staying open.

She said the hotel was shutting until 29 January despite there being few cases of Covid-19 among visitors to the island in the four months since it reopened in July. 

“The travel and other restrictions in place since the introduction of the tier system on 2 November 2020, ever changing guidelines and uncertain times ahead make it impossible for the business to trade viably at this time, ” she said.  

The resort faces six-figure fixed costs each month it is closed “but we would face a much larger loss if we attempt to continue trading in the current situation,” she added.

Auchrannie owner Linda Johnson said it would cost more to stay open

“We understand the effect that this decision will have on guests, team members, the community, the supply chain and other businesses who rely on tourism over the winter. 

“We are also sorry that we are unable to open our leisure facilities to the community and are acutely aware that this leaves the island with no indoor swimming or gym facility. 

“Sadly, we have no choice, as the cost of opening is not sustainable for the business and we must make sure that Auchrannie emerges from the pandemic in good shape to welcome guests back and continue to support the Island and community as we have for the last 32 years.”

During the closure, a small team will be retained to keep the resort safe.

“With a vaccine on the horizon, there is now light at the end of the tunnel and we know that with the right support and the chance to trade viably out of the pandemic, Auchrannie and Arran will emerge from this difficult, worrying and stressful period.”

Hotels and restaurants call for earlier notice of changes

Nearly 100 of Scotland’s leading hoteliers and restaurateurs have called for more clarity and guidance from the Scottish Government regarding hospitality opening arrangements, or risk a deeper, damaging malaise in the sector. 

The campaign, which is being coordinated by Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire, highlights the stresses and strains that businesses within the hospitality sector are facing as they find it difficult to prepare and react to the consequences of each new restriction. 

They say the lack of detailed information is directly impacting bookings, in particular over Christmas and New Year.

The campaign has gained support from many influential names within the hospitality sector, including: Prestonfield House Hotel, Tom Kitchin of The Kitchin and The Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh, Kincraig Castle Hotel in the Highlands, The Airds Hotel & Restaurant, Port Appin, and The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa in Aberdeen.

In a letter to the First Minister, Jill Chalmers, managing director of Glenapp Castle outlined a three-point ‘Reassurance Plan’:

The hospitality sector urgently calls for immediate details in order to prepare for tier changes and more evidence for these changes 

They also want early notice of cross-border and cross regional travel plans, confirmation of the tier system over the next two months and whether alcohol can be sold in public.

Jill Chalmers commented: ‘’It is impossible for hotels in Scotland to operate professionally with such scarce details.

“We acutely understand the wider picture and the health of the public being of the utmost importance, but we have struggled for long enough and sadly seen too many redundancies and closures across the sector.”

EasyJet sees surge of bookings

The prospect of an easing of lockdown over Christmas has helped drive a 200 per cent surge in flight and holiday searches at Easyjet.

The airline said bookings for domestic flights in December had soared. The most popular routes included London-Edinburgh.

The budget carrier added that bookings for next spring and summer were rising after promising news on vaccines.

Easyjet

Bookings up, but fewer flights planned over Winter

Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We also launched our Black Friday sale yesterday and the positive response in terms of bookings seems to show a growing confidence to make travel plans.”

Easyjet will be running just a fifth of its normal flight schedule over this winter. 

Other London-listed airlines, including Ryanair and British Airways-owner IAG, have also trimmed back timetables.

Pub and brewing groups write to Prime Minister and job losses mount



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