I was initially astonished to hear that the Lewis & Harris tourism trade is down by about 25% compared to last year, and that this looks like being the trend for the entire year.
It's actually quite obviously - with hindsight - that the success of tourism was grossly oversold last year. The truth is that the demand for beds was wildly distorted by the demands of the contractors who were absorbing so many bed nights.
They were generally occupying the cheaper accommodation and pushing the tourists into higher priced/better accommodation, giving a huge boost to hotels and the higher-end Guest Houses. Suddenly, this year there is a dearth of tourists - or more accurately, the number are back to where they were before the major construction worker inflow took place.
In the meantime, the demand has encouraged more people to make houses available for self-catering, and I understand that there are more than 100 extra properties available this year then 2/3 years ago. This excess supply is pushing down prices, and fewer people are going to have a decent living.
There are a couple of other issues that need to be resolved too.
I am reliably informed that there are more available beds in Harris than the ferry could cope with, if all the guests left on the same day. There will have to be a lot of work by the industry in encouraging different patterns of visiting.
Allied to this, a recurring and long-flagged up issue arises. The ferries are not big enough and potential and actual tourists are being turned away due to a lack of capacity. You reduce fares, passenger numbers increase. It's not rocket science, and we need a practical demonstration that RET is here to stay by the Government committing to new, much larger ferries on all routes: and not another 'consultation' to defer the issue.
It was during the course of these chats that I was told some important and sensitive information about a local business, which I can't even hint at, due to real or perceived client conflicts.
In just the past few weeks, our firm has won some new major local clients which has effectively blocked me from commenting on some major local issues due to the business or location of the clients, and some topics are now completely off limits for me, which is a bit of an explanation to an anon correspondent.
This has been a growing problem, that is going to have to be addressed by me....