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The truths they don't want you to read....

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ups and downs

It was a series of conversations with people in the tourism industry that identified two interlined issues.

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....


Anonymous said...

There is one very valid point there; the changeover day for self-catering places.

Too many still do the "Saturday change-over" and "Lets of week long blocks" thing. They will have to be more flexible. Three night minimum stays (reduce rate per day for seven nights or more) starting on the day that is convenient for them

Those that get flexible in this way will, simply, get more customers.

Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the point, Angus. There is a genuine decrease in tourism trade. I have seen a noticeable reduction in numbers of bookings in one island B&B for the summer of 2012 - excluding workmen. Not only British holidaymakers are staying away, so do European and American vacationers. It's called the economic downturn. Nothing to do with the schools project, as far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

Being open for business on a Sunday would certainly help the tourist trade.

Flirty Gerty said...


Your points are valid and well-made - and this isn't just a crisis for those of us in tourism, it has downstream consequences for local shops, suppliers and staff.

Lots of us now need to consider doing other jobs as well as running our small B&Bs - and that puts pressure on other local jobseekers.

Anon 6.39 pm - you are right about being flexible, but once you've sold a three-day break, you're unlikely to sell the other four days that week, but you still have to pay someone to clean and change the place, or do it yourself. And if you're working in the week, you've got to find someone who is able to do the change for you.

Margins get very small indeed with frequent changeovers - sometimes so small that it's not worth doing.

Anonymous said...

Ferry capacity could be doubled without buying a single new vessel. Simply keep running after 6pm. An extra evening run every day throughout the main season would more than cover the shortfall.

And to the blogger who says the schools project had no effect- who is he kidding? Of course it would have, with so many normally available beds not available.