Accommodation providers in strath prepare to roll-out the welcome mat
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Accommodation providers are gearing up for the reopening of the sector from tomorrow but there are mixed reports of forward bookings despite this summer expected to be one of the busiest ever for tourists.
Staycations are forecast to boom in the UK with overseas travel still ruled out because of Covid restricitons to all but a small number of countries.
Non-essential travel from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be allowed for the first time this year from tomorrow too.
Iain Miller, Macdonald Aviemore Resort director, said they are very much looking forward to extending a warm Highland welcome to visitors and guests at the holiday centre which celebrates its 55th year in 2021.
He said: “After four months closed, we have been working hard in preparation for our reopening and ahead and anticipated strong staycation market throughout the remainder of 2021.
“There is also a very good level of interest in conferences and events from later in the year and we will continue to work with prospective clients in step with government guidelines as the sector’s journey towards full reopening progresses.
“We are excited to be playing a part in helping people rediscover Scotland and, in particular, using our AvieMORE campaign to help what is shaping up to be a much-needed strong season for Aviemore and the surrounding area."
Ken Lister, who owns Eriskay B&B and Glamping Pods in Aviemore, reports being fully booked from June to September with a 75 per cent occupancy rate for next month.
"We are very blessed indeed," said Mr Lister.
He believes they have benefited from having glamping pods too: "They really are making a difference with people's confidence to book a stay with us.
"We did have some questions and I sensed slight hesitancy from visitors about being in the house after Covid but the glamping pods are really working out as they allow people to be on their own, and within their own space."
Like everyone else, Mr Lister hopes that Covid will not strike again: "I hope we will not have to close again after a few months – not for us as there is just me and my beautiful wife but for all the businesses who employ lots of people. It has been very hard on them."
James Montgomery, of Fir Hall B&B in Grantown, said he had noticed people are cancelling long breaks and instead booking for only one or two nights.
He said: "That means a lot of extra work for my partner and myself – but it will be worth it. We have also reduced our capacity from five rooms to four to allow for a bit more space for guests.
"Normally we are fully booked six months in advance but that has not happened this year.
"We have only just been given assistance from the government so that will help over the next few months when things appear to be quieter than normal.
"We have our first booking next Thursday, and May is looking very quiet for us.
"June is good, July is not bad and August is pretty good for bookings.
"We will do everything we can to make our guests feel safe and settled."
Craig Docherty, manager of the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore, said: "We had a good summer last year but the way things are looking I think we will have an even better one this year particularly with people not going overseas.
"Bookings for accommodation are tremendous all the way through to September and October.
"It is nice to get people back to work and the staff are chomping at the bit."
John England, who runs Clune House in Newtonmore said: "Bookings are steady, but they are not at the same levels they were last year when lockdown came to an end...
"We are getting a good mix of bookings from those who are returning to us, and those who are newcomers.
"This time round I think there is a lack of confidence about booking due to Covid. This is completely understandable but I think it will come but we have not seen the bookings rush that we did last year.
"I wouldn't want the First Minister's job and what she has had to deal with for Covid over the last year."
Graham Prentice, from Arden House in Kingussie, said there was interest but bookings have been slow to take off.
"People are being very cautious," he said.
"We are hoping for a Scottish market, and we have been advertising Scotland wide and we think that things should begin to pick up in May.
"I can not imagine it not being busy. I thought it would have been busier at the weekend, even just with day trippers but it wasn't.
"We are now trying to diversify and make facilities available to guests, such as a microwave. We are also encouraging people, if they cannot get in to eat somewhere, to buy from local takeaways and eat in the house."
Mark Tate, Cairngorm Business Partnership chief, said: "For self-catering businesses July and August looks busy though there is capacity across the Cairngorms National Park. Hotels and guest houses generally have lots of capacity still and there are lots of opportunities to visit in May and June."