Hard-hit hoteliers have been dealt another blow as they face mounting cancellations following the announcement of a lockdown in England.
Several accommodation providers in Moray and the Highlands have seen a drop in bookings in recent days as prospective clientele have been told not to leave their local authority areas.
The Castle Hotel in Huntly is one of a number of businesses impacted by the measures, with owners Andrew and Linda Meiklejohn being forced to cancel dozens of bookings.
“Our bookings have gone down completely this week; we have just lost all our bookings,” Mrs Meiklejohn said.
“We are quite a businessperson hotel and we have been doing quite steadily through October getting people in, but all of a sudden it’s just got really quiet.
“It is a concern for every business owner.”
People in England have been urged to stay at home and refrain from crossing the border into Scotland unless for essential travel.
Scots in the central belt have also been urged to stay within their local area, after being placed in new tier three restrictions.
The proud owner of the four-star hotel said she would be forced to turn people away if they travelled from restricted areas in a bid to keep the community safe.
She added: “What I do find concerning is that we all belong to agencies such as Booking.com and places like that, and if a person books through them and comes up, we have no way of knowing or stopping that as a hotel until they get here.
“We are sticking with the rules and if someone came from an area they shouldn’t be travelling from then I would certainly not be afraid to tell them they shouldn’t. If I knew I would definitely say ‘I’m sorry you can’t stay here’.
“We are a small town and there are a lot of old people as well, so I would hate it to come here. Business is one thing but you don’t want to bring it into the area, which is terribly important. We are doing all we can.”
Operators of Kingsmills Hotel Group have also experienced a drop in business in recent days.
The change in circumstance follows a successful October for chief executive Tony Story.
He said: “We have definitely lost business and with our own tiered restrictions, where travel to and from level three areas is restricted, we are seeing people from those areas cancelling their bookings.
“It only started on Friday and I suspect it will probably grow a little bit.
“We have had an absolutely storming October and we were actually quite prepared for the next three or four months to be very, very difficult.”
Dornoch Castle Hotel have also recorded several cancellations in recent days from customers curtailed by the restrictions.
It follows a busy few months for the Highland provider who was forced to turn dozens of customers away each night during the summer months as their restaurant filled to capacity.
Managing director Colin Thompson, said he is grateful the restrictions didn’t impact the flow of trade during the height of the season.
He said: “We just have to extract the information as best we can and we have to go canny with our approach to making sure that we bring it to people’s attention that they should be cancelling and that we can’t honour a booking if they are coming up from Newcastle or Carlisle or even Edinburgh or Glasgow.
“We can’t take any risks and we just have to try and filter the bookings the best we can. Will there be more cancellations, yes there will be. I’m just so glad it’s not happening in September as it could have emptied out the hotel.
“We are quite fortunate in the far north that at this time of year, most of our leisure business is coming out of the north-east from Aberdeenshire, Morayshire and Inverness. Very little is coming from south of the border.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy MSP Fergus Ewing said he is acutely aware of the impact the pandemic is having on businesses across the country.
He said: “It is clear that the covid virus has had a devastating impact on tourism businesses, and the worrying rise in covid cases is of course leading to measures being taken to seek to prevent spread and reduce impacts on the NHS acute services.
“As Tourism Minister I am acutely aware of the impacts on hoteliers both in the Highlands and throughout the country. The Scottish Government has provided financial support to accommodation providers of over £2.3 billion. But the longer the covid crisis continues the more the need for further support to businesses and of course their staff.
“Each day I am engaging with businesses to try to work together to assist them to survive this crisis, and the Tourism Taskforce set up by me as tourism minister.”
North hotelier Mr Story said that as long as the country can keep the rate of infections low, then it “can still sustain a tourism business” although he admits it will be “smaller than it otherwise was”.
He added: “It’s very difficult to run a business where you can’t function properly. I think the challenge that is going to face us now is that whilst we are allowed to operate in our level one, we are going to have a lockdown almost imposed upon us and at least upon our clientele because they are not going to be able to travel.
“At the end of the day we have to get on top of this virus, we need to stop the transmission. We don’t want to go into a lockdown like England has so if we’ve got to work off smaller levels I would rather do that then go back into lockdown again.”