A Moray hotel that has stood in a village for generations has closed its doors due to uncertainties about coronavirus.
For centuries the Garmouth Hotel has welcomed visitors to the banks of the River Spey, initially supporting the area’s thriving shipbuilding industry.
However, ongoing doubts about the ability to draw up arrangements to allow the business to reopen following the Covid-19 lockdown and a decline in European visitors last year have forced owners Grant and Jody Spence to close.
The announcement has prompted Visit Moray Speyside to call for extra support for the accommodation sector amid concerns previously successful businesses are now going to the wall.
Meanwhile, a grant scheme is currently being explored by Moray Council due to fears hotels and other firms may have missed out on cash relief.
Yesterday Mr Spence revealed the Garmouth building’s rateable value was just £1 short from qualifying for a £25,000 support grant instead of £10,000 – an increase he says may have allowed them to keep going.
Mr Spence, who has run the accommodation for 13 years, said: “Last summer was not as good as it had been in the past. With concerns about Brexit there was not the same amount of European customers.
“Locals kept the bar going during winter but there was nobody booking accommodation. Just when we thought things would be picking up again we got hit by Covid-19.
“We came to the view this is going to be something we can’t recover from. It’s sad because it will have an impact on the village too.”
The closure will affect the jobs of two full-time members of staff who have been furloughed during the lockdown and a part-time cleaner.
However, Mr Spence explained he hoped to be able to offer them positions with his Speyside Coffee Roasting Company business, which now operates nearby having previously been run from the hotel.
The closure of the Garmouth’s only hotel comes weeks after the Bay Highland in Strathpepper, the Caledonian in Fort William and the Bay Great Western in Oban shut.
Laurie Piper, chief executive of Visit Moray Speyside, said: “It’s especially galling that the owners have had to make this decision just as our region’s tourism industry emerges tentatively from lockdown and indications are that bookings are picking up strongly.
“I would urge elected members at both local and national level to do everything within their power to avoid further closures.”