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John O'Groats hotel owner fears for future of hospitality sector


By Jean Gunn

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Andrew Mowat of the Seaview Hotel at John O'Groats, pictured prior to the pandemic. Picture: DGS
Andrew Mowat of the Seaview Hotel at John O'Groats, pictured prior to the pandemic. Picture: DGS

A John O'Groats hotel owner is among those in the local hospitality sector expressing concern about the uncertainty of when they will be able to reopen their doors to holiday makers.

Andrew Mowat, of the Seaview Hotel, said: "We are quiet just now, but we are getting a few essential workers. The outlook for the season a couple of months ago was quite good, but it is not looking so good now. We have written March off anyway."

His comments come following Nicola Sturgeon's warning last week that hotels or self-catering accommodation would not be able to fully reopen by the Easter holidays. The First Minister said staycations could be possible by the summer, although that would depend on Covid-19 figures closer to the time.

Mr Mowat remained hopeful that things might open up in April, but warned that if the reopening was delayed until the end of May or beyond he felt it would decimate the whole industry, particularly if the furlough payments were to finish on April 30.

"We are obviously quite worried about what it will bring," he said. Mindful that everyone needed to remain safe, the hotelier continued: "There needs to be some sort of solution. We need the end in sight or at least some sort of road sign."

He also felt local people who relied on seasonal work would be badly affected.

Mr Mowat added that local hoteliers on the whole were very concerned about the situation and were discussing lobbying the Scottish Government to get some action.

The Norseman Hotel, Wick, is lucky to have had some key workers staying there recently.
The Norseman Hotel, Wick, is lucky to have had some key workers staying there recently.

Meanwhile Andrew Mackay, of the Norseman Hotel in Wick, said: "We are just unclear when we will be able to open up anything. We are very lucky we have key workers at the Norseman which gives a little bit of cash flow and normality.

"It is pretty bleak as it is for many industries. It is a shame we had managed to adapt right up to Christmas – we were managing to at least make a living."

Stating that the lack of clarity was a real issue, he pointed out that the other hotels in the Caithness Collection – the Castletown Hotel and the Pentland Hotel in Thurso – were totally closed.

The company relies on the trade it gets from bus tours and with no international travel on the cards, business is not looking good.

"We were very lucky to have staycations last year," pointed out Mr Mackay, and he is hopeful they will be able to capture that market again sometime this year.

Related article: Hospitality restrictions have left many businesses 'on the edge', warns Caithness hotelier


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