Is­land’s busi­ness hit hard by late sum­mer timetable

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

A DE­LAY in pub­lish­ing Cal­mac’s sum­mer timetable has cost Is­lay and Jura’s tourist busi­nesses dear, with one re­port­ing a 32 per cent drop in book­ings, the is­lands’ tourism group has claimed.

This month Ar­gyll and Bute MSP Michael Rus­sell wel­comed Cal­Mac’s ‘late’ 2017 sum­mer timetable, but added: ‘There are some dis­ap­point­ments, in­clud­ing the in­abil­ity of Cal­Mac to re­spond fully to what the Is­lay com­mu­ni­ties say they need.’

Jack Flem­ing, chair­man of Is­lay and Jura Tourism and Mar­ket­ing Group, ex­pressed re­lief but added the de­lay had cost lo­cal tourism busi­ness. He said: ‘The de­lay in the re­lease was highly detri­men­tal, il­lus­trated by one case of ac­com­mo­da­tion in­quiries be­ing 10 per cent up on the year but ac­tual book­ings be­ing 32 per cent down – a com­mon story across the mem­ber­ship.

‘ While some of those in­quiries will now con­vert to book­ings, it must also be true many will al­ready have de­cided to go else­where. We sim­ply can­not af­ford the risks as­so­ci­ated with such late pub­li­ca­tion of timeta­bles.

‘Af­ter many years of dis­rup­tion at peak pe­ri­ods, Easter and sum­mer most re­cently, we des­per­ately need to es­tab­lish Is­lay’s and Jura’s rep­u­ta­tions as con­ve­nient des­ti­na­tions. Re­li­able ferry ser­vices and the timely avail­abil­ity of book­ing, are the foun­da­tion of that.’

Jim Por­te­ous, sec­re­tary of the Is­lay Com­mu­nity Coun­cil Ferry Com­mit­tee, added the com­mu­nity’s dis­ap­point­ment that ‘Cal­Mac re­jected [our] pro­posal for ad­di­tional week­end sail­ings for the full timetable, and that the ex­tra sail­ings will once again be lim­ited to the months of July and Au­gust and spe­cial events.

‘The rea­sons given by Cal­Mac were that last sum­mer these ex­tra sail­ings on Thurs­day and Fri­day evenings were not well used and that Satur­days, which our com­mit­tee had re­quested in­stead of Thurs­days, were cur­rently not pos­si­ble. The com­mit­tee in­formed Cal­Mac that the late ex­tra sail­ings were un­pop­u­lar and at in­con­ve­nient times for the com­mu­nity and vis­i­tors.

‘To ob­tain sig­nif­i­cant ex­tra ben­e­fit, Cal­Mac would have to ne­go­ti­ate with hauliers to use them for freight, and thereby free up more peak de­mand day­time space.’

He added: ‘Cal­Mac has said that it will be en­gag­ing with hauliers, re­view per­for­mance in 2017 and po­ten­tially re­con­sider for 2018.’

Is­lan­ders hope the ve­hi­cle mez­za­nine on the MV Fin­lag­gan will be re­paired next month, in­creas­ing its car ca­pac­ity by 20 per cent for the 2017 sum­mer timetable.

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