Island’s business hit hard by late summer timetable
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.