‘End in sight’ as self catering gears up to reopen

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Tourism and business leaders in Oban have welcomed news that self-catering providers are on course to reopen from Friday.

Barring any sudden rise in the coronavirus, families will be able to holiday together in self-catering properties from July 3, if there are no shared facilities used by other groups.

The date would mark more than 100 days of closure and over 14 weeks out of action for those businesses which shut when lockdown was announced back on March 23.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also said that ‘all holiday accommodation’ should be allowed to reopen from July 15, with the caveat that Scotland’s virus infection rate remains stable between now and then.

Linda Battison, marketing director of the Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance (OLTA), said the early boost for the self-catering sector made sense.

Many businesses offer ‘self-contained’ units to visitors which helps limit the risk of COVID-19.

Ms Battison said that members of national trade body, The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), have also won government approval for its ‘enhanced cleaning protocols’ to be introduced.

In addition, trade members have completed new online training courses, while guests will ‘self check-in’ as the safest way to limit interaction between visitors and accommodation providers.

Ms Battison said: ‘We’ve lost more than three months trading and we missed Easter so no one is going to make that back over what will be an even shorter season than normal. But it will give businesses a fighting chance of making it through to 2021.’

She called for people to continue the trend of buying locally and supporting local businesses.

‘As self-catering opens up and the first visitors arrive they must be encouraged to buy local produce,’ she said.

‘Providence has always been important in food and drink sectors, but now more than ever supporting local communities will be rightly regarded as part of responsible tourism.

‘I hope it’s a new start for the industry – there can be little doubt now that tourism is a key contributor to our economy in Oban and Lorn and I look forward to sharing our beautiful town, our beaches, hills and glens with appreciative visitors.’

Andy Spence, chief executive of the BID4Oban group, said: ‘Obviously we are delighted that we are now starting to see an end in sight to the closures.

‘Businesses are already gearing up for opening and we have ordered additional safety signage. The first pivotal day is Monday with shops opening up, and then from July 3 self-catering. We are hoping to see businesses taking bookings to get people back in.’