Arran’s economy ‘scarred’ by COVID-19
The loss of tourists and reduced ferry capacity to the island of Arran during the coronavirus pandemic could have long term ‘scarring effects’ on its labour market.
A new study conducted by the Fraser of Allander Institute has revealed that a third of the island’s economy is reliant on the tourism and hospitality sector. The report also suggested that Arran’s ferry service is worth £170,000 a day to the island.
The Institute said island communities had been hit “disproportionately hard” by the lockdown restrictions.
Back in June, community leaders on Arran suggested that day trips to the island should be banned to quash the spread of COVID-19.
The Arran Recovery Group (ARG) said it wanted only tourists staying multiple nights to be allowed on the ferry. Social distancing restrictions has limited capacity to about 20% on some ferry services.
Councillor Alex Gallagher described the new report as a “wake-up call” and pushed for support from the Scottish and UK governments. He said: “Nowhere has escaped the economic impact of COVID-19, but some areas have felt it far more sharply than others - areas such as Arran.
“The report highlights that Arran’s labour market has been more severely affected than surrounding areas and Scotland as a whole. Even as restrictions have eased, the report shows Arran is still struggling to recover and that there will be longer-term impacts on Arran’s businesses and communities.”
Arran’s Gross Value Added (GVA) was estimated to be more than £77 million in 2018. In the first half this year, GVA dropped by 33% as a result of a lower number of ferry passengers, BBC News reports.
Mairi Spowage, deputy director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, said there were “challenging times ahead” for island communities.
She added: “Arran’s dominant hospitality sector has made it particularly exposed to the initial lockdown restrictions and the ensuing capacity and social distancing regulations as the economy began to open back up. Like most island economies, Arran is constrained by its infrastructure and is reliant on its ferries to transport commuters and tourists.
“National policy must recognise the unique challenges that island economies are facing in the months and years ahead as we recover from this economic crisis.”
The Scottish Government said it had recently announced a £2m programme of “locally-led green projects” designed to help support island communities. To “help businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic and create new, quality jobs”.
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We are also doing everything we can with the limited powers available to us to support the tourism sector.”