A change in Covid-19 lockdown regulations has seen agritourism businesses take a huge financial hit in just one week.
The Scottish Government has announced that families and friends from two households are not permitted to stay in the same self-catering property – with some exceptions.
The move brought a deluge of cancellations among businesses who had diversified into providing a range of services including accommodation and farm tours.
Around 800 farms, crofts and estates around Scotland are believed to have moved into the agritourism sector.
One Perthshire farm, Blairmore, lost £15,000 from just two of their six properties in one week after the ban on two households sharing accommodation was introduced.
Ailsa Clark, from Blairmore, said the cancellations would not have happened without the rule change and 80% of farm income was derived from agritourism.
She said: “Our guests are really responsible and we got calls immediately after the announcement was made. We have invested in fogging equipment to thoroughly clean the properties and there are hand sanitiser stations all over the farm.
“We were always told that there would be an increase in cases and people have been cancelling all the way along.
“If travel restrictions are introduced, then we will close. Who is going to travel five miles down the road to go on holiday?”
Mrs Clark said the firm employed 11 people from the community and while the furlough scheme had worked “amazingly well”, the new jobs scheme was more complex.
Claire Fleming runs a variety of agritourism operations at Peel Farm in Angus.
She said the company was still offering glamping pods, which house two people each, but the larger self-catering properties which host six and eight had seen a number of cancellations.
She said: “If travel restrictions are introduced, this will impact our glamping pods as well.
“The uncertainty has also hit our festive planning as we don’t know whether to buy in Christmas stock, but we are planning on offering a festive takeaway afternoon tea.”
Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) described the move as “another hammer blow which will cost jobs” and urged the Scottish Government to reverse the decision.
SLE chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing said: “Many properties were fully booked until the end of the year by friends and families who were looking forward to a much-needed break or a staycation during the school holidays.
“The first minister urged Scots just the other day not to travel abroad during the October break.
“Now many won’t be able to support Scottish tourism, instead forcing them to look south of the border for a holiday where the rules around self-catering properties are different in some areas.”
Scottish Agritourism, the new sector body for agritourism in Scotland, said the move has impacted a wide variety of accommodation on farms.
Caroline Millar, of Go Rural, said: “We know that collectively, in one week the losses to farming businesses have been in the tens of thousands and how much these losses rack up will depend on how long these new restrictions go on for.”
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