WESTRAAK TOURS WILL BE CLOSED FOR THE REMAINDER OF 2020
We have been deliberating for many hours on whether we can or should restart our tours this season. While there has been plenty of advice made available from such bodies as the Scottish Government and Visit Scotland, and we have taken the time to plough through it all, there is nothing that specifically applies to our set up. We have sought advice from Destination Orkney and had a long phone call with their chief executive, Elaine Tulloch, but ultimately we ourselves have to make any definitive decisions.
While we are keen to get going again for all the same reasons that everyone working in tourism has, we are really worried that we will not be able to offer a safe or satisfactory service while the current restrictions are in place.
Our tour involves an extended period of time in an enclosed space (the bus), and the personal nature of our tour means there is an ongoing two way conversation while on the bus. We and our guests would have to be masked the whole time. Another key feature of our tour, and one that we believe makes it standout is that we provide hospitality (coffees, lunch) in our family home. It’s not a huge house, we use our family dining room & table. We are not convinced that having guests out-with our immediate friends and family ‘bubbles’ in our house is allowed or sensible. Being unable to host mixed groups would also detract significantly from an aspect of our tour that our guests really appreciate, and we feel enhances the day considerably.
We have done risk assessments and invested in hand sanitisers etc and also pondered alternatives – but the café is closed and there is a distinct lack of enclosed places to eat a packed lunch. Westray is a fantastic place to be on a lovely day but we have many days when the weather is less than brilliant, this is easier to contend with when our guests know they can get some respite at our house or at the Castle or Heritage Centre, but if these are not available (currently closed) it is a very long day to be outside in the rain. There is no alternative ‘early boat’, day visitors are committed to the whole day.
We are very concerned that any tour we could operate would be so substandard compared to the one we usually offer that it would be damaging to our reputation. We are also worried it would expose ourselves, our guests and the wider Westray community, most of whom share significant anxieties about an influx of tourists after many months of well observed lockdown, to unnecessary risk.
Our decision to open or not would be based foremost on the public health aspects, and secondly on the quality of the service we could offer. There is also the matter of fact that hosting tours for single groups of 1 or 2 people does not actually make us any money, we are happy to do that on occasion when required, but it is not a sustainable business model.
In conclusion, the measures we would have to take to mitigate the risk are practically and financially detrimental to the running of our tour and would impact on so many central aspects of what we believe enhances the experience for our valued guests. For these reasons, and to remove any uncertainty, we have taken the tough decision to remain closed in 2020, and fully intend to be operating again in 2021.
We have some bookings already for 2021 and hope to take more over the winter as the situation evolves. In the meantime, take care everyone, stay safe and best wishes.
Andy & Karen