My Column

Snow hope without late season help

  • Date: Monday 15th February 2021
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The Scottish winter sports sector could be viewed as a forgotten business victim of the pandemic, buried amongst various other businesses desperately trying to claw their way out of the piling mountains of debt.

 

For an industry that was already hanging in the balance due to global warming, ease of access to foreign ski tourism and the rise of interest in major global winter sports events abroad, Scottish ski resort enthusiasm has declined rapidly.

The irony wasn’t lost on me recently that the snowfall across all five Scottish ski resorts over last few weeks has been the best seen for over a decade, but with lockdown continuing into a second winter season, no one could enjoy it. It simply could not have come at a worse time for the sector.

With interest in outdoor pursuits activities rising across the country, given that these sports are undertaken outside with social distancing usually being applied unintentionally, it is understandable why frustrations are evident across the industry.

At the beginning of February, the Scottish Government announced an additional £3millon in funding aid to be given to all five Scottish ski centres, due to current lockdown restrictions staying in place until at least the end of the month.

However, operating and maintaining a Snowsports centre is no mean feat, so industry leaders have pleaded with the Scottish Government to allow an ease in restrictions in March, allowing for a slight pick-up in revenue at the tail of end of the season and to give the resorts a fighting chance next year.

Given that a ski pass on average for an adult is £30, if the resorts are given the go ahead to operate from mid-March, thousands could be made in the last few weeks of the season, with the Scottish snow potentially lasting until May.

This year could have been the long-awaited winter renaissance the Scottish tourism sector was so desperately holding out for, just as the North Coast 500 has proven to be a huge hit in summer for local northern businesses.

The NC500 is worth around £22million to the economy alone and given there is already a rush to book staycations in Scotland for summer 2021, it shows a positive sign for the re-emergence of Scottish tourism.

The winter season tends to be a bit slower, but given that all five resorts can be found across the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, most of which surround the beginning of the NC500, awareness of Scotland’s ski slopes would have been at an all-time high, with tourists eager to hit the hills on foot or on ski’s.

All is not lost just yet, with staff from Cairngorm Mountain saying they are ready to re-open once the Government permits. But the further we move into the year with the warmer weather, the chance for Scotland’s ski slopes to recoup some of their lost revenue slips by.

One silver lining for Cairngorm Mountain could be that the UK’s highest railway may finally be back in working order for winter season 2021/22. The funicular, at the base of Cairngorm centre, has been closed due to structural issues since September 2018.

The Scottish Government provided funds to help with the repair project and if all goes to plan and it reopens on time, this should be a huge boost for the future of Scottish Snowsports next year.

The industry, unlike others, may also find some solace in Brexit. Questions remain on how the glacier shaped problem of leaving the European Union will impact on the thousands of Brits who flock to the snowy hills of the Alps and other winter destinations abroad to get their mountain fix.

With uncertainty around the ease of travel across borders, can the Scottish ski industry capitalise on the added interest in winter Snowsports staycations in the future?

It’s hard to fathom, especially as most of the country ground to a standstill last week due to the snow, but we don’t always get the weather. However, in recent years there have been a number of investments made across our ski centres to introduce artificial snow-making equipment due to not enough natural snowfall to cover the runs.

If the ski centres can last through this winter without paying customers, who knows - this investment, Brexit and our new found love for outdoor pursuits might just be the winning formula for our slopes moving forward.

SIDE (334 words)

I always keep tabs on what’s happening in the property market and, unlike many other sectors that have been badly hit by the pandemic in Scotland, it seems to be booming.

There was pent-up demand for those looking to buy and sell during the first lockdown last year, and we saw a real boom across the sector when restrictions were lifted.

Why? The pandemic changed the way people viewed their homes. Those living in cities were escaping to the country or to the coast, whilst those living in apartments were desperate for a garden and more space.

Property experts predicted that this ‘boom’ would soon slow down and like other sectors, it would begin to feel the devastating effects of Covid-19. However we are now midway through February 2021 and this certainly hasn’t happened just yet.

I think this is partly down to the stamp duty holiday that buyers have enjoyed over the past year and sales will undoubtedly continue to rise, with many trying to rush through the purchase of their new home to ensure they qualify for not having to pay LBTT at all, until the initiative ends on 21st March.

After this date, it means that Scots buying houses over £145,000 will have to pay tax, and I believe that this is when we will see the sector begin to bottom out. 

Bellway backs up this claim too. Although they’ve seen a surge in completed houses, amid a strong demand for new build homes, the housebuilder fears that without the LBTT holiday and the Help-to-Buy scheme, which is also coming to an end, it will be much more difficult for buyers to step onto the property ladder.

Only time will tell how the property market reacts due to these schemes coming to an end, but I for one will be keeping a watchful eye on the sector.

LAUGH (135 words)

There have been thousands of brand partnerships that work well together, then there are some which just feel wrong.

Last week, like many others, I was certainly surprised to see the latest brand partnership Weetabix were promoting.

They have teamed up with Heinz to create ‘beans on bix’, and although I give them points for creativity, most people were disgusted by the combo and were not afraid to say so.

In fact so many other brands got involved on Twitter that it went viral, with the likes of Specsavers commenting “removes glasses, puts on blindfold” and even the NHS tweeting “This tweet should come with a health warning.”

I doubt many have opted to try the new breakfast, but it’s got everyone talking about the brand so I’m sure they’ll be happy with the result.

 

WEEP (136 words)

With the nation going into lockdown overnight and office premises having to close doors to staff, businesses have had to adapt quickly to allow employees to work from their own homes.

Will this be the new normal? Research suggests that at least one in three businesses are planning to downsize, with 12 per cent of businesses cutting office space by half.

Having less office costs alongside a reduction in travel expenses to and from meetings, businesses are making savings across the board, but concern is mounting on the effect this will have on our city centres.

Most of Scotland’s cities are highly populated with office buildings, which sustain a host of local businesses around them.

I’m sure the sector will bounce back, but I feel for local businesses reliant on office trade at this time.

 

 

 

 

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