I’m currently closed for business as dictated to by the UK government but have taken the time to speak directly or via email to everyone booked up to and including 29th April 2020.
It’s so sad to be unraveling all the plans, bookings and hard work put in from what people see as my offseason, but also the work my clients have placed into planning and arranging their holidays and paddling adventures. So far my clients all have been very understanding and supportive.
I’m also currently trying to respond to many emails and replan for 2020, but with the lockdown imposed upon us all for an unknown period, government support constantly being changed and possibly not available till June for the self- employed, so many things are in flux right now and outwith my/Explore Highland’s control.
Advice has also just come out on Friday from Highland Council Trading Standards regards the Covid-19 worldwide crisis for tourism and businesses affected. However, this will be amended and updated as things develop.
As with all Scottish tourism businesses, including small scale activity providers like myself, we have fixed costs every month throughout the year. The tourism season is from March through to October when we all work hard to cover our annualised fixed costs firstly and only then take a wage from the profits, of which we also reinvest some back into our businesses to help with cash flow and business improvements.
As some of you may be away 2019 was a great year for Explore Highland, up until I separated my shoulder early October out mountain biking – duh! This meant I was unable to lift a canoe, far less paddle, so had to cancel and refund/rebook the last two income weeks of the 2019 season.
2020 was planned to be another great season. January, after moving into new premises in December, I started to get things unboxed and laid out. February saw the new canoe/kayak trailer arrive and the steady stream of enquiries and confirmed bookings. As ordered in December a brand new fleet of tandem sea kayaks and canoes were delivered early March. So looking at these new assets, the store/workshop and minibus now sitting idle and being unable to deliver activities and support my client’s planned adventures is heart & bank-breaking.
What I would like to reassure my clients is that all bookings during this enforced lockdown period are being automatically postponed. I will happily look to rearrange and rebooked these in the “near future” at NO additional cost. This timeline will ultimately depend on the lockdown duration. Once known I will set an appropriate period for clients to use their booking credit. Ideally, this will be within this season, but I will look to each individual booking sympathetically. This may mean looking at an extension to non-UK clients till the end of October 2021.
Using the “Unprecedented” word, I am also being inundated with cancellations for the future dates outwith lockdown. I do get why this is happening including the uncertainty of other country borders reopening, current flight restrictions, etc, clients are trying to protect and minimise their costs/losses. As a small business, after coming out of the off-season, and with my whole season ahead starting to collapse inward, I am simply not in a position to refund everyone. I hope clients do understand that these circumstances could not be foreseen and that Explore Highland has no option but to “freeze” the “normal” terms & conditions.
Instead, I intend to support & honour ALL my booked clients. I will happily postpone and rebook you in should it be required. Clients wishing to postpone will NOT lose out on their 25% non-refundable deposits.
Over the next two weeks, the situation will hopefully become more clear with respect to how the UK and other countries are responding to the virus, we will have more information relating to travel/work restrictions, and a better idea as to the support package available to tourism businesses like Explore Highland from the UK & Scottish governments.
I will continue to work through the list of booked clients and keep you all informed and updated. I do thank you for your patience & understanding during this crisis and look forward to supporting your paddling adventures in the near future once this is behind us.