Complaints Rise Over Out-Of-Season Openings

St Martin's was criticised by Councillors

Visitors to the islands are unhappy about the low number of businesses that are open out-of-season.

The Council’s Tourism Lead, Julian Pearce, told Councillors at yesterday’s Tourism Board meeting that the numbers of visitors in October had been good this year, with a decent bird watching season and half term holiday.

However, the TIC had received complaints from visitors who found businesses closed during this period.

He said this was giving the impression that the islands “were closed from mid September” and businesses needed to work together to present Scilly as a package.

Councillor Marian Bennett said several years ago they had tried to introduce an opening and closing date for the season, built around the Scillonian sailing from March to October, but it was difficult to make businesses follow that.

She suggested that inclusion in the Simply Scilly brochure could be dependent on a guarantee to open for the full season although she admitted this was a draconian way to go about it.

She said it was unacceptable for businesses to “cream off the best of the season” then have a negative impact during the shoulder periods.

Committee Chair, Chris Saville, said St Martin’s has been particularly bad this year. She said there was a situation in October when 70 people arrived on the island and the only place to get a cup of tea was from the machine at the Post Office.

However, Councillor Richard McCarthy said some islands were doing more than others. On St Agnes, businesses had stayed open throughout October. Even in mid November, he said, the Coastguards Café had opened specially for a group of visitors from the Atlantic Hotel, adding that sometimes, all that’s required is a phone call.

Councillor Chris Hopkins said it “shouldn’t be beyond the wit” of our TIC to have a ring around to see who’s open and to liaise with boatmen.

He said it can be difficult, especially on the off-islands, to sit around waiting for visitors to arrive and no one comes.

Julian also told members that this year had seen a marked increase in first-time visitors and it was important to provide as much information as possible for these people.

He said Scilly could sometimes be seen as a “club”, where regular visitors know what’s happening and the TIC needs to make sure first time visitors see everything that the islands have to offer.

5 Responses to Complaints Rise Over Out-Of-Season Openings

  1. Nigel November 29, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Perhaps the council would like to open up over the weekend just incase someone wants to pop in!

  2. Adam Morton,St.Martins November 29, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Its simple economics,70 people land on st.Martins,busy day for october granted.
    probably spend in the region of £10-£15 per head great,thats at least 16 members of staff to operate the various busineses selling refreshment, on minimum wage thats about £800 per day plus cost of goods sold,take into account the days no one comes and you cant afford many weeks of that.Some of the staff will be owners and family so unpaid but we dont see many council workers doing unpaid work so why should we bear the burden of encouraging scillies prosperity when no one else does.Make it affordable for people to get here in worthwhile and regular numbers and I guarantee we will be open. And birders?,dont get me started the only people that proffit from birdwatchers is the boatmen and some B&Bs.
    I am pretty fed up with catering busineses getting it in the neck from the council and tourist board .We never hear from any member of either for our opinions,all we get is annother survey which is then ignored.In this day and age almost no one reads the council tourist brochure, I bet there aren’t four copies on St.Martins,no one cares if the facilities are updated on St.Marys Quay or at the air port. All people want to know about is value and they compare it online while planning their holiday. I was delighted to hear that the Council was going to try and get our travel routes susidised but wthout a committed serious person driving it it will get sat on and shoved under the carpet while they concentrate on restricting my opening hours, or banning notice boards or making speeches.and awarding themselves pay packets that few of us doing actual work could imagine.

  3. gwendoline gossip November 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    A point to remember is that many business owners also have young families and they have to fit in with school half term dates to take their main holiday of the year… and this usually falls in October. Whilst it is important to provide a service for the visitors, the very nature of a business is to make a profit, and this is extremely difficult to do in the shoulder periods. Stock and staffing levels are a financial commitment that, at the moment may be a step too far for businesses struggling to stay afloat. We need more help filling Scilly with visitors in the main season and that may then instill businesses with a little more confidence to trade in the shoulder periods.

  4. Susan November 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I can understand why some businesses choose to shut off-season as I am in a similar position where I run my business and will be closing from 5pm Christmas Eve until February half- term – there simply isn’t the trade within these periods to sustain opening. I tried last year and lost a considerable amount of money as perishable stock went out of date and the fuel bills were horrendous.This September, October and November has been markedly quieter than previous years – effects of the recession, we think. It is tricky to evaluate when it will be viable to staff , stock and keep open a business but I find it hard to believe these visitors couldn’t get breakfast on St. Mary’s in July – surely one of the hotels would have accepted “walk-ins ” or surely the cafe’s are open by 10 ish at that time of year ? Failing that – I think I would have resorted to a snack from the Co-Op or suchlike.I’d be interested in knowing the full story…

    • Dave November 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Having started managing a business on the Islands this year I can understand why it is that some places will close after September. The trade drop is immense happening literally over night. The off licence has been ticking over and business is good but we provide a service that people need all year round. A touristy gift shop will work as long as their are tourists with deep pockets. Unfortunately in October the majority of people here are bird watchers staying for long periods of time on a very tight budget. To expect to do well as a small business in these winter months is foolhardy. We are still in a recession and although I hear people say it hasn’t hit us hard, it has hit the people that are coming here for Holidays. With regards to the councillors views that it is unacceptable for businesses to “cream off the best of the season”, what is the point of having a business if not to reap the rewards of the times you are busy and minimise losses in the quiet periods. Nobody can afford to staff and fuel an establishment with no customers. Another thing to remember is that a lot of small businesses will operate six or seven days a week for the best part of 7 months of the year. After that there is all the work to be done to prepare for the next season. Are these people not allowed a break as I’m sure they like many others consider the winter months to be all their weekends that they missed during the year rolled into one. People need a break.