Summer of struggles

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A number of hotel owners in Deeside and Donside have been struggling to attract customers this summer.

They say that the amount of people visiting the area is down on previous years with bad weather, economic uncertainty and high fuel prices fuel thought to be keeping people away.

Paul MacLennan, owner of the Colquhonnie House Hotel in Strathdon, admits times are tough for rural businesses.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “There’s been a dribble of tourists coming past but certainly not as many as last year.

“The weather’s not helping and I think with the high price of fuel many people are less inclined to travel, but it is difficult to put it down to one thing. Many people are being more careful with their money, including visitors from overseas.

“We will just have to ride the storm.”

Kildrummy Inn owner Darren Gimber believes people are looking at cheap alternatives abroad.

“We have had quite a lot of repeat custom but the road outside is dead,” he said. “Last year was quiet but this has been worse.

“These days, you can pick up a holiday abroad for around the same price, if not cheaper, than if you were to take a break in Scotland.

“Our foreign tourist numbers are also well down because it seems like no one has the money to spend.”

Denise Farringdon, who owns the Glenernan Guest House in Ballater says that in general, the visitor numbers have been steady but there have been periods with no bookings at all.

She said: “People seem to be booking later but there have been pockets where we have had little or no bookings. This is my seventh year and during the first few summers we were full almost all the time but it has changed recently.

“We’ve definitely had less walkers and cyclists staying with us which is down to the bad weather.”

Outdoor businesses, particularly, have struggled, with the persistent wet weather flooding a number of places across Deeside and Donside.

Moira Gash, who runs local company Classic Abode Gardening and Landscaping alongside her husband David, said: “The amount of rainfall, the length of time it has been raining and the subsequent very poor ground conditions has led to severe delays with client projects and regular maintenance contracts.

“We have had several days when no work could be carried out and any time where there has been a few hours dry spell, staff have been working flat out to try and catch up but it hasn’t stopped raining long enough to make significant progress.”

The Balmoral Estate has enjoyed a strong season, however, bolstered by the jubilee celebrations.

Visitor enterprise manager Garry Marsden said: “We enjoyed a record breaking month of June despite the weather. Many people came from overseas, particularly Germany, and everyone was in really good spirits and the visiting numbers have remained strong throughout the season.”

Historic Scotland said visitor numbers to the area as a whole were down.

A spokeswoman said: “Extreme weather across Scotland and the UK has been very disappointing and has led to a downturn in visitor numbers at our sites in Deeside.

“However, we have seen a surge in Historic Scotland membership numbers taking them to an all time high. This shows that people are still keen to visit our attractions throughout the year.”

A spokeswoman for the National Trust for Scotland also said that they were seeing evidence of people spending less money on trips, but certain events were still proving popular.