When wrote that I wasn’t going to be able to visit Islay for the foreseeable future because of the Coronavirus pandemic I mentioned that I was I aware this was going to hit many local businesses, but that I didn’t have a solution to help them. I also believe (and fear) that we’re going to have to live with the various restrictions related to “social distancing” (I know, horrible term, I hope we can find something better) for quite some time. Just today Calmac announced that they wouldn’t accept any new advance bookings until 15/Jul. From everything I’ve read and seen so far I wouldn’t be surprised if certainly the first phase will last 4-6 months and there will be impacts for at least 12-18 months, depending on how quick a vaccine can be delivered. I know nobody wants to hear that, but I believe (and fear) that’s realistic. So what can we do to help local businesses? I still don’t have a solution (and probably never will), but at least there are some first shoots and ideas:
While the main hit will of course be on direct tourism businesses like accommodation providers, tour guides and transport businesses (and I freely admit I don’t have clue how to help them) there will be a secondary impact on a lot of smaller makers. Small businesses with one or only a handful of employees, producing a variety of goods, often related to local materials and traditions. They often heavily rely on tourists buying their products, be it in their own premises, be it at tourism attractions. With hardly any or even no tourists coming at the moment they lose a large chunk or even all of their income. At least some of them also sell online (or will soon) and at least as long as they can still ship their orders this is where Rhoda’s idea comes in:
Rhoda (who among other things runs Tiree Tea) has set up isle2o – Support the Scottish islands during Covid-19 by shopping from the comfort of your sofa! It’s a directory of island based businesses which sell online, so you can order from home to support them. As of writing this there are five Islay based businesses and one Jura based business listed, but I’m sure there will soon be plenty more. So why not take a look at the listings and if you find something you fancy place an order?
You might have noticed that for this post I’ve created a new category, “Islay Businesses”. There’s of course a reason for that. I’m going to try to promote a number of Islay (and Jura and Colonsay) businesses here over the coming weeks, in particular those who also sell online in some shape or form. It might help, it might not, but I’m certainly going to try. In the current situation I think we’ve got to just try everything possible.