Tour operators are threatening to boycott Skye due to troubles on the Armadale-Mallaig ferry crossing.
Kleemann tours said they had encountered serious problems in 2016 because groups had been unable to board a morning ferry, which had allowed them to tour the island in one day.
The company, which specialises in bringing continental visitors to Scotland, has told local campaigners that their “reputation as a provider of high-quality tours is at stake” because their 12.5-metre buses had been unable to board on the small vessels which plied the route last summer. The tour company regularly use two Mallaig hotels – seen as preferable to Fort William as it allowed passengers to get to Skye early, and do as much on the island as possible before continuing the journey to Inverness.
Having learned of the potential loss of business on either side of the Sound of Sleat, local MSP Kate Forbes (pictured|) has again called for a more suitable vessel to be found for summer 2017.
In 2016 the MV ‘Coruisk’ was removed from the Mallaig service, and redeployed to Craignure to satisfy a Scottish Government commitment to make Mull a commutable distance from Oban. Last year two smaller vessels shared duties on the Sound of Sleat with the larger ‘Lord of The Isles’ – but berthing problems at low tide caused significant disruption.
Ms Forbes said she was concerned that another unnamed major UK tour operator had also said they would not be running any tours to Skye this summer because of uncertainty over the ferry.
“This gives the clearest example of the significant economic impact that this summer of disruption has had,” she added. “To have two major, and respected, tour operators tell me that they are effectively going to have to boycott Skye because the ferry service is simply not fit for purpose should be a stark wake-up call.
“Late in summer 2016, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf rightly said that this summer’s troubles must not and cannot be repeated, and I wholeheartedly agree.”
Ms Forbes has been urged to bring the Scottish Transport Minister and officials from Transport Scotland and Caledonian MacBrayne together to face local groups to discuss the options for 2017.
CalMac recently carried out trials on the route using the MV ‘Loch Fyne’ – one of the vessels which operated the ferry service between Kyle and Kyleakin prior to the opening of the Skye Bridge.