By Scott Wright

A LEADING voice in Scotland’s crucial golf tourism sector fears he may have to stop trading at his East Lothian hotel as the coronavirus looks set to wipe out the summer season.

Malcolm Duck said he is now considering all options for the 23-bedroom Duck’s Inn at Aberlady he runs with his wife after being denied a Scottish Government grant to support the business through the pandemic.

The hospitality veteran, who founded the acclaimed Duck’s at Le March Noire restaurant in Edinburgh in 1988, said he has had to borrow £130,000 to keep the hotel going after seeing a summer’s worth of bookings wiped out by the pandemic.

With the UK Government now demanding employers pick up an increasing amount of the wage costs of furloughed staff from August, Mr Duck said it is impossible to see how the business can afford to contribute wages after months without trading.

Moreover, with the roadmap on exiting lockdown meaning the tourism sector faces months of reduced operating capacity, Mr Duck said the future of the hotel he and his wife heave steadily built since 2004 looks increasingly uncertain.

READ MORE: Scottish tourism 'bitterly' disappointed as thousands of pubs, hotels and restaurants denied grants

Speaking to The Herald, the one-time Royal Marine said they now have to “explore all the routes” open to them for a hotel that has gained four stars from the AA during their tenure, as well as two AA rosettes for its restaurant. And that includes switching the property from hotel to residential use.

“There’s no money in the bank,” said Mr Duck. “How are we going to pay 20% of furloughed wages? We are now inevitably looking at going residential.”

Mr Duck, whose hotel is within a 15 minute drive of 21 golf courses, is part of a group of high-profile golf tourism professionals who wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week warning hoteliers with strong links to the sport will be unable to afford to trade again until next season – despite courses re-opening across the country.

The signatories said the 14-day quarantine period set to be imposed by the UK Government on people flying into the country “kills the market dead”.

Mr Duck, who is a member of the Scotland’s Golf Coast group of accommodation providers, said: “The problem with golf in Scotland is that we have very seasonal business.

“And there are businesses like mine which have fallen through the cracks. We get no grants. [But] even a £25,000 or a £10,000 grant that came in April is not going to last you long. If we don’t get open to get some of the summer, then there are going to be huge redundancies coming up in the autumn, because I know people already are thinking about, do we just open in March?”

READ MORE: Pub trade suppliers ‘overlooked’ in struggle to survive pandemic

He added: “If we are going to open with social distancing, which leads then to a third or 20 per cent of our occupancy in the restaurant or hotel, then it is not tenable. You’ll go bust.”

The Scottish tourism industry has his week continued to campaign vociferously for more government support to help keep pubs, hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions afloat, amid warnings that hundreds of businesses are on the brink of going to the wall.

Mr Duck recognises the difficult situation faced by the Scottish and UK Governments in balancing lives and the economy as they plot their way out of lockdown. He believes mistakes have been made by both administrations, but would like to see a more definitive course of action taken in Scotland in terms of a fixed date for reopening the tourism industry.

Mr Duck said: “We are going to have a lot of people going unemployed. The summer season is gone… it is not going to be replaced by cheaper, local business.”

He added: “To open up hotels and not have bars and restaurants open [within them], who is going to come on holiday for that? Why can you have people eating outside, socially spaced, and not inside socially spaced?”

He worries there will be a lasting effect on subsequent generations from the lockdown if UK descends into a depression. “These businesses won’t come back,” he said.