Emma Clark, Islay

EMMA CLARK, ISLAY

Owner of Glenegedale House shares her special story about the Islay community spirit.

“During lockdown, I worked as part of the ‘recovery group’ which supported the Isle of Islay in coping with the pandemic. As travel providers weren’t going to be taking anyone who showed corona symptoms, we had to, as a business, think of ways we could deal with it on the island.

If someone showed symptoms or tested positive on your premises you would have to accommodate them for 14 days and then self-isolate and on top of that you would need to shut the hotel. You would potentially be losing out on a further month of earnings. This was one of our biggest fears when we started reintroducing tourismto the area, that perhaps people wouldn’t declare their symptoms.

I then worked together with our local community to put a pathway in place and came up with the idea of a ‘safehouse’, which is effectively a self-contained cottage in a rural area. We hoped this would also encourage visitors to be compliant throughout their visit. Here they could phone 111 and visit the local hospital to get a test, which they would do from the comfort of their own car. The safehouse is a paid accommodation so the guests and locals can be rest assured there is no contact or spread across the community. We will organise shopping for them to be delivered to their door, have WiFi, 4G, heating etc. It’s a very comfortable environment for them to isolate in with their household. For us, cost is a tiny aspect of it, it’s really about protecting the area so we’ve rolled this safehouse out for a period of 6 months and will review again after this.

Ultimately, I volunteered for the good of the island and the community. It’s our responsibility to look after the tourism and hospitality sector after the bashing it took from COVID. I had the ability, knowledge and contacts in place to take this on and we’ve now been in contact with the other islands to roll out a similar scheme in the next few days.

The council was great in assisting us in finding an appropriate safehouse, I can’t stress it enough, it’s really reassured people. On top of this, the compliance of visitors has been amazing, wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers. Our recovery group, have also been a power force behind it all, ensuring there’s appropriate sanitisers for everyone and appropriate signage across the island. It really has been a great community effort all round.”