SHOP owners and traders have told how they fear the loss of the Waverley's passengers will drive another nail into this year's tourist season.

Local businesses already counting the cost of the cancellation of major festivals in the area due to coronavirus restrictions - as well as a slump in visitor numbers due to lockdown.

They told the News that the popular paddle steamer being back out of action after its crash in Brodick last week is another hammer blow to the town's economy.

Les Ward, owner of Wards at Largs said: "For years the Waverley has brought a lot of tourism to Largs.

"On the day of the accident we had six customers who were sailing on the boat, including some who had come across from Edinburgh.

"If you consider that the Waverley was only operating at a third of capacity because of Covid restrictions, it's a fair guess to say we could have had around 20 customers on a normal day."

Wards sells a range of merchandising around the ship, as well as sporting a large model of a sister paddle steamer ship above the counter.

Les said: "It's an iconic ship and we sell a lot of memorabilia around it

"It is another tourist attraction out of the town. We are absolutely gutted."

Les, who is also a director for Gillian's Saltire Appeal, said: "The charity was even looking at purchasing a season ticket so people recovering from cancer who stay at our property in Largs could go out for free and enjoy a regular sail. That looks like it won't be happening any time soon."

Stewart Grant, owner of The Three Reasons and The George pubs in Largs town centre also lamented the loss of trade.

He said: "The Waverley always brings us a turn. We even get the staff, including the crew coming in when the Waverley berths here at night.

"It is a real shame as they had only announced extra sailings the day before the accident.

"For Largs, it is a huge loss as the Waverley brings people to the area even just to see it sailing past. It will have an impact, without a doubt."

Gloria Craigmile, co-owner of The Candy Box and Continental chocolatiers in Tron Place, said: "With losing the Viking Festival in Largs and the Country Music Festival in Millport, this is the last thing we wanted. We need every bit of business we can get in what has been a tough year.

"We do get a lot of customers. When it is departing from Largs we open earlier in the day to make sure we are fully ready.

"The Waverley always gives us extra custom and it is those wee extras which keep businesses going in these tough times."

Councillor Alex Gallagher, who has the Covid19 economic recovery role in the NAC Cabinet, said: "It is a big blow and shock to all of us. It is a blow and not good for tourism at all as it is a big draw and generates a lot of interest."