How hotels in the Highlands are riding the ‘perfect storm’

Press & Journal – Kelly Wilson 

Hotels across the Highlands are being urged to put their staff first in a bid to help the sector get back on track and ride the “perfect storm”.

The pandemic and Brexit have had a profound impact on hotels and restaurants across Scotland, but have been felt particularly in remote areas.

The call is for tourism and hospitality businesses to overcome the persistent staff recruitment crisis by bringing in measures such as paying staff well, offering flexibility with working hours, mentoring and training, and focusing on mental health as well as taking a long-term approach to sustainability.

It comes after the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) published figures warning one in three tourism and hospitality businesses are likely to fail this year.

Recruitment crisis in industry

Marina Huggett, chair of Achnagairn Estate, has led a significant change in the day-to-day operation of the historic manor house near Inverness as it faced managing both forced closures due to Covid and a staff shortage.

A restructuring meant staff numbers at the estate, which operates at an exclusive-use venue, have been reduced with numbers now at 29 compared to 62 pre-Covid.

The restaurant is no longer open, with catering for guests being carried out by local businesses instead.

Ms Huggett said: “I think what we’ve been able to do as a result of the pandemic and staff shortages is encourage multi-tasking and get people to do more than one job.