Crieff Hydro boss fears staff leaving hospitality over job security concerns

The high-profile hotelier behind Crieff Hydro has expressed concern that staff could switch to other industries they perceive as more stable – and of the potential impact on his business of a lack of events.

Stephen Leckie is chief executive of Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels that also includes Peebles Hydro and Ballachulish Hotel, which has recently undergone a £1.3 million refurbishment.

He said that with the family business closed for nearly 240 days over the past 13 months, it has lost £3 million in the past year when it should have made £4m. It comes after Scotland’s family businesses have been found to be among the worst-affected globally by the pandemic, according to a recent study.

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As for staffing, before lockdown the group had more than 1,000 employees on the payroll, but this has now fallen to 650, with about 200 currently working after the group resumed activity on Monday – at what he said was a slow pace.

The hotel boss sees a 'nervousness' around working for the industry in which he operates. Picture: contributed.
The hotel boss sees a 'nervousness' around working for the industry in which he operates. Picture: contributed.
The hotel boss sees a 'nervousness' around working for the industry in which he operates. Picture: contributed.

Mr Leckie expects the total workforce to be heading towards 1,000 this time next year.

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The hotel boss – whose other roles include chair of the Scottish Tourism Alliance and president of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce – cited a “nervousness” that now exists about working for the industry in which he operates.

He said people might be wondering if they would be safer in retail, working as a delivery driver for Amazon, or working in a care home, for example, where they might see less chance of losing their job.

“The worry is those loyal members of staff that we had are thinking ‘I can't take the risk of working in that industry because I need my job, I need to earn money’,” he said.

Mr Leckie is also Lord Lieutenant for Perth and Kinross, and has been selected to feature in the 2021 edition of Who’s Who – one of just 322 names to be added to this year’s version of the famous tome that holds more than 34,000 entries of influential Brits.

He is the fifth generation of his family to run the hotel group, which claims to be the oldest trading registered company in Scotland, and hopes to see occupancy reach 80 per cent in the summer holidays.

But he also expressed concern at a lack of international travel, groups and tours, conferences, events, exhibitions, banquets and party nights. After the summer, in September, the Sunday to Thursday period will be “very quiet”, Mr Leckie said.

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As for the level of government support, he deemed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “sympathetic” to the business’s woes.

“The biggest gift the government can give us is to let us open, let us trade – and that's happening,” he said.

Mr Leckie also welcomed the business rate holiday, which “outweighs by far any grant assistance”, and the UK Government lowering VAT.

“We're in a good position, we have a good balance sheet … we will survive this,” he said.

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