In the year of Covid, tourism and travel businesses had to adapt to survive
The past year has taken its toll on holiday accommodation operations big and small, with some going to the wall and others unsure if 2021 will see them hold out until things improve, but two properties at opposite ends of the market have weathered the storm so far.
At Cairngorm Guest House in Aviemore, Mark and Susie Petty had only just bought the property when Covid hit and despite the best snow season for a decade, the rooms sat empty for much of the year.
“The last thing we wanted to do was shut but we had to go with it,” said Mark.
For the Pettys, furlough was a lifesaver.
“It saved us. Otherwise I would have had to get rid of staff. When we opened again we followed all the instructions, screens between tables, a one-way system and used extra cleaning products and handwash. Guests told us they felt safe without it being in your face.”
All of the extra cleaning puts up staff costs which weren’t passed on.
“We spent an absolute fortune on PPE and cleaning products. And the waste is a problem; it’s terrible for the environment,” said Mark, dressed in a plastic face mask, gloves and apron, all of which go straight in the bin every day.
During lockdown the Pettys took the opportunity to get on with redecorating all but one of the 12 rooms.
“We had time to do as much refurbishment as we could afford.”
Opening up from 2 April, the guest house has bookings from Scots, and English visitors from 26 May.
“Hundreds of English visitors kept us alive last year, seeing Scotland for the first time - many had never been north of Manchester. And we had Scots exploring Scotland for the first time.”
After a year of ups and downs the Pettys are hanging on in there.
“Things can only get better,” said Mark. “People want to be here. And for the moment, we have survived.”
At the other end of the scale in Glasgow’s city centre, Kimpton Blythswood Square saw its busy public bars and restaurant closed during lockdown and once reopened, quiet.
With international travellers absent, it was domestic tourists who kept things ticking over with their need for escape.
Gillian Mylles, Hotel Manager at Kimpton Blythswood Square said: “We stayed open last year during tier three restrictions when many other Scottish hotels closed, but were delighted to have the support of guests from our local community, achieving 40-50% occupancy at weekends. Most seemed to book overnights just to escape their own four walls.”
With lockdown an opportunity to plan for 2021, the hotel aims to focus on wellbeing and its destination thermal spa.
“We noticed a real desire from guests to return for rest, relaxation and also selfcare from the perspective of mental health last year post-lockdown.’
Mylles stresses the importance of human connections and how staff can really make a difference.
“Our team offers authentic personal touches to ensure every guest experience is truly one-of-a-kind.”