Scotland's hospitality sector should blame Boris Johnson for Brexit's damaging effects, not Nicola Sturgeon for Covid lockdown – Helen Martin

Tourism and hospitality companies and bodies have consistently been complaining about the Scottish government’s Covid restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 4:55 am
Channel 5's 'Hotel Inspector' Alex Polizzi voted for Brexit but subsequently spoke about the problems leaving the EU has caused (Picture: by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

It’s true that lockdown could have closed their business for a while, limited what they could offer and reduced their income and profits. It’s also likely some have closed down permanently.

But to save lives it was inevitable, so complaining about the restrictions was, to me, illogical.

Now that the industry is re-opening there’s a huge recruitment drive that is desperately seeking staff for everything from golf club catering, major restaurants, hotels, pubs, time shares and many other tourism businesses. And that is certainly not based on the effects of government lockdowns and restrictions.

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In a column a few weeks ago, I wrote about the limitation of staycation holidays in Scotland because of the lack of staff, resulting in tourists paying more for a week’s accommodation, or hotels and restaurants even rejecting bookings because they could only deal with 50 per cent of their normal number of customers.

I also mentioned that we had a time-share in the Aviemore area known as the Dalfaber Village Club. Last week we had a letter from the chairman and member representatives warning us of limitations, and I’m happy to share the main points of that.

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It began: “Regrettably Aviemore (in fact the whole UK) has a considerable shortage of staff in all areas of the hospitality business which is having a severe impact on certain areas of the Macdonald Hotel & Resort business, especially during summer months.

“So how has this happened? Brexit This has been a huge blow for the hospitality sector which has relied on workers from the EU. Pre-Brexit non-UK workers made up 25 per cent of the hospitality workforce.”

(That surprised me because our part of the Dalfaber timeshare depended on more like 75 per cent of non-UK workers, from receptionists to gardeners and everything else!)

They continued: “Due to harsher migration laws (and the pandemic) almost 300,000 workers have left their jobs and returned to their home countries since March 2020.”

They explained that the loss of EU staff has caused so much more work for the fewer remaining staff in four timeshares and six hotels in the same area, that us timesharers are advised to come for six days rather than seven, leaving more time for cleaning.

We need to assist by stripping beds, emptying bins and leaving the lodge in a “reasonable manner” because the timeshare now has to source local cleaning agencies rather than staff. In recruitment, Dalfaber now offers better rates of pay, with staff benefits and live-in accommodation – which was not offered to previous EU workers.

And of course, because of Brexit, EU workers can’t come back even when Covid is under control. So, the pandemic will not be the problem for the business in the future. Brexit means running hospitality businesses will cost a lot more, and it’s possible customers will have to pay more too.

Tourism and hospitality businesses and sectors should start to blame Westminster, rather than the Scottish government, for the hellish impact on their establishments, careers and income. They could listen to Channel 5’s Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi. She admits she voted for Brexit – and now, for its devastation of the industry, condemns it.

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