The owner of Crieff Hydro said a recruitment crisis exacerbated by Brexit is harming the hospitality sector’s recovery as he seeks to fill 75 jobs.
Stephen Leckie, the fifth generation owner of the Perthshire-based business, said Brexit had made it much harder to recruit European workers.
The business previously had 140 live-in members of staff in Crieff but today that number is just 40.
Recruitment has been a widespread issue in hospitality businesses, with Gleneagles Hotel advertising jobs on flyers put through doors.
Brexit impact on jobs
Crieff Hydro’s jobs drive follows hundreds of staff leaving last year as the pandemic hit.
Mr Leckie, who is chair of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said Brexit is a “huge element” of the recruitment crisis.
He said: “The cost of getting European members of staff over is now £3,000.
“It’s £1,000 for each member of staff as they have to isolate for 10 days and then £2,000 in agency and medical fees and other stuff.
“So it’s £3k to bring a member of staff in and then you have to pay £10.10 an hour, £25,600 a year.
“You pass all these hurdles and then you have to demonstrate that it’s a skilled worker.
“The ask of the Government in Westminster is that we need more hospitality positions put on the skilled worker shortage occupation list – chefs, housekeeping staff and food and beverage staff.
“We need a Covid recovery visa to get staff in now. Not in six weeks and not next year.”
Need for school leavers to join industry
Crieff Hydro took on £5 million in additional debt last year as the pandemic hit. Its workforce fell from 1,050 to just 600.
Mr Leckie said the group, which has seven hotels, currently has a workforce of around 700 staff with 75 vacancies.
The staffing requirements will rise to 900 people by the summer.
“We recently held a recruitment evening and gained eight members of staff,” he added.
“That’s a big success – at the moment every one counts.
“The short term solution is bringing over more European staff. Medium term it’s about persuading school leavers to come and work in this industry.
“They mustn’t think it’s just a minimum wage industry – it just isn’t.
“You may start on minimum wage but quickly you’ll rise through the ranks if you have passion.
“We preserve our staff and look after them. We give them decent food, decent uniform, decent training. Yes, they work hard but we want them to enjoy their job.
“What we can not do in food and beverage is say you can’t work evenings or weekends. That’s the biggest issue in this industry.”
Courier Business Briefing on hospitality recovery
Mr Leckie said he recently shared his concerns to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the new tourism minister Ivan McKee, who met virtually with the Scottish Tourism Alliance after being re-elected.
“I told her the recruitment issue is throttling back growth and recovery prospects,” he said.
“She listens and takes the Alliance seriously.”
Mr Leckie is the keynote speaker at a Courier Business Briefing on June 23 which has the theme of tourism and hospitality recovery.
The event is held in association with Johnston Carmichael and supported by Tricorn Capital.
Other speakers for the free virtual event include V&A Dundee chair Tim Allan and Johnston Carmichael’s head of leisure and tourism Rosalind Catto.
To register for the free online briefing, visit www.thecourierbriefings.co.uk