Friday, 17 February 2012

Luxury Scottish Hotel Ceases Trading

If you've listened to pronouncements and speeches made by Ministers or Chair or Directors of VisitScotland the word that is currently being used to describe Scottish Tourism is "resilience". Loose definition, "the ability to recover quickly from change or misfortune; buoyancy."

I continue to wonder how resilient our tourism products are however and that has again been exemplified this morning by the sudden closure yesterday of Cromlix House near Dunblane. A highly rated and well respected country house hotel - in their own words,
"Cromlix House is one of the finest luxury hotels in Scotland. Whether it's business or pleasure, or a spur-of-the-moment romantic getaway, you will always experience a warm welcome, attentive yet discreet service and award-winning dining at Cromlix House. When you visit Scotland, you should visit one of its best country house hotels, the very definition of comfort, with a chapel that is an inspirational choice for weddings and two thousand acres of grounds that are an oasis of seclusion and tranquillity.

Although it’s less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow - Cromlix House is a world away.
Well unfortunately, at least for now, it's a lot more than a World away and for the guests who were planning their stay it is a little inconvenient, for the employees who have lost their jobs it's a lot more.

We understand that the hotel simply ceased trading at midday and that was that.

It may not be indicative of how the market place in the rest of Scotland is holding up - we have lots of positive stories of customer (and market) focused businesses allover Scotland prospering and growing - even without the help of our friendly OTA's and Flash sales sites - but it is always dangerous

But there are undoubtedly good businesses who are suffering due to lack of support from banks and who are not going to be able to ride the ever lengthening storm.

There was much talk about a Tourism Bank but I've heard nothing of it since the Scottish election. There is little or no lending from banks to small and medium sized hospitality businesses of any great note (of course there are exceptions) to keep them afloat and it was suggested in last weekends papers that The Clydesdale Bank had been told to take a harder position with hospitality lending.

Perhaps there is a need for public sector bodies to have a serious look at how resources can be best used. I remember the old call was Loans not Grants for students. Would we not be a lot better moving in the same direction for hospitality projects. By all means continue support funding initiatives and collaborations but facilitate by lending rather than underwriting with a no strings attached grant.

Grants have spectacularly failed under any name to generate sustained tourism growth; a long list of publicly funded three year projects which have then failed to stand alone. Are there many still in existence beyond the period of public support?

Surely shifting the onus to loans would move the funding into areas where there are likely to be greater levels of return for the sector as a whole and perhaps just provide the short and medium term assistance that genuinely good businesses may need to get through and prevent their doors closing.

Just a thought



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