Holiday season

Skye prepares for holiday season as staff crisis hits island

The impact of Brexit and those leaving the industry due to the risks posed by the pandemic have left gaps in the workforce as the festive season begins, with a lack of affordable housing for workers also adding pressure.

It comes as businesses prepare for the first summer without coronavirus restrictions, although new fuel price pressure is expected to impact the season, said Simon Cousins, spokesman for Skye Connect, an organization that develops the economy of island tourism.

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Mr Cousins ​​said: ‘The irony is that for businesses that are busy, some are not able to offer the same level of service in the past. This is because there is a real staffing problem on SKye. This is an issue facing the industry across Scotland, but we know Skye’s tourism industry is particularly hard hit.

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“We have companies that would normally offer a seven-night service during peak season and are now offering four or five so they can give existing staff enough time off.

“These companies that are trying to continue with full service are hiring staff with health issues. I know of a hotel where a senior manager took care of everything from breakfast in the morning to housekeeping to the bar in the evening. It just ran out and is now offline. And we are only in June.

“We have a situation where we have a housing crisis, a personnel crisis and a post-pandemic recovery. It’s really very difficult for our businesses.”

The popularity of landmarks such as the Old Man of Storr has led to a huge increase in visitor numbers to Skye, but hotel businesses are struggling with a staff crisis at the start of the season. Photo: Tom Stromner – Flickr – CC

Mr Cousins ​​said a figure on unfilled jobs on the island was due to be released next month.

Nationally, the Scottish Tourism Alliance said there are 230,000 tourism jobs in Scotland, part-time, full-time or in the direct supply chain.

As of May 23, the vacancy rate was 20%, or the equivalent of 45,000 jobs.

Social media campaigns have recently been launched on Skye to attract people to the island’s hospitality industry.

Mr Cousins ​​said summer visitor numbers will become clearer next week when the school holidays are fully underway, although at the moment he felt calmer than in pre-pandemic years.

“All we want to do is provide a service that visitors can expect. The last thing we want is for a visitor to come and say ‘Skye was lovely, but we couldn’t take meals,'” he added.

Skye has seen an increase in visitor numbers in recent years with attractions such as the Fairy Pools, the Quairaing and the Old Man of Storr – and the surrounding communities – overwhelmed with visitors.

The Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland works with residents to protect and conserve great sites.

The monument has seen an increase in visitor numbers from around 20,000 a decade ago to around 200,000 a year, said Murray Swapp, access projects manager for the trust.

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