Peter Ranscombe asks 10 leading figures from the hospitality industry about the challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.
“I hope 2022 sees the end of Covid and that we can get back to some kind of normality, where we do not have a limit on the numbers for group parties and events.
“International visitors are key for businesses in the Highlands and I hope we see their return as soon as possible.
“My fear would be around more restrictions and these resulting in the demise of many smaller businesses, which play a key role in hospitality throughout the Highlands – in particular, rural areas.
“This would reduce the level of service provided, putting Highland hospitality, an important aspect of our culture, at risk.”
Sam Faircliff is managing director of Cairngorm Brewery and its Winking Owl pub in Aviemore.
“Whilst we might feel like we are in the thick of the pandemic, I have faith we are going in the right direction and can, hopefully, begin to implement the exciting plans we have had in the pipeline for the past year.
“Being in the heart of malt whisky country and in the wonderful location that is Speyside, in pre-pandemic times tourism was booming.
“I remain hopeful that international travel opens up again sometime soon, so we can continue to host people from all corners of the world and give them that unique experience The Craigellachie Hotel offers.”
Will Halsall is general manager and executive chef at The Craigellachie Hotel on Speyside.
“As Captain’s Galley enters its 20th year of service, we are all looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that 2022 will undoubtedly bring.
“Based in the thriving gateway port of Scrabster, we continue to serve world-class sustainable fish and shellfish from the most stable seafood suppliers in the world – Scottish fishermen.
“Now, with government lockdowns easing, we are experiencing more inquiries and table bookings, which indicates we have another busy season ahead, so it’s full steam ahead into the new year.”
Jim Cowie is chef and co-owner of the Captain’s Galley Seafood Restaurant in Scrabster, near Thurso.
“My hopes for 2022 are that we can get to a new normal in the aftermath of Covid – something a little more stable and predictable that will allow our hospitality and event industries to thrive.
“We absolutely love getting out to meet people and putting a Nc’nean whisky six in their hands, and we haven’t been able to do nearly enough of that over the past two years.
“My fear is the impacts of Covid and Brexit drag on, creating continuing uncertainty for everyone.
“That being said, it is an industry full of creative and resilient people who I know will find ways to succeed, come what may.”
Annabel Thomas, founder of Nc’nean Distillery on the Morvern peninsula.
Gordon Campbell Gray
“Scottish tourism is alive and kicking following what was certainly a very tricky, complicated and busy year for many.
“People have discovered parts of Scotland for the first time and enjoyed it immensely.
“It is now time to create a fresh feeling of optimism regarding the year ahead, despite all the difficulties we will inevitably face.
“We also need to ensure our staff and teams are motivated and encouraged to stay in our wonderful industry, recognising how great it is and what potential it holds.
“Most importantly we must treat everyone with great respect.”
“The global pandemic has brought enormous uncertainty for the hospitality and tourism industries, which have already endured two years of difficult trading, closure, operational issues and vastly increased costs.
“Travel restrictions and Covid protocols make decision-making and forecasting challenging to say the least.
“However, I’m very buoyed by the vaccine roll-out and optimistic regarding the coming year.
“Our UK visitors were the greatest ambassadors for the region last year and we look forward to welcoming them back in 2022.
“It’s also imperative we see the return of our international market to experience the beautiful Highlands and the world-famous North Coast 500.”
Tony Story is chief executive of Kingsmills Hotel Group, of Inverness.
“2022 looks like it could be another challenging year for the hospitality industry but there’s still a lot to be positive about.
“Labour availability will remain an issue because the number of staff self-isolating at any time could make it difficult for bars and restaurants to function.
“Exporting food and drink from the EU to the UK may now be challenging, because of Brexit, but that creates opportunities for local producers – such as brewers.
“The current focus on being more sustainable will also be beneficial as more people want to shop, eat and drink locally, and should slowly help the industry begin to thrive again.”
Adam Hardie is head of food and drink at accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael.
“As we start to see light at the end of the tunnel, I hope we can welcome more visitors to our beautiful distilleries.
“There is nothing better than the buzz of a busy restaurant or bar, so let’s hope people continue to support local and share and promote each other to drum up more business.
“Being at home has meant people have learnt more about spirits, allowing the premium spirits category to continue to grow in popularity.
“I hope people will keep investing in high-end products as they choose quality over quantity to enjoy with friends and family.”
“Ongoing uncertainty over Covid and the full impact of Brexit mean hospitality will continue to face some headwinds as we move through the year.
“Sadly, the de facto lockdown in December was a major setback for the sector and we could see the effects of this materialising in the next few weeks.
“That said, those in the industry have already shown their drive and adaptability during the pandemic.
“With large scale events, travel and office work all returning, hopefully, sooner rather than later, there is definitely room for optimism in 2022.”
David Orr is a partner at law firm Aberdein Considine.
“First and foremost I’m looking forward to actually trading in every single month of the year – something we haven’t done since 2019.
“If our doors are closed, then we have nowhere to start.
“There’s well-publicised uncertainty across the economy and labour markets – and indeed what ‘learning to live with’ actually looks like.
“Yes there are challenges. But I know our team here and our guests will find the positives and indeed the many opportunities that exist in all our hotels across the country – just as we have at Crieff Hydro for more than 150 years.”