Brexit proves recipe for uncertainty in hotels and food and drink sectors

Tony Story of the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness

A new report on the UK hotels market says “very few” businesses appear to have done much planning and preparation for Brexit.

The Hotel Confidence study by rural insurer NFU Mutual highlights some positive signs, such as 63% of Scots staying in hotels at least once a year, compared to 56% across the UK as a whole.

And 14% of survey respondents north of the border said they were likely to increase their hotel stays and spending during 2018.

Across the UK, 56% of hoteliers said their level of investment would increase over the next three years.

But the report also highlighted that for many people in the hospitality industry, 2017 was a “worry-laden and turbulent year beset with uncertainty around some of the biggest political changes our country is likely to experience.”

NFU Mutual hospitality and food and drink sector specialist Darren Seward added: “Hoteliers we spoke to were broadly optimistic about the future of their business looking forward to 2020, an optimism also shared by consumers, with a third estimating that they will increase spend in hotels in 2018.

“Concerns though around how a skilled workforce can be maintained post-Brexit will come as no surprise to most – unease surpassed only by a wider concern about political and economic instability as a result of Brexit negotiations.

“Some businesses already have plans in place for addressing these challenges – such as working more closely with schools and colleges – but in general very few businesses appear to have done much planning and preparation for Brexit.”

Tony Story, managing director of the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, said this was no surprise, adding: “How do you prepare for something when you don’t know what is going to happen.”

The Kingsmills will employ nearly 190 people this summer, many of them from other parts of the EU.

Stephen Gow, general manager at the Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, said: “There are obviously specific areas for concern … around free movement of staff between the EU and the UK. However, staffing issues are not the only concern.”

Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association vice-chairman Andrew Martin added: “Planning cannot be detailed as there is uncertainty about what form Brexit will ultimately take. This impairs the planning process and affects business confidence.”