AUCHRANNIE Resort on Arran revealed yesterday that staff shortages mean it is currently unable to operate at full capacity, with the award-winning hotel and spa offering customers £1,000 in vouchers if they find employees.
Business development manager Gordon Hay told The Herald that Auchrannie was limiting its occupancy to around 80 per cent to 85% of its full potential through to the end of October, emphasising the main driver of this decision was staff wellbeing. He noted this had meant bookings had been “paused” for some dates this month and in October.
Mr Hay pointed out Auchrannie, which is employee-owned, had between 20 and 30 vacancies to fill. Its current full-time equivalent workforce is around 160.
Noting the resort had been operating at more than 97% occupancy after reopening following lockdown amid strong demand, Mr Hay said: “We have had to restrain occupancy at the moment simply because of the staffing situation.
“We have done this to look after our team. It has a big knock-on financial impact.”
While noting the importance of the guest experience, Mr Hay added: “The decision to reduce occupancy is more about protecting that team.”
He said the recruitment challenges were not the result of Auchrannie’s island location but were, rather, the same as those faced by the broader hospitality sector.
Mr Hay cited a combination of factors, including some people’s decision to leave the hospitality sector amid the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit. He observed other sectors were also facing recruitment challenges.
He noted some Auchrannie staff from European Union member states had returned to their home countries during the second major lockdown.
Mr Hay pointed out these employees had been unable to travel to see friends and family during the first lockdown, given restrictions. He said: “We did see certainly in the second lockdown more people head back home because during the first lockdown they had missed that opportunity to travel.”
He observed some people did “not want to go into another situation where they do not see family and friends”.
Mr Hay said: “There is so many sort of different factors at play here. I guess like the broader hospitality industry and other industries as well we have really struggled to recruit new people into the business since the second lockdown ended.
“Since we came back in April, we have really been struggling to find staff. We are well aware it is an issue not just with us. It is not our location – the industry itself seems to be struggling to find people for various reasons.”
He added: “Part of it is certainly caused by Covid and lockdown and I guess a number of people deciding after six months at home a career in hospitality wasn’t necessarily for them.”
Mr Hay observed some people had “re-evaluated their priorities” and had maybe perceived that a “nine to five” job offered an easier lifestyle.
He said: “That is one of the main issues we have faced. I imagine Brexit has played some part in this. I think it is a combination of factors rather than one specific [thing].”
Mr Hay highlighted the urgency of the situation.
He said: “What the figures show is there is a lack of people at the moment in the economy to fill all the vacancies. Something needs to be done and…quickly.”
Mr Hay noted Auchrannie was faring better than some others in the sector on the staffing front. He said: “It is something we are having to adapt to, to keep the business operational. I would say we are probably in not too bad a situation. I certainly know a lot of businesses that are in a worse situation than us.”
Auchrannie Resort has emailed customers detailing its offer of vouchers in return for help finding staff. Mr Hay said: “Like other businesses, we are looking at how we can get our message out there [that] we are recruiting. It just seemed an obvious route to go down. We have a database of about 30,000…subscribers. We have quite a loyal customer base. We thought we would try to utilise those people to spread the word.”
Detailing its “staff referral scheme”, the hotel says: “Just share your unique referral code with anyone you think might be interested in joining the team at Auchrannie – this could be friends, family, neighbours or colleagues. Tell the person…to apply for any of our…vacancies through our website…If that person is still employed three months after starting with us, we’ll…arrange delivery of the first 50% of your vouchers. And, if after six months they are still part of the team, we’ll arrange for the remaining vouchers to be sent to you.”