In an exclusive Q&A with The Herald, he explained the benefits of having a location around the North Coast 500 tourist route and the investment in North Coast Hotels.
However, he also highlighted challenges in the sector such as recruitment and the lack of affordable housing.
What is the name of your business?
Highland Coast Hotel
Where does it come from?
From 2021, Highland Coast Hotels has acquired several popular hotels in the North Highlands; including the award-winning Kylesku Hotel, overlooking beautiful Loch Gleann Dubh in the West Highlands; Newton Lodge overlooking Loch Glencoul minutes from Kylesku; Plockton Inn on the west coast of the North Highlands; Historic Tongue Hotel on the north shore; The Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch is situated on the first course of one of the most prestigious golf courses in the world; and the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora, is close to other golf courses, stunning beaches and world-famous attractions.
What does it make / make?
Formed in April 2021, Highland Coast Hotels is a Scottish-based group that aims to bring innovative, sustainable and community-led hospitality to the North Highlands of Scotland.
Who does it sell to?
Highland Coast hotels attract discerning visitors from Scotland, across the UK and around the world.
What is the benefit?
It’s been a busy year of change and investment at our Plockton and Tongue sites with major refurbishments, as well as ongoing business across our hotels.
We are now building a strong foundation as we expect growth to come from the return of international visitors and continued support from our local and UK markets.
Our 2022 earnings exceeded £5.4 million.
READ MORE: Former Dubai resort boss to take charge of Scottish hotel group
How many employees?
We currently employ over 160 colleagues, making us one of the largest employers in the Northern Highlands.
Unfortunately, we still have serious problems with recruitment and a lack of affordable housing. It is also very frustrating to understand how difficult it is to set up apprenticeship programs with the long-term goal of providing people with employment opportunities, not just employment.
Why did you fall down?
The Scottish Highlands are not one of the most beautiful corners of the world, but this area has many families and my memories. My grandparents were hotel owners and managers in the Scottish Highlands, including places in Forres, Nairn, Grantown-on-Spey, Aviemore and Craigellachie. My wife Elizabeth is from Barra in the Western Isles.
I am passionate about promoting local livelihoods and sustainable tourism.
As Scotland’s newest shopping destination, Highlands Coast Hotels has already established a reputation for showcasing the best of Highland food and drink, supporting local businesses and hospitality.
I look forward to the challenges of leading Highland Coast Hotels in the next phase of its development.
What do you do before?
I was the CEO and board member of Jumeirah Hospitality Group in Dubai; Managing Director of Forte Heritage Hotels; and Managing Director of Le Meridien Africa, Caribbean and Indian Ocean.
I have enjoyed a long and distinguished career developing and running some of the world’s most prestigious hotels, as well as being a non-executive member of the Indian Hotels company, Taj Group; Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland; and the Emirates Hotel Academy in the United Arab Emirates.
As a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and one of the first members of the Global Scots international business network, I have a wealth of knowledge and passion for the Scottish Highlands which perfectly aligns with the ambitions of Highland Coast Hotels.
READ MORE: £1.8m refurbishment of two famous Scottish hotels
What do you like?
I still believe it is one of the best jobs in the world.
What are your goals for the company?
I joined Highland Coast Hotels as CEO last month to consolidate our operations and lead the business into its next phase of development and growth.
It’s an exciting time. 2022 is also set for Royal Marine Brora which won the national title and reached The Times Top 100 hotels to visit. 2023 has already seen the introduction of two newly designed items in the collection. The Tongue Hotel and Plockton Inn reopened to guests last month after major renovations.
For the first time with Highland Coast hotels, it will be possible to explore the entire NC500 while enjoying the highest quality hospitality.
Now we want to strengthen and improve the hotels we have, and in doing so, we will help promote the growth of the region. Our mission is to create a great experience around the North Coast 500 for discerning travelers who come from all over the world; sustainable transport; embrace the community; and draw on the expertise and experience of local vendors in the Highlands.
In particular, we are looking to expand the season and bring sales to the local economy in the autumn and winter months, showing areas that are less affected by tourism and encouraging our guests to spend more time visiting the area.
READ MORE: 500 iconic North Coast hotels reopen
What would help the most?
Affordable housing for rural areas to help us find local workers and allow them to live and work where they call home.
What is the most important lesson you have learned?
Respect people, visitors and co-workers. Follow and exemplify the values and principles of the company you work with, respecting differences in culture and expectations.
What was your best moment?
Every time I help someone achieve their dreams, no matter how small it may seem at first.
What was your worst moment?
Different from the above. When I hurt someone.
How do you relax?
Now that I have returned to live and work in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, I enjoy spending more time with my lovely wife, Elizabeth and my family. I also enjoy being outdoors and walking my dogs, Misty, a [blue roan] a cocker spaniel, and Jojo, an Irish rescue dog.