Is British tourism making the most of the world’s obsession with football?

Is British tourism making the most of the world’s obsession with football? At an English Premier League match in Liverpool last month I was amazed at the number of nationalities sitting beside me: American, German, Danish, Irish, Japanese. All had come to the UK primarily to watch the match. All Premier League clubs attract followings around the world, some more than others. Many will pay a few thousand pounds just to watch one game, with accompanying hospitality, hotel stays and visits to nearby attractions. Celtic and Rangers are the biggest equivalents in Scotland although Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs (and alas to a lesser extent my own home town club St Johnstone) may disagree. Are they doing enough to cash in for the benefit of themselves and Scottish tourism? I doubt it.

Game on! Skye hotels serve up challenge to Andy’s management company

A set of three boutique hotels on Skye is courting success against a company which manages Andy Murray’s hotel in the main awards for Scotland’s catering, hospitality and tourism industries. In another David vs Goliath confrontation at this year’s Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards, where finalists come from as far apart as Wester Ross and the Scottish Borders, a restaurant in rural Perthshire is up against the head chef of the two Michelin Star Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. Sonas, the family firm which owns and operates the Skye hotels, is one of three finalists in the Group Hotel of the Year category along with Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI) and the 283-bedroom Crowne Plaza in Glasgow, part of InterContinental Hotels. Anne and Ken Gunn opened their first hotel, Toravaig, in 2007, and later added Duisdale House and Skeabost House. They have a combined total of 43 bedrooms. Properties managed by ICMI include Cromlix near Dunblane, which is owned by world number one tennis player Andy Murray and his family; Greywalls beside Muirfield golf course at Gullane in East Lothian; Inverlochy Castle near Fort William; and the Roxburghe Hotel at Kelso. In the running for Chef of the Year are Stephen McLaughlin, Tim Dover of The Roost Restaurant near Bridge of Earn, and Stewart Macauly of The Adamson in St Andrews. Dover, a Masterchef of Great Britain, opened The Roost in 2008. A runner-up in the category last year, Edinburgh’s Cafe St Honore has again reached the final of the…

VisitScotland banishes some of its best friends

We said last month how much we were looking forward to VisitScotland’s Tourism Expo and how we’d never missed it in 10 years. Alas, in a classic example of petty short sightedness, for the first time VS has stopped specialist PR agencies like ours attending this year’s event in Glasgow by refusing admission tickets, (wrongly) claiming they were using it to tout for business. Expo is a great annual opportunity for us to meet exhibiting clients and contacts, keep up to date with hospitality business trends and find out what VisitScotland is doing. We’d arranged to meet overseas luxury tour operators at the show to promote our clients – and Scotland. VS has told us we now have to meet them ‘off-site’. A golden opportunity missed for specialists like Hotel PR to help VS do its job of attracting more visitors to Scotland.

CitizenM at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport

It’s rare that we promote a non-client but a recent stay at CitizenM at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport reminded me what too many hotels lack – fun and flexibility. Plenty of cheery, helpful, energetic and well informed staff who enjoy their jobs. Good nutritious food and drink available 24/7. In many ways air travellers’ needs are different but how marvellous to be in such a lively ‘Can Do’ atmosphere. Wide range of guests too. Others seemed between 5 and 80. Some slogans in public areas may be a little OTT but there was an overwhelming feeling that guests and not management call the shots, and that a hotel stay should be, well, fun. One of the coolest hotels on the planet? No doubt about it.

Lack of Mystery Guests

After 16 years specialising in the Scottish hospitality business I find it disappointing how few hotel owners and General Managers use ‘mystery guests.’ Are they afraid what these independent souls might find? Quite possibly, but it’s also a sign of an arrogance which is especially true of some owners. “Who could possibly criticise my hotel?!” Price is one thing. Complacency is altogether different – and dangerous. In my experience, the most successful hotels and restaurants are those which embrace positive criticism and are keen to do even better. A neutral perceptive can be worth hundreds of times the small cost involved. An experienced outsider is likely to tell you things even the best GM hasn’t yet spotted. And that can mean a big boost to the bottom line.

Masterchef champion – ‘Most exciting time for Scottish food in 30 years’

UK Masterchef: The Professionals winner Gary Maclean has joined the judging panel of Scotland’s top competition for hotels, restaurants and gastro pubs. The Senior Chef Lecturer at City of Glasgow College beat 47 other professional chefs in seven weeks of culinary challenges in the BBC TV show. The final programme attracted a viewing audience of 10 million. The 45-year-old father of six said he was surprised to have been asked to join the Advisory Board of the Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards as he had twice finished runner up in the Hospitality Educator category. “It’s an honour,” he commented. “I’ve looked up to others on the Board throughout my career. Each is an expert in their field.” Gary, who started working in hotels at the age of 15, said he was joining the panel at “the most exciting time in food in Scotland in my whole career. Edinburgh has been a guiding light for more than 10 years. Loads of young chefs are opening restaurants all over the country, especially in Glasgow, and the food is often magnificent.“ His career has included Head Chef at Glasgow’s Yes and October restaurants, work for the GI Group of bars and restaurants, and Executive Chef at Ayrshire’s Buzzworks. He has taught many thousands of students and teaching has been the love of his life. “I get a big kick out of it,” he said. “It allows you to hone your own skills and it’s a massive responsibility to coach the next generation of…

Scotland’s top young chef set to launch two new restaurants

Scotland’s top young chef Adam Newth, about to launch two new ventures and triple his staff, has called on others in the restaurant business to put themselves in the limelight by competing for industry awards. The 26-year-old Chef-Proprietor of the two AA Rosette Tayberry restaurant in Broughty Ferry near Dundee, who took the inaugural Young Chef of the Year title in the Catering Scotland (CIS) Awards in 2016, is due to take over the catering at Kinnettles Castle at Forfar following its transformation into an exclusive use wedding and private events venue. In the Spring he will launch a second Tayberry restaurant in the new Kinnettles hotel in St Andrews. “Winning a competition gives your business a buzz,” he commented. “It gives you the reassurance you’re doing a lot of things right and indicates to the outside world you’re a trusted brand. You get the wind behind you and it boosts your profile. Articles go in the press and social media, and readers say ‘I must try that place!’” Success certainly hasn’t come on a plate for Newth who began restaurant work preparing salads and making sandwiches in a cafe in his home town of Arbroath at the age of 14. Confessing to not having done well at school, he took day release classes in cooking at Angus College before leaving home at 16 to work as a commis chef at former Rangers Football Club Chairman David Murray’s Circus restaurant in Edinburgh. Restaurants where he then honed his skills included…

Entries For The Catering Scotland (CIS) Awards Opened On 9 January And Close On 10 March

As Scotland’s annual competition combining the catering, hospitality and tourism industries, the CIS Excellence Awards are seen as the ultimate accolade for Scottish hotels, restaurants, gastro pubs, chefs and other organisations. The Awards presentation dinner will be held on Thursday 25 May at the Glasgow Hilton. To enter see