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Well yes, Phil, I'm entirely in your camp. Or wild camp. Or whatever.
Sure, there are many establishments that thrive. One in particular is the Alexandra Hotel in Ballater. Click here to take a look I've stayed there on many occasions - most of which have been outwith The Challenge. Highly recommended.
The difficulty is a grievious misunderstanding of our economics here in Scotland. We're entirely happy to pay, as it may be, £80 for a double. And up to £30 or so a head for a decent meal. But we're not going to pony up for some class of, uh, dining experience.
To survive as a hotel you have to be open to all comers - and, hard tho' this may be, unless you you get at least an 80% occumpancy all year, you're out of business. My sister-in-law had a private hotel/B&B in central Edinburgh and achieved a 90% rate through referrals and repeats - but she worked her nose off to get these results.
So, what it be? One thing for sure, relying on a single short-time event such as The Challlenge is a road to ruin. Ingoring the Scottish 500 - as did the now past owner of the Strathcarron Inn - is beyond stupidity.
It's a market, babes. It's hard, but that's just how it goes. There's a very good reason why certain thrive and others go to the wall. Understand your market and give the people what they want/need and all will be well. Sure, you can gently move them around - and there are many restos/hotels here that are doing this - Oban in particular! - but at the heel of the hunt it's your repeats that will pay your bills.
One last - I live in what may be classed as an, uh, extreme rural environment. And, for me, it's important to support my local enterprises.
I would urge all Challengers to, if possible, avoid food parcels/re-supplys/drops and rather make their best attempt to buy from local sources if at all possible. Curiously enough, we in Scotland manage to eat well! We have shops. They take money in exchange for scoff! It's kind of retro - you hand over pieces of paper and metal, and in return you get your hearts' desire. Which you can eat.
It's important. We welcome you - and we do hope that you can contribute to our economy!
"So, what it be? One thing for sure, relying on a single short-time event such as The Challlenge is a road to ruin."
I don't believe for one moment that Phil was suggesting that two Challengers not taking rooms in the Glen Isla Hotel was the reason for its demise. He does however make a very good point: If you don't use it, you'll lose it. In the UK it is quite normal for the well-heeled to bemoan the passing of milk doorstep deliveries, the closing of the corner shop and the local pub. Quite how many of these moaners actually used these services when they were available is quite a different thing, and seemingly of no consequence to those who mourn so publicly of their passing.
Each Highland hotel within the Challenge boundaries at best gets three days when Challengers pass through. I would encourage every Challenger to make use of every facility that these oases offer. Phil and I certainly will be, with Dinner, Bed & Breakfast at our start and finishing hotels and both the Cross in Kingussie and the magnificent Fife Arms. It's a holiday and we are d*mn well going to enjoy it to the maximum, supporting businesses that have invested heavily in providing excellent services.
Love and Cuddles to you all,
Well said, Al. Let The Guzzling Begin at each and every opportunity!
They came to Boff but stayed to Scoff!
I happily resupply breakfast, snack and lunch items from the villages/towns I pass through and stop at every opportunity for s meal or just coffee and cake, this year I've planned my route such that I can carry all my main meal items and post no parcels as I can shop and stop to eat at a local eatery almost every other day. However, I will have no accomodation other than campsites until I reach Tarfside, where I hope I'll bag a bed, because I simply cannot afford or justify the cost, the single traveller supplement tends to be extortionate, which is a shame, I would so love a night or two in a cosy bed. Ho hum.
Hi Louise. I wasn't suggesting that Challengers (in a backpacking event!) should shoulder the heavy burden of the scottish hotelier. Just that these remoter places are pretty much doomed by the changing nature of the modern tourist - motorhomes, self catering, glamping etc. So we shouldn't be surprised when "it's happened again".
Some, like the Clova, have adapted by providing self catering lodges and an upmarket bunkhouse. Others are stuck with 70s decor & facilities, the cost of upgrading far exceeding any possible return from a diminishing clientele.
They'll need to sell a lot of beer & fish suppers to keep going!
I don't think the problems at the Glen Isla were due to lack of patronage, it has the advantage of being quite close to a large urban population and benefits from things like being close to Glen Shee ski resort, the pony trekking and the Cateran Trail. A far better position than a lot of the old hotels & lodges at the end of some glen somewhere. The first closure was by all accounts caused by a bust-up between the couple managing it. The owner obviously thought that there was enough potential to justify the investment. It would seem that again there has been some kind of failure in the absent owner and investor/ local management setup. It would appear that he has come to the conclusion that it is a model that doesn't work.
I can't disagree with Phil's sentiments in general but places like Glen Isla, Glen Clova & Braemar all show that there are people who believe that there is a future in highland hotels & catering, but only in places that have easy access and attraction to the mass market.
A year ago my wife and I stayed in a cluster of cabins near Ullapool. They were being renovated one by one by a couple who had bought them in a derilict condition. They told me that because of the success of the NC500, they were always at 100% capacity with people always turning up on spec. That is, to me, obviously the key to success for a lot of these places, they need to intigrate with activities that bring the punters in, there has always been hiking, birdwatching, fishing etc but these days there are other activities that could bring folks in from cross country skiing courses, MTB, triathlons etc. Even the bloody windfarms have fans (no pun intended). You only have to look at the success of the West Highland Way and the hotels who do baggage transfer services etc.
There will always be a customer base of folks who just want to go somewhere quiet, have a nice meal and a dram before retiring to bed, looking forward a a good hike around the local area the next day, I must admit to often being in that demographic myself, but it isn't where the biggest potential customer base is these days.
It is a real balancing act, I would hate thate the highlands all ended up looking like Fort Bill or Aviemore, but the peaceful quiet places are always going to struggle, simply because they are peaceful & quiet.
Just my two cents worth....
Phil, I didn't mean it that way, my point was really that a solo traveller at any time could be put off by the price of single occupation of a room. I certainly am.
Now on my fourth crossing we have learned to resupply and take every advantage of local resources. I would say we are almost equal in our wild camp nights to hotels or B&B's so I have spent lots of time researching rural accommodations. It certainly adds to the adventure and makes the experience more "real" immersing yourself in the culture of the place you visit. However I will say that while we have never found anything but delightful people when we arrive, once you get outside the city centers of Scotland communication can be lacking. Whether it is answering the phone or especially returning emails. If you have a social media presence you should be responding to social media requests, and if you have an email address for your business you should be monitoring it and returning messages. It has been a struggle sometimes to get rooms booked and questions answered from a distance. This has been true more so for resources like restaurants/pubs and food stores. I am sure this has not helped in some cases business' growing, staying booked, or even staying in business. Nothing that will keep us from coming back! :heart_eyes: