Home Tourist attractions Staffing crisis hits major Scottish tourist attractions

Staffing crisis hits major Scottish tourist attractions


From castles to cathedrals, these are features of Scotland’s past and landscape that draw millions of visitors to the country each year, eager to explore its rich mosaic of architecture and history.

But in a post-pandemic crisis tourist attractions are struggling to recruit staff and it has emerged that some traditional hotspot destinations are still not open for the summer.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said staffing issues were causing problems for a number of its properties, with 15 sites yet to open due to pandemic-related issues.

Those yet to open after the pandemic include Dunkeld Cathedral, Kilmartin Crosses in Argyll, Balvenie Castle in Moray, Tolquhon Castle in Aberdeenshire and Kisimul Castle in Barra.

HES said it hoped the 15 properties still closed due to Covid would open on a rolling basis over the summer.

The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) has launched a recruitment campaign after research last month found that 55% of 850 attractions were having difficulty recruiting.

A spokeswoman for HES said staff normally employed in seasonal roles had found work in other areas after the lockdown.

She said: “While 80% of our attractions are now open to visitors, we are still facing challenges in reopening our seasonal sites, one of the main factors being the availability of staff, with many former seasonal colleagues now employed, post-pandemic, in other areas.

“This is having a detrimental effect in terms of impacting our wider industry, highlighted recently by the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions which launched a recruitment drive to attract people to the industry.”

Other factors delayed the reopening of some properties after the lockdown, such as the need for electrical checks, flushing of drains and condition inspections.

Additionally, 50 historic sites supported by HES remain closed to the public while emergency surveys are conducted to assess the condition and safety of structures.

Climate change is contributing to the deterioration of some historic sites, including the castles of Lochleven, Aberdour, Tantallon and St Andrews, Linlithgow Palace and Melrose Abbey.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said three of its properties remained closed.

The Binns’ home in Linlithgow is closed for renovation – although the grounds remain open – while the Arduaine Garden near Oban is closed due to repairs to storm damage.

Souter Johnnie’s Cottage in Ayrshire is closed due to staffing issues.

NTS said it supported ASVA’s recruitment campaign and said it had recently achieved “great results” in recruiting new employees. ASVA said the tourist attractions sector provides around 17,000 jobs, with a common misconception that working in tourism “is a job, not a career”.

It comes as the Isle of Skye is also suffering from a hospitality staff crisis as the holiday season begins.

Simon Cousins, a spokesperson for Skye Connect, which works to support the development of a robust tourism economy, said businesses were being forced to cut hours due to staffing levels.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said there were 230,000 tourism jobs north of the border, part-time, full-time or in the direct supply chain.

As of May 23, the vacancy rate was 20%, or the equivalent of 45,000 jobs.

According to the STA, summer bookings are seen by businesses as having been affected by a range of factors, including the rising cost of living in the UK, the allure of overseas holidays and people making decisions late for holidays. Scotland’s inability to compete internationally on price and value for money has also been cited as a factor.

The survey also laid bare the cost of doing business for companies in Scotland’s tourism sector.

Rising energy bills, rising supplier costs, and recruitment and staffing issues were identified as the top three challenges facing the industry.

The survey also revealed that 60% of hotels, 43% of tourist attractions and 45% of bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaways said they were unable to trade effectively with the number of staff they had. currently have.