By Gillian McKenzie
CAREER opportunities in the Highlands and islands are increasing as the tourism season continues to extend, operators have said.
Owners of hotels, bars and restaurants say as the traditional ‘season’ stretches beyond what were previously considered the shoulder months, more opportunities for front and back of house staff and management are emerging.
A general increase in visitor numbers, the growth in ‘staycations’, and, in the case of the islands, the impact of the RET (road equivalent tariff) scheme, which has seen ferry prices brought in line with what it would cost to travel the equivalent distance by road, are all credited with bolstering trade.
As reported in SLTN earlier this year, many island operators have seen an uplift in trade since the RET scheme was implemented. Figures released by ferry operator CalMac, covering the first full year since the RET was rolled out across its network, showed that the number of passengers using its ferries last year was up 9.27% to just over five million, while the number of cars onboard rose 15.96%; the Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull route saw a 40% uplift in the number of cars last year, while passenger numbers rose 16.14% to almost 645,000.
“Mull is a very popular destination and it’s not seasonal anymore; the RET has really helped,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful place to live and work; you get to work with the freshest produce and seafood every day, really nice people and a very varied clientele. I don’t know if people from the cities realise the strength you can add to your CV by working here.
“There truly are year-round prospects for employment.”
Tom Nelson, of Glengorm Castle on the Isle of Mull, said the season is “extending all the time”.
“There are year-round opportunities,” he said.
“And there are lots of benefits to working here; it’s a really good community with lots going on.”
An Islay hotelier who asked not to be named said: “There are a lot of job opportunities because the pool of local people is only so big.
“Islay used to be more seasonal but now it’s pretty much all year round and it’s a great way of life here.”
Neil Morrison, who owns Macgochans in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, The Lochside in Bowmore on Islay and The Benleva in Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, said there are “major career opportunities” in the Highlands and islands.
“I think it can be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’; people maybe overlook the Highlands and islands,” he said.
“It’s definitely not as seasonal. Islay is year-round because of the distilleries, and the reduced ferry prices and increased sailings have had a huge impact on Mull – we see a lot more day-trippers and that has extended the season.
“There are great opportunities – good staff have the opportunity to be trained in-house and fast-tracked into managerial roles. Excellent lifelong careers can be attained by people with the right attitude and work ethic.”