Name: Malcolm Simpson.

Age: 59.

What is your business called?

SimpsInns – we are a family-owned group of award-winning hotels, restaurants and bars.

Where is it based?

Our venues are all in the heart of Ayrshire. Guests benefit from their close proximity to each other which allows them access to our range of accommodation, dining options and leisure facilities across the group.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We have a range of different venues, each with their own unique offering. The Gailes Hotel in Irvine is a 40-bedroom luxury hotel and is home to our stunning new spa. The Old Loans Inn is situated on the outskirts of Troon and has 20 bedrooms. The Waterside hotel and restaurant is located on the water’s edge in West Kilbride. Si! Bar & Restaurant is based in Irvine.

To whom does it sell?

Hotel guests come from all over the UK whether they are leisure or corporate customers. The hotel restaurants all appeal to local markets. At the leisure and spa day customers come from around Ayrshire and the central belt.

What is its turnover?

£10 million.

Bookings across our portfolio remain steady for the remainder of this year. We experienced a surge in bookings when we re-reopened following the lockdown, benefiting from the staycation market, and since May have seen continued to see increases across the group year on year. With the opening of the new £2m spa at The Gailes, we are also seeing an increase in leisure break bookings.

Most reservations at SimpsInns Hotels are currently from UK based customers and we have definitely seen a drop in customers from across Europe and America who would normally have visited the Ayrshire coast on golf breaks. However, we are now starting to see signs of guests from abroad returning to the hotels with several large group bookings in the coming month.

How many employees does it have?

Due to investment and growth across the business, SimpsInns has seen staff numbers increase from 228 pre pandemic to 295 today. We were fortunate enough to not have to make anyone redundant with staff remaining on furlough until we were able to reopen. At this time we do not have any staff on furlough and are still recruiting for various positions across our group.

When was it formed?


What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was working in management dealing with primarily HR and training for a multinational hotel chain. Over twenty years ago my wife and I took over the Old Loans Inn in the village of Loans just outside Troon. Since then, we have been evolving our story as a brand, growing and developing where we can, but always remaining a truly family-run business.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Personal savings.

What was your biggest break?

Taking the decision to develop and build The Gailes Hotel & Spa. We have just made a significant investment in refurbishing the spa to turn it into what we think is a state-of-the-art destination wellness centre. It is a project we’re extremely proud of and we hope it will attract visitors from across the central belt for day visits and the rest of Scotland for overnight packages. We have also installed a new pavilion at The Gailes to meet the huge demand for weddings. We had already made a decision to create more of a leisure destination before the pandemic, and despite some disruption to that plan, we are very happy with the outcome.

What was your worst moment?

When Covid-19 closed down all of our venues. Like many hospitality businesses, the challenges posed by the pandemic have been significant for us as a business. However, it also presented opportunities. Over the past 18 months, we have invested a huge amount across our portfolio of venues to really take the offering to the next level. This was not our original intention, but we just decided to take advantage of that window of closure. We will never get an opportunity like that again to refurbish without disrupting service. We wanted to be on the front foot when we were able to reopen. The result is quite a transformation of the space, especially at The Gailes.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The people element – whether that’s our guests or our brilliant SimpsInns team across all of our venues. Our location is also great. Being on the Ayrshire coast we are surrounded by plenty of fresh air, beaches, walking and cycling.

What do you least enjoy?

I dislike external political influences on the industry.

What is your biggest bugbear?

The discount culture.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We see ourselves continuing to develop and expand the leisure, spa and accommodation across all our venues. You have to keep looking ahead.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Review non-domestic taxation and VAT.

With the government providing assistance to hospitality businesses who were one of the worst hit industries throughout the pandemic, we saw our VAT rate drop to five per cent. Despite an extension of this we will soon see this increase to 12.5% followed by a returnin to 20% in April 2022. With the UK having one of the highest VAT rates across the EU, I would like to see a review of these rates to continue to assist businesses to recover from the effects of the last 18 months.

Non domestic rates are currently suspended for hospitality due to the pandemic; however I would like to see a reduction in these rates in order to reduce the burden across the industry.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Work hard if you want to succeed. That is something I live my life by to this day.

How do you relax?

I enjoy getting out on the golf course, walking and skiing, and occasionally going to the gym when I put my mind to it.