The new chief executive of one of Scotland's fastest-growing hotel groups has pledged to 'strengthen and enhance' its venues' offering.

In an exclusive Q&A with The Herald, he has outlined the benefits of having properties all around the North Coast 500 tourist route and the investments put into the Highland Coast Hotels' estate.

However, he has also pointed to challenges in the sector including recruiting staff and a lack of affordable housing.


Guy Crawford

What is your business called?

Highland Coast Hotels

Where is it based?

Since 2021, Highland Coast Hotels has acquired several of the North Highlands’ landmark hotels; including the award-winning Kylesku Hotel, overlooking the beautiful Loch Gleann Dubh in the far West Highlands; Newton Lodge overlooking Loch Glencoul a few minutes away from Kylesku; Plockton Inn on the western seaboard of the North Highlands; historic Tongue Hotel on the north coast; the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch positioned on the first tee of one of the most revered links golf courses in the world; and the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora, lying close to further golf courses, stunning beaches and world-renowned distilleries.

What does it produce/do?

Created in April 2021, Highland Coast Hotels is a Scottish-based group aiming to bring innovative, sustainable and community-led hospitality to the stunning coastlines of the North Highlands of Scotland.

To whom does it sell?

Highland Coast Hotels appeal to discerning travellers visiting from across Scotland, the rest of the UK and around the globe.

What is its turnover?

It’s very much a year of transition and significant investments in our Plockton and Tongue properties with major refurbishments, but also ongoing investments in all our hotels.

We’re now building a solid base as we expect growth to come from the return of international visitors and ongoing support from our local communities and domestic markets in the UK.

Our turnover in 2022 was over £5.4 million.

READ MORE: Former Dubai resort chief to take over at Scottish hotels group

How many employees?

We currently employ over 160 colleagues, making us one of the largest employers in the northern Highlands.

Sadly, we still have very significant challenges in recruiting colleagues and a lack of affordable housing a very real issue. It is also very disappointing to understand how difficult it is to put in place apprenticeship training programs with a longer-term goal of giving people a career opportunity, not just a job.

Why did you take the plunge?

The Scottish Highlands is not only one of the most beautiful corners of the earth, but the region holds so many personal family connections and memories for me. My grandparents and parents were hotel owners and managers in the Scottish Highlands, including venues in Forres, Nairn, Grantown-on-Spey, Aviemore and Craigellachie. My wife Elizabeth is originally from Barra in the Western Isles.

HeraldScotland: Guy Crawford likes to sped time with wife and family, and their dogsGuy Crawford likes to sped time with wife and family, and their dogs (Image: Highland Coast Hotels)

I’m passionate about enhancing local community life and sustainable tourism.

As Scotland’s newest luxury boutique hotel collection, Highlands Coast Hotels is already establishing its reputation for showcasing world-class Highland food and drink, supporting local businesses and outstanding hospitality.

I look forward to the challenge of leading Highland Coast Hotels in the next phase of its development.

What were you doing before?

I was a CEO and board member of Jumeirah Hospitality Group in Dubai; Managing Director of Forte Heritage Hotels; and Managing Director of Le Meridien Africa, Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

I’ve enjoyed a long and distinguished career developing and running some of the world’s most exclusive luxury hotels, as well as being non-executive board member of the Indian Hotels Company, Taj Group; Lausanne Hotel School in Switzerland; and Emirates Hotel Academy in the United Arab Emirates.

As a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and one of the first members of the Global Scots international business network, I have a wealth of experience and a passion for the Scottish Highlands that fits well with the aspirations of Highland Coast Hotels.

READ MORE: £1.8m refurbishment for two iconic Scottish hotels

What do you least enjoy?

I still believe it is one of the best careers in the world.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

I joined Highland Coast Hotels as CEO just last month to consolidate our current performance and to lead the business into the next phase of its development and expansion.

It’s an exciting time. 2022 saw the relaunch of Royal Marine Brora winning national acclaim and landing straight into The Times Top 100 hotels to visit. 2023 has already seen the introduction of two newly refurbished properties to the collection. The Tongue Hotel and Plockton Inn re-opened to visitors just last month following extensive renovations.

HeraldScotland: Tongue Hotel has had significant refurbishment this yearTongue Hotel has had significant refurbishment this year (Image: Highland Coast Hotels)

For the first time with Highland Coast Hotels, it will be possible to explore the whole NC500 whilst enjoying consistent high quality highland hospitality.

We now intend to strengthen and enhance the hotels we own, and in doing so, help to further boost regional growth. Our focus is on creating great experiences around the North Coast 500 for discerning travellers visiting from around the globe; sustainable tourism; embracing the local community; and drawing upon the expertise and skills of local suppliers in the Highlands.

In particular, we’re looking at extending the season and bringing business to local visitor economies over the quieter autumn and winter months, showcasing areas that are less impacted by over-tourism and encouraging our guests to spend more time exploring the region.

READ MORE: Famous North Coast 500 hotels reopen

What single thing would most help?

Affordable housing for local rural communities to help us recruit local staff and allow them to live and work in the place they call home.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

Respect people, guests and colleagues. Follow and be an example of the values and principles of the company you work with, respecting differences of culture and expectations.

What was your best moment?

Every time I help someone fulfil their dreams, however small they may at first appear.

What was your worst moment?

The opposite of the above. When I’ve let someone down.

How do you relax?

Now that I’ve returned to live and work in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, I like to spend a lot more time with my lovely wife, Elizabeth and family. I also enjoy the great outdoors and walking my dogs, Misty, a [blue roan] cocker spaniel, and Jojo, a rescue dog from Ireland.