Craig Munro, general manager of the AC Hotel by Marriott Glasgow, reflects on the opening of the new four-star hotel just off George Square, and on his passion for music and early ambitions to be a jazz saxophonist.

The luxury hotel, which features the Hazel restaurant, combines heritage architecture and contemporary design, and aims to deliver "high-end service to create a destination hotel for visitors to Glasgow and Scotland".

To whom do you sell? The full cross-section of visitors to Glasgow - business groups and corporate clients; airline staff; leisure and individual travellers; the entertainment and hospitality market; film, television, and music industries; as well as those associated with major sport events. 


How many employees? 60-plus


Why did you take the plunge? I fell into it. I started working in a hotel at 14, initially as a cloakroom attendant. I loved the buzz, the environment, and the people. I soon worked out that if I put a saucer out people put money in - which was very welcome at the time! I needed money to pursue my passion for music. I ended up working in hotel finance departments, at Cameron House among others, but it wasn’t for me. A manager was leaving to open a Novotel in Glasgow, and asked if I’d join the team. I then got into a management development programme, with Accor Hotels, and landed my first general manager job at The Ibis Hotel, on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh aged 24. I haven’t looked back.  

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What were you doing before? Music. I started giving it a go seriously at around 17 and I was desperate to be a jazz saxophonist, having studied at the Guild Hall School of Music. There wasn’t a huge jazz scene in Aberdeen where I grew up, so I moved to Glasgow to pursue my music career, and played some big gigs at the likes of Glasgow University Union with a band, Chapanga, and another, Ikarus - we were paid with a box of donuts and a crate of beer. We also supported dance act Ultra Nate in the 1990s. However, I had twin boys at 19 years old, so needed to switch focus to a more stable career - hence going full-time at hospitality. 

Latterly I’ve played with a covers band called Revolution 7. We’ve played in front of 5,000 people at Aberdeen Exhibition Centre – which was a big deal. I still play, but hotels are my day-to-day for sure. 

What do you least enjoy?   


Receiving a complaint never gets easier. We should probably cherish them, as they help to improve things, but it’s very hard not to take it personally, especially when you’ve opened the hotel. It’s like somebody criticising one of your children. It’s something I’ve noticed about the staff at AC, they take all complaints very seriously, almost personally. It shows they care and makes them better at their jobs. 


Being in the office crunching numbers also grates with me. I much prefer being on the floor, seeing guests happy, and looking at creative ways to move things forward. The commercial aspect of the job is far more exciting - and then building a team to deliver it.

What are your ambitions for the hotel?  


Our vision is to be one of the leading luxury hotels in Glasgow, and Scotland. We’re showing signs of it already and proving a big draw to many types of client and customer. Glasgow has a very healthy entertainment industry, with quality venues everywhere, and that pulls audiences. I’d love to see us become the go-to hotel for the entertainment industry in Glasgow. I’d also like to see Hazel become a destination restaurant.  

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What are the challenges facing the sector and market, and what could be done to overcome or address these?

What sets a great hotel apart is first-class hospitality. We have that, but it’s becoming harder to build - and that comes down to people. We have a brilliant team, but there are fewer good people in the industry at large, and a big factor is a lack of international staff in the market - which used to be a mainstay. Glasgow, in particular, is struggling to attract international staff. There was a time when 90% of staff would be international, now it’s the other way round. It’s brilliant when you have people in position, but much tougher when you need to find somebody. 


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At an SEC conference earlier this year I spoke to an ex Scottish bartender of the year from the USA. He had to leave the country to get a job due to the visa situation. We’ve got somebody who is a Scottish bartender of the year who can’t operate here. That can’t be right. Brexit and tighter visa rules are making it hard to recruit. A relaxation on visas and immigration rules would help. 

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

Listen to your gut - 99% of the time it’s right. This is something I’ve learned, relearned, and then learned again. It is, of course, important to listen to trusted advisors, but if something doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it.

What was your best moment?  

Opening AC by Marriott Hotel Glasgow and seeing the buzz for the first time, and people from our target industries enjoying the hotel was a real highlight. Following it from building site to fruition has been amazing - there are so many interesting aspects and bringing a new charm to the city centre. There’s a real wow factor in it, and seeing people live it and breathe it is immensely satisfying.

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What has been your most challenging moment in business?

Covid. I was working at another hotel responsible for 400 employees and suddenly we were a team of nine, and everybody is looking to you for guidance. But we kept it open and got a team back in. The hotel only closed for one week. In a strange way, I enjoyed it. It took me back to basics with a small team and a short-term strategy. I got to know everybody very personally, and was very protective of them. You knew every guest by name in a 304-bedroom hotel. It wasn’t a nice time, but it was a necessary reset.

How do you relax?  


Work-life balance is very important, and we’re always looking to help staff with that. We’re looking closely at hours – 12 to 14 hour shifts are no longer a thing. People need balance. 


I pick up the sax - maybe for just an hour a week - but it’s great. Music is my go-to - either listening or going to gigs. I love Jamie Cullum and Kelly Jones live, and also listen to bands like Jamiroquai, The Beatles, The Kinks etcetera.