Scotland May Review 2018
We were delighted to be welcomed back to the Salutation Hotel by GM Gordon Patterson and Head Housekeeper Kay MacMillan.
Gordon greeted us warmly, with a welcome glass of chilled prosecco on one of the hottest days of the year so far.
Sarah Lennie from MyPassion gave us an overview of her business. Her passion is to get people around the table for good food and drink. This may involve her coming to your house to cook or filling your freezer for you. You can buy her Orange and Gin Marmalade and Chilli Jam at the hotel reception after trying them whilst staying in the hotel. We got to try the two at the end of the meeting with warm bread and cheese and all agreed they were delicious—lots of purchases made too.
Katrina gave us an eye opening update of the tragedy that was Cameron House, there are many lessons to be taken from this devastation.
It would be hard not to have been aware of the tragedy that happened in December last year. As Katrina Pascazio (Cameron Lodges Ops Manager) explained – fire terrifies us all, we do 1000's of hours fire training – have fire marshals in place and think that we are ready should such an awful thing happen to us. The reality however is somewhat different!
Having been called on her day off to be informed of the fire the 1st challenge she encountered was getting into the hotel grounds. It was and still is a police controlled area—once there she discovered that they was nothing they could do to help as the Fire brigade would not let them near, so they could only watch it burn. Two people died but no one was to blame as night staff did all they could. There were no phones, internet or hotel systems as the comms room was below the fire level. 200 guests were evacuated and luckily the lodges were on a maintenance week so the first job was to go off site and phone as many staff as possible to come in to get lodges ready and to get a list to the police of people who could be permitted access such as the linen company and food suppliers.
Many guests took the decision to go home but that left a great number who needed clothes, nappies toiletries etc, the basics. This took a lot of planning, organisation and funds. The senior management team were working steadily for 4 days and the issues they had to deal with were above and beyond everyone's experience – locksmiths were organised to get guests in at home (as house keys were in bedrooms) and transport had to be arranged for those wishing to go home, as car keys were in the concierge safe which was out of bounds. From the 22nd Dec they had 115 lodges coming in for Christmas so had to get that part of the business back to some form of normality.
The biggest surprise for many was the attitude of some of the people they would have to deal with. Setting up with working telephones was a challenge—contacting the guests due to come in and ruining their Christmases was hard but whilst many people understood and were sympathetic—many were uncaring, unsympathetic and down right abusive to the staff. The press were also a source of irritation and annoyance, with some even taking to canoeing up the loch to get pictures!!
Where are they now?
24 weeks on they still don't know the cause, they have no control of the hotel—it is still a crime scene. They have limited working landlines, no telephones in the lodges and only now managed to get the WiFi up and running. All weddings, conferences and hotel reservations have had to be cancelled and all deposits, payments etc has had to be paid out. 300 staff have been made redundant which is a tragic loss. Local companies have been extremely supportive, but some are now suffering due to the loss of income from the hotels visitors. 100 bedrooms were untouched by the fire but can't be used yet. Plans are all in place to rebuild the original part of the building and KSL will take the opportunity to refurb the whole hotel whilst they are shut. They don't expect to re-open before Sept 2019.