Covid's horrific effect on hotels may feel like The Shining but there should be a happy ending – Stephen Jardine
Not a lot of people know this but most of the interior shots for Stanley Kubrick’s American classic The Shining were actually shot at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.
The psychological horror film tells the story of a caretaker’s descent into madness while isolated in a closed hotel over the winter. Anyone contemplating filming a version here in Scotland could soon be spoilt for choice when it comes to locations.
Picture it. Winter approaches, the nights are drawing in and the guests are gone. Outside a pandemic rages. Inside, a lonely figure with just a face mask and some hand sanitiser for protection prowls the empty corridors. His days are long, the nights even longer, broken only by Zoom quizzes with other isolated caretakers who test each other on intricate details of the latest tier rules.
Back in the real world, the second wave of the virus is sadly reality, not fiction. Last night Gleneagles Hotel closed until February after Perthshire moved into up a tier in terms of restrictions. The five-star property promised to protect all jobs and golf and membership facilities will remain open. However, the enhanced requirements of tier three and Scottish Government advice on travel made hibernation the sensible option for this winter.
It is the second time the doors have been shut this year following a four-month closure during lockdown and it means no Christmas celebrations at Gleneagles for the first time since it opened on a year-round basis nearly 40 years ago.
The news was a bombshell for the beleaguered hospitality sector struggling to get back on its feet but Gleneagles won’t be the last to close while the colds winds blow.
Right now other operators will be looking at the news and reflecting, if Scotland’s top hotel decides the smart thing to do is close, what the heck are we doing? They have a point.
The advice at the moment is not to travel between areas in different tier groups except for essential purposes. The Scottish Government also advises people to “avoid any unnecessary travel between Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland”.
That leaves hotels with the tricky job of policing bookings when reservations come from far afield. Add into that the challenge of outside drinking in Scotland in winter and changing tier levels, and you can see why hibernation is an attractive option right now.
According to the managing director of Queensferry Hotels, the restrictions in England affecting cross-border corporate and leisure business means Scottish hotels are in lockdown by proxy. Without party nights or Hogmanay celebrations, Russell Imrie believes the festive season is going to be a tough test. “Business levels will be so low that financial viability will be seriously at risk for many well-known hotels,” he told me.
Even a week ago the thought of major hotels closing the shutters again for a few months would have been deeply depressing but we have hope.
The news of the vaccine breakthrough is a ray of hope, particularly for the beleaguered hospitality sector.
By spring we could be in a very different place and hotels will be reopening to a world where the sun is starting to shine and we are desperate to get out, travel and enjoy ourselves.
Unlike The Shining, we at least have the hope of a happy ending.
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