Neil Wells is managing director of MF Wells Hotels which trades as Lochs & Glens Holidays. The company was founded by his father Michael in 1979. It comprises 16 coaches and seven three-star hotels. Neil runs the firm with his brother Ian.
Neil Wells - Career guide
Michael Wells bought the first of the group's hotels in Loch Long, a rundown 60-bedroom building which he renovated himself, partly with the proceeds of selling the family home in Edinburgh. Neil Wells worked there as a porter from the age of 11, studied computing at university and joined the family firm full time in 1987.
In the 1980s, the company benefited from Margaret Thatcher's deregulating the coach travel market, which meant that it could transport its customers to its own hotels. This has been a successful model and the company brings most of its customers from England. Those who don't travel by coach usually follow the coach and its touring itinerary in their own cars, a pattern which allows the hotels to operate within defined occupancy periods.
Each hotel has its own manager, which enables Neil to take time out to design and build to his specification. He has just spent two years overseeing the building of the 126- bedroom Ardgarten hotel with additional 35-bedroom accommodation for staff, which opened in July 2012. This follows the building of the Loch Tumnel Hotel, near Pitlochry, in 2010.
Aside from building and renovating its hotel properties, the company also bought the Highland Hotel in 2009 from the break-up of the Swallow Group. The purchase and subsequent renovation cost a total of £7m. The company's other hotels are the Inversnaid, near Loch Lomond, the Loch Achray in the Trossachs and the Loch Awe Hotel.
Neil Wells - What we think
Neil Wells is one of the few hoteliers who can say that he is defying the downturn, for which he thanks his simple business model and growth funded by cash reserves, not bank loans. He has a loyal customer base, with more than 60% repeat business, and the company sells direct to the public.
Wells admits that he is concerned about the effects of the uncertainty surrounding possible independence could mean, but is not as concerned about the effects of the downturn. With typical stoicism and clear- sightedness he says: "I don't think it's going to get any easier, but the fact that we've got used to how hard it is makes life easier."