TRADERS across the Capital are preparing for a bumper payday from the traditional late May bank holiday weekend.
Hotels across the city have been fully booked, with an influx of runners and support staff for the Edinburgh Marathon joined by thousands of people coming to the city for stag and hen parties.
And with football fans expected to pack out city bars to watch Hibs take on Celtic in the Scottish Cup final, Capital businesses are bracing themselves for one of the busiest weekends of the year
Premier venues Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, Radisson Blue on the Royal Mile and Hotel Missoni on George IV Bridge are among destinations fully booked this Saturday, with less than a handful of rooms left for the rest of the weekend.
Boutique hotels were yesterday warning unprepared visitors to expect the worst, with 25,000 marathon runners and their support teams descending on Edinburgh for the busiest three days outside the annual Festival.
Online booking website www.laterooms.co.uk last night showed just nine hotels with rooms left for Saturday night, with prices ranging from £180 to an exorbitant £700.
Brooks Hotel owner Carla Brooks said all 46 of the Grove Street venue’s rooms had been booked as early as a month ago.
She said: “This was a bumper weekend last year as well because the marathon is really popular. Pretty much all our guests will be involved in some form, either running or cheering someone on. A lot of people have come who ran the London Marathon and who are pretty fit – they go and do this regularly.
“If you were to do a search today to try to get an [affordable] room in Edinburgh, you would be sent to Glasgow.”
Ms Brooks said several days of warmer weather had also prompted a surge in bookings. She said: “People are starting to feel like they can come out and do more things. It’s a good time to take a weekend away.”
Hotel Missoni sales and marketing director Tamara Kobiolke said: “The Edinburgh Marathon undoubtedly drives more traffic to the city, with this year being no exception.
“Traditionally, May is a busy time of year for us, with most weekends fully booked. However, it’s great to see the buzz and excitement the marathon brings to the city.”
The Three Sisters pub on the Cowgate has rushed to install a 200in flat screen television because of the hundreds of revellers tipped to descend on the popular bar for the Scottish Cup final.
One of the largest pubs in Edinburgh, the Three Sisters can hold up to 700 people.
Events manager Aileen Conway said: “It’s going to be a busy weekend for us with the Scottish Cup final and with the Champions League as well. We’re set to be rammed.”
More than 3400 drinkers attending hen’s nights and stag parties are also expected to flood the city’s streets as celebrations shift into overdrive ahead of the peak wedding season in June.
Event agency chillisauce.co.uk, which organised activity weekends for more than 8000 groups across UK and Europe last year, predicted record numbers of party-goers for Edinburgh.
A 30 per cent increase has been tipped compared with the same period last year.
Royal Mile Business Association chairman Gary Still said the May bank holiday weekend had become a big money- spinner for local traders.
The Whiski Bar and Restaurant owner said: “You always find that after the May bank holiday weekend, the season picks up.”
The tourism boost will be all the more welcome following a report which showed the number of empty hotel rooms in Edinburgh during the festivals having risen last year.
A report by accountancy firm PKF showed occupancy levels throughout the Capital were at 88.7 per cent over the month of August, compared with 92.2 per cent last year.
Sharp falls in tourist numbers across Scotland during the summer were blamed on poor weather and the draw of the London Olympics. The number of nights visitors spent in Scotland plummeted 12 per cent between July and September, down roughly 100,000.
Ruth McKay, chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said several days of warmer weather after an extended winter was already starting to have a positive effect for retail, leisure and accommodation industries.
She said: “The unseasonal or bizarre weather does affect trade. If we could have a good summer, I think that would make a huge difference to how well our small businesses will do overall this year.
“Restaurants and bars tend to be the first hit when people are not out spending money.
“For members that I’ve spoken to, they’ve been having a great time in the past week or two.”
Ms McKay said of the looming bank holiday weekend: “I would say it’s become more important in the last couple of years and I think part of that was to do with the previous years when we had the royal wedding.
“More emphasis has been put on this weekend coming up and I notice that some of the bigger businesses are also advertising quite heavily on the basis of it being a bank holiday weekend.
“The surveys and figures that I’ve looked at have said there’s more confidence now in having a good summer.”
VisitScotland regional director Manuela Calchini said: “The marathon is undoubtedly a major draw for visitors from across the UK and further afield.
“This represents a huge opportunity for tourism across the board; accommodation providers, bars, restaurants and visitor attractions all have an opportunity to capitalise on this huge, exceptionally well run event.”
City economy convener Councillor Frank Ross said: “With visitor numbers rising year-on-year, it is great to see that Edinburgh is having a bumper start to the summer season. Let’s hope the sun stays out for visitors flocking to this multi-award winning city. Edinburgh is steeped in culture and heritage and offers something for everyone.”
Second time lucky for Norval’s anthem
A HIBS-DAFT songwriter has re-released his cup final anthem – in the hope of it being better luck than last year’s effort.
Norval Barclay, 43, from Craigleith, penned a ballad to his boyhood heroes entitled Back Home to Leith, which features the stirring chorus: “First to wear green, we never give up, we’ll fight to the end, to bring home the cup.”
The song has been well received by the Hibs fraternity ahead of Sunday’s Hampden clash with Celtic, as it references the Easter Road side’s claim to be the first to wear green ahead of the Glasgow outfit.
Norval previously released the song ahead of last year’s clash with city rivals Hearts.
He said: “It was a horrendous result last year but Celtic are definitely
the more appropriate cup final opposition to release it for.
“Let’s say that I was just testing the waters last year.
“Loads of fans have been saying that they are listening to it again in the run-up to this year’s game so I decided to get it out there.”
Norval’s track is available for £1 download online.
Brian’s ticket win sets up double celebration whatever the result
THE Hibs fan who won the Evening News cup final ticket competition is hoping for a double celebration after revealing Sunday’s historic showdown will coincide with his 49th birthday.
Brian Monaghan, a painter-decorator from Leith, called on Hibs to get rid of the “monkey on the club’s back” against Celtic at Hampden after scooping the prize tickets – handed over by Evening News deputy editor Euan McGrory.
The die-hard Hibby said: “It’s great to go to a cup final but to have it on your birthday is a bit surreal – it means it will be a celebration no matter what.
“No-one in my lifetime has seen Hibs win the cup – from the off, they need to go at Celtic playing as a team.”