Comment: ‘City is ready for another great hotel’

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few buildings are held in such great affection in the Capital as the old Royal High. We are blessed with spectacular historic buildings that most other cities would kill for at almost every turn, but many of us still keep a special place for it in our hearts.

Maybe it is something to do with being slightly off the beaten tourist track, a sort-of-secret whose beauty is known only to us locals and more adventurous visitors.

So it is a terrible waste that this beautiful building has lain largely unused for almost half a century.

There have been plenty of stalled attempts to bring it in to public use over the years, including impressive plans for a national photography museum, but so far all have failed.

The plans unveiled today for turning it into a world-class hotel represent a real opportunity for Edinburgh.

This offers a chance not only to save the building from crumbling, but to provide a significant boost to the city’s economy at the same time.

It is not about the £55 million investment or the 640 local jobs which it is expected to create, but the potential it has to change the view of Edinburgh and Scotland in certain hard-to-reach quarters.

There is a class of super-rich tourist who will not come to Scotland because it simply does not offer the kind of accommodation that they are used to in cities like London, Paris, Rome or Moscow.

Attracting these wealthy visitors to the Capital would not only generate millions of pounds of extra spending, it would be sure to attract other high-end operators to the city.

The arrival of Harvey Nichols – a move in which Royal High developer David Orr was also involved – offers perhaps the best parallel.

Instead of fighting with existing attractions including Jenners for customers, the power of the 
Harvey Nicks brand attracted a whole new swathe of shoppers to the city, and other top-of-the range stores such as Louis Vuitton, Kurt Geiger and Burberry followed in their wake.

The kind of Royal High hotel we are being promised would do the same to an area that is already gearing up for the £850 million redevelopment of the St James Quarter.

There will rightly be a great deal of debate about how a treasured building like this can best be converted for such an exciting new use.

But more than a century after the building of the city’s last great hotels, the North British, now known as the Balmoral of course, and the Caledonian, the city is surely ready to welcome another.