Caley sale a ‘major boost to Edinburgh’, says tourism chief

The Waldorf Astoria (Caledonian Hotel) in Lothian Road. Picture: TSPL
The Waldorf Astoria (Caledonian Hotel) in Lothian Road. Picture: TSPL
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INDUSTRY experts have hailed the £85m sale of ‘The Caley’ hotel in Edinburgh as a major boost to the city, saying the deal will attract “higher spending” visitors to boost the local economy and help make the capital’s tourism industry “more sustainable”.

The comments by Robin Worsnop, chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, come ahead of a major conference next month looking at issues and opportunities facing Edinburgh’s tourism industry in the coming years, as it emerges industry leaders will look at Amsterdam’s success for lessons that could be applied here.

Abu-Dhabi-based hospitality group Twenty14 Holdings plans to add more than 50 rooms to the iconic building as part of a £20m expansion project set to be completed by 2019 after completing a deal for the hotel last week.

The sale is the largest for any hotel in Scotland since the deal for the Gleneagles estate in Perthshire was completed in 2015.

The hotel, which has been visited by famous names including Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Bing Crosby and Sir Sean Connery, will continue to operate under Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria brand.

However, Mr Worsnop said the expansion would help the city “deliver on demand” for luxury accommodation.

He added: “Edinburgh’s status as one of the world’s most appealing visitor destinations has been clearly reinforced by this week’s news about the sale and expansion of the Edinburgh Waldorf Hilton, one of the city’s most iconic hotels.”

“Along with generating over 100 new jobs, this investment in the city delivers on the demand from both business and leisure visitors for aspirational, luxury four and five-star hotels and compliments the existing wide range of accommodation options available in the city.

“By attracting higher spending visitors, we can help ensure that the future success of Edinburgh’s tourism industry is more sustainable and add greater value to the local economy.”

The Caledonian Hotel was built directly above the former Princes St station building and towered high over the main shed.

Railway passengers were able to gain entry via what is today the entrance to the Caley Bar, but the nationalisation of Britain’s railways and subsequent Beeching cuts forced its closure in 1965, allowing the hotel to be extended over part of the former concourse.

The annual ETAG conference will see industry leaders descend on the city’s McEwan Hall to discuss the future of tourism in the capital.

Mr Worsnop said: “Managing Edinburgh’s success as a visitor destination will be the theme of next month’s conference.

“Tourism leaders will gather to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities the city faces as it continues to be one Edinburgh’s most valuable and high growth economic sectors.”