THE new boss of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre has pledged to get it back into profit within 18 months.
Marshall Dallas said the EICC’s new £30 million extension – officially opened by Princess Anne last night – had given the venue a crucial edge over its competitors around the world. And he insisted the conference centre would not need any extra cash from the city council despite warnings last year of a possible £1.2m budget shortfall.
Accounts published in October showed projected losses due to a drop in revenue from rental, events and catering operations.
Council officials raised concerns about shortfalls in the EICC business plan. Their report said: “Although an initial independent report indicates that EICC operating requirement for 2014 can be met, this is not sustainable as it requires use of monies set aside for future liabilities.”
However, Mr Dallas – who has just completed his first 100 days as chief executive – said the EICC’s problems were the result of the economic downturn.
He said: “In stable market conditions it will sustain an operating profit.
“We have lost ground to our international competitors. That’s because of the economic downturn which slowed delivery of the expansion.”
But he said a new, more focused approach to marketing had resulted in increased interest from the UK and Europe.
“I’m confident we will return to an operating profit and we are forecasting we will achieve that within 18 months,” he said. “We’re fully supported within existing arrangements by our shareholder, the city council, and we will not require any new or additional funding.”
The new Lennox Suite, opened by the Princess Royal, features a revolutionary hall-wide moving floor system, which means a space the size of four tennis courts can be transformed from flat-floored exhibition space into a tiered theatre for 2000 delegates or a performance arena for 1400 spectators in a fraction of the time normally required.
Mr Dallas said: “There is no other venue worldwide that can offer the flexible space options we can. Most definitely that gives us a fundamental edge.”
The EICC first opened its doors in 1995 and was opened officially a year later by the Queen.
Green finance spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I’m pleased the new chief executive is confident about the centre washing its face because at a time of real pressure on frontline services there should be no question of the council having to step in and shore up a gap in the EICC’s budget.
“We will be looking closely at reports from the EICC to make sure that is the case.”