Edinburgh International Conference Centre is in talks with the owners of one of the Capital’s biggest gap sites to set up a hotel and hospitality school as part of the £300m development.
Edinburgh City Council’s housing and economy committee heard that discussions are being held over the business setting up a hotel, potentially with 250 bedrooms, and a hotel school at the prominent gap site at Haymarket.
Updated plans for the Morrison Street site, which has remained vacant for half a century, are set to be submitted to planners.
Marshall Dallas, chief executive for the EICC, told the committee that the business, which is owned by the council, has three objectives going forward – to ensure the arms-length company becomes self-sufficient on funding, can attract central government grant money and to address “the lack of quality hotel bedrooms within the city”.
Mr Dallas added: “We are currently looking at the site in Haymarket and it’s at very early stages with Paul Curran from the Qmile Group.
“We have a meeting set up with officers and myself in about two weeks time. Although we are entering that field pretty late in the day, unfortunately, that’s really the only thing we are working on from a hotel perspective.”
Talks for the EICC to take on the project at the Exchange 2 site next door to the conference centre stalled – while the council decided to allocate its India Quays site to tech companies and affordable hosing after a £50m bid for a 400-bed hotel was scrapped after the council didn’t receive a formal bid from the EICC.
Conservative economy spokesperson, Cllr John McLellan, quizzed Mr Dallas as to how much the business’ ability to increase its revenue is dependent on the hotel bid.
Cllr McLellan said: “If that Haymarket discussion is fruitless, essentially will that line of potential future growth is denied to you?”
Mr Dallas said: “We would obviously be very keen to work with Haymarket in developing a significant hotel and hotel school which is really important to us from an education piece. If that doesn’t come off, I’m not sure of any other sites that would be appropriate for the EICC – which would mean we would have to rethink.
“We request bedroom space for conferences, which is actually really difficult in a city when you’ve got an annual occupancy of 86 per cent.”
He added: “There is a severe shortfall of four and five star hotels. Within a walking distance of the EICC, there’s 685 bedrooms – all of which are budget hotels. I’m no saying there isn’t a place for these, there is. From an organisation that’s customers demand four and five star bedrooms, there’s a severe shortage.
“If we don’t get the hotel, it will be very disappointing – but it’s not the end of the road for the EICC by a country mile.”