Edinburgh council approves business case for EICC hotel and training school

A project which will see Edinburgh International Conference Centre with its own four-star hotel to guarantee accommodation for delegates has been given the go-ahead by councillors.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:55 am

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The 349-bedroom hotel at Haymarket, to be run under a franchise agreement with Hyatt, will also include a pioneering hotel school operated in partnership with Edinburgh College.

The hotel is set to open its doors in 2024 and is expected to create over 200 jobs, while the hotel school will train up to 200 people every year.

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The hotel is being built by QMile Group as part of its £350m Haymarket development

A full council meeting approved the final business case for the authority to enter into a 25-year lease on the hotel, which will then be sub-leased to EICC Ltd, an arms-length council company, with profits from the hotel used to fund investment in the conference centre.

Council leader Adam McVey said the arrangement would allow the required investment to take place in the EICC, which was an important publicly-owned asset in the city, without the council having to put in money which would otherwise go on roads and schools.

He said: “The project strengthens the offer of the EICC and delivers a bright future as conferences return to the city. The establishment of the hotel school will support and benefit our hospitality and tourism sectors by creating employment and training opportunities for local people who can then build a successful career in Edinburgh.”

But the Greens opposed the scheme, arguing it did not fit with the council’s 2030 net zero carbon commitments since it was based on a business model which relied on thousands of people flying tens of thousands of miles to attend events.

EICC will operate the hotel under a franchise agreement with Hyatt

Green councillor Claire Miller said: “The EICC is in effect saying its core business is not viable, it can’t afford to reinvest in its facilities from its trading income so it needs to be allowed to expand into new areas. However the business case shows in the risk register six risks have heightened in the last 18 months, including the most significant single risk of a decline in occupancy and room rates and that’s because the projections are all based on business as was, before the pandemic showed us international collaboration was possible without flying across the world.”

Tory councillor Andrew Johnston said the business case was not perfect, but the hotel was going to be built anyway. “So why not have us involved and perhaps influence it to try and make it as carbon sustainable as possible?”

He said the project would provide the EICC with a sustainable future and allow it to revamp, but also send a signal that the council was supporting the city’s economy into the future.

The EICC opened in 1995 and has since played host to almost 1.5 million delegates, over 3,500 events and generated around £720 million for the Edinburgh economy. In-person conferences returned to the venue last month after Covid.

EICC chair George Gordon said the project was an exciting opportunity.

“The EICC hotel school is an exciting new model of education, training and development which will bring forward much-needed professional recruits into the industry subsequent to the heavy losses of both Covid-19 and Brexit to the workforce.

"It will also secure the long-term future of the EICC, which is internationally renowned and generates much needed kudos and income for the city.”

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