Sir Richard Branson may have sold off part of his Virgin Airlines empire, but much of that executive decision might have something to do with another part of the hospitality industry in which he sees plenty of potential. In this case, that would be hotels, and to demonstrate the seriousness of the new venture, he took off to Edinburgh for a groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate his new lodging direction.
The site of the first U.K. Virgin hotel at 1-6 Victoria Street is a decrepit series of structures called the India Buildings, which haven't been used in years. But once completed in 2020, it will boast 225 rooms including luxury suites, with meeting rooms and plenty of bars and restaurants. Branson not only hopes the hotel will be a hit, but will also revive interest in the city's historic Old Town district.
The Edinburgh establishment isn't the first time Virgin's gone the hotel route and Branson has hinted at a number of locations in the U.S. are already in the works. But Edinburgh has a special sentimentality for the decorated entrepreneur. His grandparents hail from the city and his wife is Scottish, for starters.
“Virgin Hotels takes its role as neighbours in this beautiful city very seriously and we want this hotel to fit in with the fabric of the city, and are working with the local community to make sure of this," added Branson.
“We look forward to playing our part in regenerating the local area around Victoria Street including the iconic India Buildings and I can’t wait to be back for the grand opening.”
The company is anticipating that once completed, the Edinburgh hotel will fit in with the architectural charm and splendor of the Old Town, while offering a modern and more eclectic twist on the amenities offered. The hotel project is a joint venture with developers Flemyn LLP and Jansons Property, with asset management by Siggis Capital. Virgin Hotels will control the overall management of the project, which will be built by global construction and property consultant company Thomas & Adamson.
Some wags are anticipating the new hotel will breathe additional life into Edinburgh, which is developing as a year-round tourist destination. And while Victoria Street is one of the city's best-known roadways, the old India Buildings, which was used by the government to register births at one time, has been a blight in the Old Town after years of abandonment.
For Edinburgh citizens, the forthcoming Virgin Hotel a chance for something vibrant enough to revive the old buildings and reverberate through the rest of the community. For Branson, he not only hopes it's a money maker, but a structure that will do his own Scottish roots proud.