EDINBURGH’S Sheraton Grand Hotel is to be used as a “blueprint” by Starwood, its New York-listed operator, for the development of other hotels in its worldwide portfolio when the “flagship” property reopens this month.
The Sheraton, which has been undergoing a multi-million-pound refit, will become the centrepiece of Starwood’s $6 billion (£3.8bn) global refurbishment and expansion programme.
Michael Wale, senior vice-president at Starwood, told Scotland on Sunday: “We’ve completely stripped out the inside of the hotel and taken it back to its shell.
“In effect, we’ve built a new hotel within the Sheraton. It was 25 years old and so required investment in plant and equipment, such as air conditioning, but it has also meant we’ve been able to bring new technology to the hotel.”
Wale, who is in charge of Starwood’s 130 properties across northern Europe, was running the Sheraton in Edinburgh when it underwent its previous refit in 1993.
He described the Sheraton brand as the “engine room” of Starwood and said the refurbishment scheme would “rejuvenate” the brand.
He added: “The Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh will definitely become the flagship for the brand and will act as a template for what the brand will look like.”
Hotel owners from Asia and the Middle East will be brought to Edinburgh by Sheraton so they can see what their premises could look like if they ask Starwood to run their sites.
The chain added 30 hotels to its portfolio last year and has a further 24 slated to open this year, including in Kiev, in Ukraine, Medina in Saudi Arabia, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and 14 sites in China. The Chinese openings will include the largest hotel in Macau and Starwood’s largest hotel globally, the 3,863-room Sheraton Macao Hotel in Cotai Central.
Wale, who was in charge of the five-star Edinburgh hotel between 1989 and 1995, said his firm also wants to open outlets in Aberdeen and Glasgow and has looked at sites.
He said that finding the right location in both cities was key, especially in Aberdeen, which is attractive to Starwood because of its vibrant oil and gas industry.
Wale said that the group, which already runs the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire, also wants to roll out its Aloft brand in Scotland.
Starwood opened its first Aloft hotel in the UK at London’s Excel conference centre in October.
Wale said that refurbishing the Edinburgh site would also give the hotel an advantage in the local market, with ten hotels expected to open in the Scottish capital over the next two years.
But he warned Edinburgh City Council against introducing any form of “bed tax”. In January, it emerged that the Scottish Government had refused to give the local authority the power to levy a tourism tax on visitors to the city.
But Wale said such an idea had been around for “20 years or more” and warned that it would harm tourism if such a levy were introduced.
The council is now investigating whether it can create a “tourism business improvement district” to raise money to fund the city’s upkeep.