Balmoral Hotel has 'best year ever'

SOARING demand for luxury suites and a 30 per cent rise in wedding-related turnover have helped Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel book record full-year results.

The five-star establishment - part of the privately owned Rocco Forte Hotels Group - also said there had been a "good take-up" for its Da

Vinci Code Experience, which was launched last year and cashes in on the success of the Dan Brown thriller, offering a package including entry to Rosslyn Chapel and a champagne picnic.

Debbie Taylor, general manager, said 2006 revenue, which includes income from room bookings, the conference and banqueting operation, bars, restaurants and spa, was up 22 per cent on the year before. It is understood that turnover has topped the 15 million mark. Figures for individual hotels within the Rocco Forte portfolio are not generally disclosed. The most recent group accounts - covering the financial year to April 2006 - revealed a 15 per cent rise in total sales to 107.7m.

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Rocco Forte, owned by the eponymous Sir Rocco, operates a string of luxury hotels, including Brown's in London, Rome's Hotel de Russie and St David's Hotel and Spa in Cardiff.

The Balmoral's 168 rooms and 20 suites range from about 300 to more than 1,500 a night. Famous guests have included George Clooney, Claudia Schiffer, Bob Geldof and U2 front-man Bono, to name but a few.

Taylor said: "We have enjoyed our best year ever, with outstanding business performance and room sales."

Strong demand for luxury rooms, which include the 140 square metre Scone & Crombie suite, has led to a 16.5 per cent increase in the average room rate.

Further encouragement comes from American visitor numbers, which last year returned to pre-9/11 levels, the hotel said. The Balmoral relies on the United States for roughly one in four of its customers. Other top ten markets include Germany, Russia and Switzerland.

A spokeswoman for the hotel, which opened in 1902 as the North British, said: "People are spending more money on the rooms. The leisure market is very much up and it's great that we are seeing US visitors coming back."

The Balmoral's wedding business has seen a surge in revenues since the Edinburgh landmark was named best wedding hotel in a worldwide guide published in April.