Scots businessman steps up efforts to launch Capital site

The Scottish entrepreneur behind an Amsterdam-based 'co-living and co-working' concept aimed at students and professionals is making headway with plans to open a branch in Edinburgh, and targeting further global growth.

Founder and CEO Charlie MacGregor said Edinburgh is 'ideal' for the firm's hybrid business model. Picture: Sal Marston Photography.

Charlie MacGregor, who was born and raised in the Scottish Capital, told The Scotsman that the city is “ideal” for the hybrid business model offered by the The Student Hotel (TSH).

It offers high-end accommodation that can be rented by students and let out as hotel rooms, plus flexible co-working facilities, meeting rooms and large-scale event space.

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Chief executive MacGregor believes Edinburgh ticks many boxes, with a thriving start-up and business community, strong tourism and sizeable student population.

“It’s one of the best cities we could have our model working in,” he said, noting the complementary spread between peak tourist seasons and the academic year. And it will offer the best co-working in the city, he expects, as well as creating a minimum of 40 jobs.

He added that Edinburgh lacks the kind of facilities for local people offered by TSH, and it has made a bid regarding a site, with TSH favouring larger locations to accommodate its various offerings.

Timescales for the Scottish outpost would “realistically” be 2021, said MacGregor, who founded the company in the Dutch capital in 2006. It has 12 sites in cities including Barcelona, Paris, Florence, Rotterdam plus two in Amsterdam – and about 550 staff.

TSH now manages more than 4,400 rooms in five countries across Europe, and by the end of this year will have almost 11,000 rooms secured or under development, more than doubling its original capacity. In 2019, it will welcome customers in Bologna, Madrid and Berlin, followed by Florence Belfiore, Paris, Porto, Rome, Delft and Vienna opening in 2020. The following year will see the shutters open at sites in Lisbon, Toulouse, and additional properties in Florence and Barcelona.

MacGregor said in 2016 that the firm was seeking sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it has been actively looking since. “They’re both cities that we really want to have… We think we can really add value to the neighbourhoods that we want to be in and the projects we’ve looked at.”

Also on TSH’s wish list as new destinations in the UK are London and Brighton.

The group currently has three investors – MacGregor, Aermont Capital LLP and APG – and in the next five years, the aim is to create 65 hotels across Europe.

Broadening the firm’s horizons to the US or into Asia would be “fantastic”, he added. “I still feel like we’re at the starting blocks of where this company can go. It really is a new hospitality model that we’ve developed here – I think there’s massive demand for it.”

TSH’s roots lay in Scotland where the MacGregor family started building student accommodation for the University of Edinburgh in 1982.