A family connection to Edinburgh informed the decision by Sir Richard Branson to establish Europe’s first Virgin Hotel in the city, it was announced today.
The famous entrepreneur has revealed how his grandparents came from Auld Reekie and how his wife Joan, a Scot, made the city a natural fit for the first Virgin-branded hotel outside the US.
Under plans approved by the city council, a new 225-bed hotel – described as ‘Chambers’ and ‘Grand Chamber Suites’ – will occupy the historic India Buildings at 1-6 Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
The development, set to open in 20202, will boast multiple dining and drinking outlets, including the brand’s flagship space, Commons Club, as well as ‘numerous meeting spaces’, said the firm in a release.
“Edinburgh is such an iconic city and we’re thrilled to be able to say it will be the home of the first Virgin Hotel in the UK and across Europe,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.
“My grandparents were from Edinburgh and my wife Joan is also Scottish, so the country has always held a special place in my heart. The people of Edinburgh have been so great in welcoming us to their great city; we can’t wait to open our doors to people across the country and, indeed, the world.”
In re-envisioning the building, Virgin Hotels said its design team will work to preserve its ‘notable elements while adding a sense of style and sophistication’.
Virgin Hotels currently only operate in the world in Chicago, US, although according to the company’s corporate website there are plans to quickly expand the operation and “shake up the status quo.”
The approach looks set to capitalise on the demand for style, creativity and comfort in a relaxed setting rather than the formality of traditional high-end hotels; it will focus on the ’boutique hotel lifestyle’, whilst operating in the luxury sphere.
“Edinburgh has so much to offer, as a top travel destination in the UK and internationally, it’s an ideal location for our next hotel,” said Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal. “This project, from an award-winning hotel brand such as Virgin Hotels, will further highlight the city’s eclectic style while remaining true to its historic heritage, all while offering guests and locals alike an experience like no other.”
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh will be completed in partnership with owner Flemyn and developer Jansons Property and will be managed by Virgin Hotels, and asset managed by Siggis Capital.
All of Virgin’s Partners have extensive experience in developing, owning and operating hotels in UK and Europe.
“Flemyn is proud to have our first capital investment in Edinburgh with an amazing brand like Virgin Hotels,” said Luigi Gatti Bonati, Co-Founder of Flemyn.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with this partnership and look forward to the journey ahead.”
“Edinburgh is a city rooted in tradition with an energetic spirit – we’re delighted to do our part in restoring a unique property such as this,” said Andy Jansons, Managing Director of Jansons Property. “With numerous investments in Edinburgh, we are so thrilled to bring another incredible project to this city.”
“This is an exciting announcement and a huge coup for Edinburgh; it really is testament to the city’s resilience during these uncertain times that Virgin Hotels has chosen Edinburgh as the first city outside the US in which to open a new hotel,” said Cllr Gavin Barrie, Housing and Economy Convener with the City of Edinburgh Council, which helped take forward the proposals as part of its ‘Edinburgh 12’ portfolio of investment sites.
“It’s estimated that the hotel will provide a £5 million boost to the local community every year, helping one of the city’s key shopping areas in Victoria Street and the Grassmarket,” Cllr Barrie explained, “the development of the site will help support hundreds of jobs during construction.”
Other prospective destinations for the Virgin Hotels brand include San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington DC, London, Paris, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Mexico City.
Virgin Hotels first opened its doors in January 2015 with a 26-storey, 250-room hotel in a restored Art Deco building from the 1920s in Chicago; it has since gone on to be named number hotel in the city by Condé Nast Traveler.
Its innovative approach to events spaces in the venue have included the use of ping-pong meeting tables, fitness video games, hallway mini golf and life-sized Jenga.