by SHAUN MILNE
THE historic site of what was once the former ‘Fleet Street of Scotland’ will be relaunched tonight as a multi-million pound luxury hotel.
As one of the UK’s first regional newspapers its editors included such well known names as Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe.
The street near the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, also housed a number of national newspapers, making it Scotland’s press headquarters of the day.
It also marks a ‘homecoming’ for Frasers, whose pioneering Scots founders, John Fraser and David Chalmers Neave, ventured to Singapore to found Fraser & Neave Limited in 1883 – the Singapore-based conglomerate which now owns Frasers Hospitality.
Several top Singaporean executives from Frasers Hospitality travelled to Edinburgh for the opening of the Fraser Suites on St Giles Street today.
The move – which comes in the face of the worldwide recession – is now being viewed as a major sign of confidence in the Scottish tourist market given the increased importance of travellers to the economy.
Sinead Feltoe, VisitScotland’s Regional Director said: “Tourism growth is critical to the future of Scotland and so it is extremely encouraging to see Frasers Hospitality opting for this expansion in Edinburgh city centre.
“With its rich heritage and an innate sense of style, Edinburgh is the ideal destination for such a development.
“In the current economic climate this sort of confidence and investment is more crucial than ever and today’s launch further strengthens Edinburgh and indeed Scotland’s position as a truly outstanding visitor destination.”
Councillor Tom Buchanan, Economic Development Convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Business tourism is a vital element of the city’s economy and Frasers Hospitality’s decision to locate here shows that Edinburgh is seen as a well-respected destination for businesses across the globe.
“We look forward to working with the company, which has its roots in Scotland, to harness the opportunities of their extensive business network.”
The Old Town site had lain empty since 2007 after being laterally used as university student accommodation and as Edinburgh City Council offices.
Today (wed) the new venture was hailed as a “landmark” event.
Guus Bakker, Frasers Hospitality Chief Operating Officer for Europe and the Middle East, said: “Our other premises across the world are all luxury serviced apartments, so Fraser Suites Edinburgh actually represents the first ‘boutique hotel’ investment for the Group.
“Because of the nature and location of our building in Edinburgh, we realised that it would be better suited to hotel accommodation rather than comprising exclusively of apartments.
“This represents a significant multi-million pound investment for the Group and one which we hope will help us strengthen our position in the Scottish tourism industry.”
Heather Gilchrist, Regional General Manager Frasers Hospitality Scotland, said: “We have gone to great lengths to preserve and reinvent this fantastic building, retaining the original features, including high ceilings and ornate cornicing, and carefully blending these with contemporary designs and finishes.”
“It is a landmark development, not just for Frasers Hospitality, but Edinburgh as a whole. It’s brought back to life a prime city centre site and provides a new benchmark in high quality accommodation.”
Acclaimed architects Holmes restored the historic building, working for to transform the derelict shell to a luxury boutique hotel.
The new hotel has seven room types including four top-of-the-range themed suites, such as the Princes Suite which boasts historic stained glass panels bearing the motto of renowned Edinburgh city planner Sir Patrick Geddes.
All rooms include kitchens, satellite television, iPod docking stations and broadband access. The hotel also features an on-site gym, restaurant and bespoke paintings commissioned from Edinburgh College of Art.
Tonight’s opening event sees actors dressed as historic Scottish characters bring the likes of Sir Walter Scott and Burke and Hare back to life to entertain guests viewing the new 75 bed venue.
Frasers Hospitality now operates 12 European properties, with eight in London, one in Glasgow and two in Paris.
Frasers Hospitality also has serviced residences in the Far East and Australia, and will open new properties in New Delhi, Osaka and Doha next year.