THE timing was far from ideal: just as Edinburgh’s newest hotel – with a £2500 a night bed and breakfast rate – prepared to open its doors, the words double-dip recession were uttered by economists.
Launching such a pricey product amid the economic gloom might have worried some operators, but it doesn’t seem to have fazed the boss of Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI) – the hotel management firm which has just added The Atholl, in the capital’s new town, to its portfolio.
Speaking to SLTN last week, managing director Norbert Lieder said the rack rate represents “excellent value for money”.
And he seems to have good reason to be optimistic.
With just four suites, The Atholl, which is owned by developer Carlton City Ltd, aims to offer the ultimate in privacy and luxury.
The biggest of the four suites – the 3145 sq ft Dundonald – is set over two floors and has its own private whisky tasting room; while fellow three-bedroom suite – the 2885 sq ft Abercromby – also spans two floors and features a state-of-the-art wine tasting area and a private courtyard with outdoor fireplace and hot tub. Both suites cost £2500 per suite per night.
The two-bedroom, 1593 sq ft Cluny suite is priced at £1500 a night, while the 1065 sq ft, one-bedroom Palmerston suite costs £1000.
There are no public areas in The Atholl.
Instead, each suite has its own state of the art kitchen and spacious living and dining rooms.
As with fellow Inverlochy properties, including Rocpool Reserve in Inverness, Greywalls in Muirfield and Inver Lodge Hotel in Lochinver, which has just been awarded five-star status by VisitScotland, the Atholl’s food offer is designed by ICMI’s culinary consultant Albert Roux.
The hotel offers a bespoke menu service and in-suite dining for guests, with dishes prepared by their own personal chef; each suite also has a chiller cabinet carrying an extensive range of cheese and wine.
But The Atholl is not only focused on overnight guests.
“The Atholl is open to locals for private dinners or lunches, meetings and functions,” said Lieder.
“All of the suites can be converted so we can cater for dinners for 50 people or a cocktail reception for 100.
“The Atholl is a new concept altogether.
“It might seem expensive, but it’s excellent value for money. You can get three bedrooms, your own private garden, a private whisky tasting room – a lot of items you wouldn’t normally get in a hotel suite.
“I don’t think there’s anything else that’s so spacious, luxurious and private with all of these services integrated.”
The Atholl isn’t the only new territory ICMI has moved into recently.
The management company added Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Sutherland to its portfolio earlier this year. Accommodation on the 23,000-acre estate, which offers a range of activities such as pony trekking, fishing, stalking, clay pigeon shooting, 4×4 safaris and mountain biking, includes the seven-bedroom Alladale Lodge, two-bedroom Eagle’s Crag Lodge and the Ghillie’s Rest Lodge, which can accommodate four people.
Alladale and The Atholl are the latest additions to what is a burgeoning portfolio for a company which was established just three years ago with two properties – Inverlochy Castle Hotel in Fort William and Rocpool Reserve in Inverness – on its books.
It now operates eight businesses across Scotland, including Blanefield House near Turnberry and Rocpool Reserve Apartments in Edinburgh.
And Lieder confirmed the company is currently in talks with a number of other business owners with a view to further expansion, which may take it outside Scotland.
“We’ve worked with properties in Italy and other parts of Europe so we would expand beyond Scotland and the UK,” he said.
“We’ve grown by people coming to us, we’ve not knocked on people’s doors; it’s going really well by word of mouth and we intend to keep it that way.”
Key to ICMI’s success are staff, said Lieder.
Although personnel remain employees of each individual business, ICMI carries out extensive staff training programmes to maintain a consistent standard of service across the properties in its portfolio.
It’s a strategy Lieder reckons works well for ICMI and for the owners of the individual businesses it runs.
“We’re in the service industry so we depend on good people,” he said.
“People are our most important asset and we have a responsibility to grow that talent. Junior staff get the opportunity to move around our properties, which are all quite different.”
It’s the individual characteristics of each business in ICMI’s stable that Lieder said the company strives to protect.
Although the properties are under the Inverlochy Castle Management International umbrella, he said each is treated as an individual business.
“It’s not a chain; we have a collection of very unique properties and the last thing we want to do is change their character,” added Lieder.
“I believe it’s very difficult for a small independent hotel to survive at the moment due to the huge cost of global marketing.
“Every owner has different reasons for coming to us – some for business reasons, some because they don’t have the time to spend in the business – and they get the benefit of being part of a family, a global marketing platform and their business being run by professionals.
“We have a lot of customers who travel within our portfolio because they are used to a certain standard of service, not a style of hotel.”