The loss of one of Inverness’s major music venues would be far worse than the benefits brought from a luxury hotel in its location, a leading economist has said.
Tony Mackay has suggested the negative impact of losing the cultural facility could not be offset by construction of a new hotel.
Plans have been unveiled for a revised £30 million 155-bedroom hotel on the site of the music venue.
If approved, the hotel would bear the Courtyard by Marriott brand.
‘The loss of the Ironworks would be disappointing’
Mr Mackay said: “Both have economic benefits.
“The loss of the Ironworks would be disappointing.
“I am surprised at the number of new hotels in Inverness, particular after two poor years for the tourism industry because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A new hotel recently opened on Church St and there is the other one nearing completion further down the river.
“It could be argued that another hotel will not attract more visitors but just take business away from other hotels in the area.
“On balance, therefore, I believe that the loss of the Ironworks will be worse than the benefits of another hotel.”
Developer hints towards an economic boost from hotel proposal
Proposed by Bricks Group, the developer suggests the new hotel will bring with it an economic boom.
If approved, up to 90 jobs are to be created during construction, and a further 65 once open.
Bricks have promised a larger investment than that granted by the UK Government’s levelling up funding award to the city, of which Inverness is to receive £20 million.
Councillors brandished the development as an “unacceptable” intrusion on the city’s landscape.
Allan Davidson, chief operating officer of Bricks Group, has said the group have listened and have tabled new plans after consulting a local architect with conservation area expertise.
Mr Davidson previously said: “The area’s economy urgently needs inward investment to help its post-pandemic recovery – and we’re prepared to inject an amount which would surpass chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £20 million budget offer to Inverness for new visitor and sport facilities.
“The city has been pushed to cope with visitor numbers this year and commercial studies have shown new hotels are necessary if Inverness is to continue to grow as a tourism destination.”
Evening offering for guests needs enhanced
Emmanuel Moine, chairman of Inverness Hotels Association, has said that more competition is not necessarily a bad thing, but called for an increase in the offering available for tourists, particularly in the evenings.
He said that the number of bedrooms in Inverness has increased by between 40% and 50% in recent years due to the creation of new hotels, with more guests required to fill them.
Mr Moine said: “We are very happy to see Inverness developing tourism businesses.
“More competition is not always a bad thing. It is good to have more competition and more tourists around to develop the hospitality sector in the Highlands.
“We are a bit worried that there are too many rooms.
“In the winter, we already have too many rooms.
“It is great to have more hotels but we definitely need to have much more guests.”
Mr Moine added that the sector has had difficulty finding staff recently.
Around 200 to 300 workers are required across all the city’s hotels.
He added: “The city should be a little gem with everyone coming on their own because Inverness looks amazing.
“This is a fantastic destination and it offers so much, but we need to focus on the city centre.
“We have got a lot of tourists coming in the season and asking what can they do after 6pm.
“There are not enough things to do.
“There are lots of nice pubs and bars but we need to find something else. Music venues, coffee houses, a bigger market. We need to offer a lot of things for the tourist to increase the quality.
“It is good, but it could be much better.”