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December is the best ever in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh hoteliers have enjoyed their best December occupancy levels in 10 years, according to the 44-strong Edinburgh Principal Hotels Association (EPHA).

Over the Christmas month, average occupancy reached 61%, sharply up from the 44% reported for December 1999. Early indications suggest that the January figures will also be very strong.

The association’s chairman, Simon Williams, said that the bumper month had helped boost annual occupancy in Edinburgh to 67%. He added that growth had been achieved in the face of a 28% rise in the number of new bedrooms in Edinburgh since the late 1990s.

Marco Trufelli, managing director of the Town House Company, said that his group’s three boutique hotels (the Bonham, the Howard and Channings) had reached occupancies of 75%, against 50-55% in December 1999.

While only the Bonham opened for Christmas day, demand meant that the company could have filled all the hotels twice over.

The Rocco Forte group’s Balmoral hotel increased its December occupancy levels by eight percentage points year-on-year, according to new general manager Gerhard Schaller.

And general manager Iain Fleming was so optimistic about December trade that he opened the Roxburghe hotel on Christmas Day for the first time and served more than 400 Christmas dinners.

He felt that people had decided to cheer themselves up by taking more short-break holidays after the doom and gloom of foot-and-mouth and 11 September.

All agreed that the growth in cheap air flights had made Edinburgh easier to reach, which had helped hoteliers.

They also pointed to improved collaborative marketing by the local tourist board, city council, attractions and shops, which in the autumn included their largest e-mail campaign to potential customers in the UK and Europe.

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