Princes Street turns focus to hotels and leisure as retailers migrate 

Edinburgh's famous thoroughfare has been earmarked for a number of new developments worth more than £500m.

Princes Street was once an iconic shopping street at the heart of Edinburgh.

But many of its flagship retail spaces now lie vacant after numerous brands migrated into the new £1bn St James Quarter.

The famous thoroughfare has now been earmarked for a number of new hotels and leisure developments as the city continues to recover from the Covid pandemic. 

It’s estimated that more than £500m is being invested in projects in the Princes Street area, including the overhaul of the Jenners building and the opening of the Johnnie Walker Whisky Experience in the west end. 

A planning application has also been submitted to convert the former Next, Zara and Russell and Bromley shops into the first luxury Ruby Hotel in Scotland. 

The £100m development would bring the upper floors of the buildings back into use for the first time in decades.

Meanwhile, just up the Mound in the Old Town, the first Virgin Hotel in Europe is now fully operational. 

Founder Sir Richard Branson spoke to STV News on a recent visit. 

He said he is confident that Edinburgh is now one of the world’s top destinations.

Sir Richard said: “If I ask ten people what their favourite city in the world is, I would say three out of ten would say Edinburgh, which is a remarkable transformation, and hopefully we can play a small part in that transformation. 

“I think hotels are really important for a city centre, they bring important tourists to a city centre, but they don’t swamp it in the same way a cruise liner can.” 

The influx of more hotels will bring an extra 4,000 bedrooms for visitors – fuelling concerns in some quarters about over-tourism. 

But Donald Emslie, chairman of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, insists that fresh investment will benefit everyone. 

He added: “It’s a hugely encouraging development for Edinburgh, it’ll bring international money into Edinburgh, provide direct jobs for people working in these hotels, but then lots of other jobs in the supply chain.”

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