A luxury hotelier is being sought to move into a vacant plot at Inverness Campus in a bid to tackle a shortage of beds in the city.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has confirmed that it is preparing to start marketing the plot which is close to the new Inverness College UHI.
The development agency is looking for a four or five-star operator to move into the campus.
Business leaders last night welcomed the development which they said would help alleviate growing demand for hotel beds in the Highland capital.
Figures supplied by HIE show Inverness is the third busiest city in Europe for hotel occupancy rates at 82.4% – behind only Glasgow and Dublin.
In July 2015 the figure peaked at 91.9%.
The city currently only has seven four-star hotels and a single boutique five-star hotel.
Only one of the four-star hotels has more than 50 rooms.
A spokesman for HIE said: “It has always been part of the campus master plan and development strategy to have a hotel located on site, and planning permission in principal was approved for this some time ago.
“Market evidence indicates strong and increasing demand for hotel accommodation in Inverness.
“We would expect demand to increase as the Campus develops as a collaborative hub of industry, education and research.
“A plot with outline planning consent for a hotel is likely to be marketed later in 2017.”
The hotel site sits next to HIE’s headquarters An Lochran at the end of the tree-lined entrance avenue to the campus.
Progress in the project is in several developments in the hotel sector in recent weeks with Travelodge having confirmed plans for a £4.4million 54-bed facility at Ballantyne House in Academy Street earlier this month.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think its sounds fantastic. It would be a really good addition to the Campus and the market in Inverness.
“Inverness has a pressing need for quality hotel accommodation, or hotel accommodation of any kind.
“We’re certainly not oversubscribed in that sector.
“I think a hotel at the campus would be an excellent addition to the mix.”
Fraser Grieve, regional director for the Scottish Council for Development & Industry, added: “I think it has become clear, particularly over the last few years, that Inverness requires new hotel beds.
“There’s been some really positive news on that front with the new Travelodge planned for Academy Street and the expansion plans for the Maple Court.
“This development at the campus has been talked about for quite a while and it’s great news that there is progress on that front.”