The beds are made and the bar is stocked, and the staff are raring to go.
AC Hotel by Marriott will open in Inverness next month, becoming the biggest hotel in town.
A diverse range of visitors are expected to fill each and every room in the coming months – from families heading to hunt for Nessie to couples looking for a romantic getaway to businesspeople hoping for somewhere to wind down.
Work has been ongoing since March last year to turn the derelict site of a former swimming pool into the brand new 191-bed hotel.
The Glebe Street plot had lain empty for nearly two decades, with nothing being granted planning permission on the land until the hotel was proposed.
The development initially sparked controversy back in 2018 when councillors described the proposed plans as “hideous” and “absolutely bogging”.
Following a year-long review, developer Vastint Hospitality submitted new plans which forced Highland Council to reconsider.
It ultimately accepted that the positive economic impact the hotel would have on the city was obvious.
In 2021, plagued by bad weather and the pandemic, the beginning of the project was less smooth than anticipated. However, the ball soon got rolling.
Now the Press and Journal has been given a sneak peek at what is happening behind the scenes before the grand opening on November 1.
The ‘living room’
The entrance to the new AC Hotel is vast yet cosy, stylish and homely.
Every inch has been carefully thought through by Marriott’s in-house interiors team, from the art installations in the reception area to the books piled by the fireplace.
To the left of the reception is what the hotel is calling “the living room”, a space that equally serves anyone relaxing, working or socialising at the location.
A rectangular bar with suspended colour-changing lighting sits in the middle of the space, surrounded by different seating area options.
Almost all tables and chairs have easy access to power points for anyone there to work or, quite literally, recharge.
The bar and restaurant are open to everyone, so guests staying in the hotel can mingle with locals – including in the outdoor seating area in the warmer months.
Location, location, location
Victoria Park is sales manager at the hotel and has already been arranging international bookings for the coming year.
For her, one of the biggest selling points of AC Hotel by Marriott is its city centre location.
“What’s nice about the location is that we’re in town but we’re at the slightly quieter end of town,” she said.
“We’re just that nice walk out of the centre, it’s going to be a peaceful stay but still a very accessible one.
“In terms of what you can do in the centre of Inverness, it’s fantastic, or you can get in your car and go further afield.”
Even when councillors were unhappy with the proposed design for the hotel back in 2018, they still agreed the location was perfect.
Councillor Ron MacWilliam said at the time: “It is an ideal location for a hotel and it will help bring in the kind of tourist spend that will regenerate the Academy Street end of the town centre.”
Inverness’s skyline has been altered by the new building, with the centre now bookended between the castle at one end and the hotel at the other.
A place to rest your head
Having enough hotels to meet the ever increasing demand in Inverness becomes more of an issue each tourist season.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce said last year the hotel would help the city cope.
He said: “We have been in a position pre-pandemic where we were really struggling to meet the demand for hotel occupancy for hotel rooms in the city so it’s good to see that being added to the offering we have in the city.”
Situated on the banks of the River Ness, most of the rooms at the AC Hotel have views out over the city – with the luckiest gazing out at what will soon be snowy peaks in the distance.
Each room has a king sized bed, with the exception of some twin rooms available for families.
There are accessible rooms on the ground floor and a separate block with 24 rooms that could be booked out by large groups, businesses or sports teams.
Despite being right by a main road, the sound proofing in the hotel means it is virtually silent inside.
Guests can also enjoy the fitness suite on the ground floor which is kitted out with new equipment.
Mrs Park said the hotel has been built using sustainable materials, adding: “If you were to take the hotel down in 50 years time, you could reuse everything.”
The hotel has created 35 new jobs in the area, with the company embracing the fact that having staff with local knowledge will only improve visitor experience.
Mrs Park is in communication with Inverness’s new distillery as well as restaurants, Explore Highland and local football teams to make sure the new AC Hotel is clued up on everything local.
Though the hotel doesn’t have conference facilities, Mrs Park is also working with local businesses that do, like Eden Court, to still bring those groups to stay.
“People won’t necessarily want to eat here every night, they’ll want to walk into the centre so we will be connecting with local restaurants even more,” she said.
“Whatever we bring in is, I think, going to have an economic impact on businesses around Inverness.”
Earlier in the year, project manager Gerben de Wit agreed that the hotel would need to embrace the city if it wanted to be successful there.
He said: “Sometimes you get the bigger developers who buy the development and sell it off but that’s not us. If we do something, it has to be good for the long term.
“In Inverness, we need to work and live with the businesses and the people here. We want to be a part of the city.”