Doing it for themselves: Inverness set to become home to the UK’s first social enterprise hotel

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE HOTELThe UK’s first social enterprise hotel is to be constructed on the Inverness Campus in a £14m project to create opportunities for vulnerable young people. The hotel, developed by Albyn Housing and the Calman Trust, is set to open its doors in 2014.

The aim of the project is to provide training for youngsters not in education or employment, without a home, or lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. The youths will help run the hotel alongside hospitality experts, gaining experience, training and eventually a formal qualification.

Calum Macaulay, Chief Executive of Albyn, said: “It’s hugely exciting to be involved in this project. There is much work to be done but we are confident of delivering the UK’s first social enterprise hotel. Not only will it provide life-changing opportunities for young people, but it will also offer a fantastic quality of service to guests.

“Between Calman, Albyn and Grant Sword we have the required mix of skills and a common goal to build and run a commercial hotel business focused on improving the lives of young people.”

The hotel is modelled on Rotterdam’s highly successful Art & Woonhotel. The innovative hotel is run by the Best Western group and provides employment for some of the most marginalised people in Dutch society, including ex-convicts, women escaping abusive relationships and single parents. The hotel, which doubles as a contemporary art gallery, also provides temporary accommodation for staff.

The 4-star Inverness Campus hotel will comprise 120 rooms, 40 of which will be designed as self contained apartments for those requiring short-term accommodation. The remainder of the rooms will be high quality hotel rooms available for standard hire.SOCIAL ENTERPRISE HOTEL

Isobel Grigor, Chief Executive of the Calman Trust, said: “Running a hotel involves almost all of the skills required in running a town. This project will see trainees work alongside staff throughout the business, including maintenance, food preparation, front of house and housekeeping.

“We intend to run a high-quality hotel with industry-leading service levels. Yes, that sets challenges for vulnerable young people, but our experience is that youngsters rise to the challenges when they are made achievable.”

Artysans Cafe, in the city’s Strothers Lane, is an early model for the project and was opened in December 2010. The cafe has since won an ‘Innovation’ prize at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards.

Both the cafe and the hotel have been supported by high-profile businesspeople, such as Freda Newton from Jacobite Cruises and Yvonne Crook from View Marketing.

Freda Newton said: “The training hotel is a hugely ambitious project that has the potential to transform the lives of the region’s most vulnerable young. In the longer term, the hotel will also benefit the hospitality industry by supplying a pool of qualified professionals.”

Yvonne Crook added: “Having visited Artysans and met the young people doing a great job of making it a success, I am excited about becoming an ambassador for the hotel and joining other business leaders to help develop the business plan and make a success of this innovative project for the Highlands and Islands.”

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