HE began as a pioneer of the kiosk travel agency business, booking hotel rooms from the concourses of King’s Cross, Euston and Victoria stations in London before expanding to Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central and then the country’s airports.

A quarter of a century later, Ricky Kapoor has his own hotel portfolio and has just sealed the deal to add a new multi-million pound aparthotel in Princes Street, Edinburgh, to the clutch, while already mulling more additions.

In completing the acquisition of the Princes Street Suites, his business, the Edinburgh Collection, has secured its second premises on the thoroughfare along with the Old Waverley Hotel.

Mr Kapoor is managing director of his family group of businesses that include commercial offices, a London wine bar and the collection, and has successfully exited the kiosks game and sold a booking firm to lastminute.com.

He told the story of how a concourse kiosk venture burgeoned into a hotel portfolio, after he started out in the family business working on vacations.

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Mr Kapoor said: “I kind of grew up in that business working for my brother. During school holidays, I was working at these retail desks, hotel booking.

“After university, my brother enticed me to to manage the London operations.

“Then, having retail kiosks in airports and railway stations around the UK, we established a corporate hotel booking agency business, which we sold to lastminute.com in early 2004.

“At the time, we were rebranding all of our hotel booking kiosks from Concordia to Thomas Cook Hotel Reservations.

“Then there was the opportunity of me going to Scotland and fixing up more retails kiosks in airports and railway stations and managing the Scottish network we had.

"So, that’s what first got me into Scotland under the Thomas Cook brand.

“We didn’t call it a franchise agreement at this time, because we were the first UK company to be trading as Thomas Cook, without actually being owned by them, and it was called a worldwide network membership agreement.” 

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This was in 1992, and they stayed together for nine years before Mr Kapoor moved to continue with First Option Ledger.
He said: “Before selling to lastminute.com, we also bought the Old Waverley Hotel in 2003.

“We established a good network of retail desks, but we were doing well in corporate business into Scotland.

"We thought if we could get into the property business, it’s a trading business, but also you’ve got the back-up of the bricks and mortar.” 
The group now owns 440 bedrooms across Edinburgh, employing more than 120 staff and has seen “positive growth in profit and turnover in the last financial year and with the acquisition of Princes Street Suites the group looks forward to continue this trend”.

He added: “We had an opportunity we couldn’t refuse and ended up selling the agency business in January 2004.”

He said the bookings landscape has also changed.

“Everything has become a lot more last minute. The lead times of making bookings or receiving bookings is a lot more last minute.

“That trend has continued. The consumer is a lot more savvy.

“You get a lot more cancellations in terms of bookings now, because then they want to re-book and re-book at the best deals."

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The Princes Street property has apartment sizes up to 1,500 square feet per apartment.

Mr Kapoor said: “Again, I think the customer needs choice, but I think, location, location, location, is a must.

So, for our development, we want to continue our growth, but, we want to always be in prime city centre locations.

“Our growth really will be either in the apartment sector, or in limited service hotels.

“We’re very keen to look at other key city centre locations as well, as a part of our growth plan.

The Princes Street Suites, previously managed by RBH, won the 2019 Scottish Hotel Awards’ Family Hotel of the Year category in Edinburgh and the Lothians for the second year in a row.

Whilst the suites were recently refurbished with fully equipped kitchens and spacious living areas, the Edinburgh Collection will “substantially improve the walk-in and welcome experience by expanding the reception area with a 24-hour bar and coffee lounge.

The UK businesses are part of his larger family group Palm Holdings which has interests in hotel development, branding, sales and marketing and operations.

Mr Kapoor has been actively involved in the wider hospitality industry and his family support a number of Charities such as the Loomba Foundation, Action for Children and Social Bite.

Edinburgh Collection’s portfolio in the city is said to offer a "full range of accommodation options from the affordable business class Haymarket Hub Hotel; the historic three-star Old Waverley; and the four-star Holyrood apartHOTEL just off the Royal Mile".

Mr Kapoor said: “Edinburgh is a robust market where we are long term investors with a good mix of corporate, leisure and event business.

"The Edinburgh Collection is well placed to cater to this with each of our Edinburgh properties offering its own unique character, appealing to a different kind of customer.

"The Princes Street Suites offers a luxurious edge to our portfolio and our team are looking forward to marketing it effectively from within our group.”

With Ricky as managing director, his brother Sheetal, is group chief executive.

Sheetal said: “The group now owns in excess of 440 bedrooms across Edinburgh, employing over 120 staff across the four properties.

“The group has seen positive growth in profit and turnover in the last financial year and with the acquisition of Princes Street Suites the group looks forward to continue this trend.”

Q What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

A A favourite is South America for its varied terrain and the number of activities you can do there. I’ve been horseback riding around Patagonia, white water rafting on the Manso River, and hiking on the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Q When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

A When I was a child I worked at my family’s hotel booking kiosks at airport and railway station locations during summer holidays. I very much enjoyed interacting with the customers, and then negotiating with hotels. I’ve carried that feeling with me ever since. 

Q What was your biggest break in business?

A Becoming involved in our corporate hotel booking agency business. I was involved in the growth of the business and really was thrown into the deep end, getting stuck into in all aspects of the business from operations, sales, marketing, finance, IT and HR.

Q What was your worst moment in business?

A There are always many ups and downs in business; however I try to see them as learning opportunities so I don’t like to dwell on problems of the past.

Q Who do you most admire and why?

A I really admire entrepreneurs, who are not only successful in their business, but also give their time and experience to mentor others, or use their influence to get involved with charity work.

Q What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

A I very much enjoyed reading The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. I do not listen to a lot of music although do enjoy contemporary R&B.

Q What was the last film you saw?

A The last thing I saw on the big screen was Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I use Netflix at home, and recently watched The Founder and Roman J. Israel, Esq. which were both very good.