Every other year, thousands of oil industry experts — engineers, technical experts and industry leaders — descend on Aberdeen for Offshore Europe — a conference organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers focusing on the upstream oil and gas industry.
Accommodation is tough to come by. When covering the event in 2007, this reporter stayed at a less than salubrious establishment — the only rooms available last minute — with many high-flying executives who had also left their arrangements until the last minute.
There was a lot of grumbling.
“I’m not leaving it so late next time,” complained one Texan oilman to another. “The Marcliffe really is the only place to stay round here.”
The Marcliffe has been a local Pitfodels landmark since it opened in 1993. Indeed, it is the only five-star hotel in Scotland’s north-east. VIP visitors over the years have included Prince Charles, former leaders Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev and the former football manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The Sultan of Brunei once reportedly booked out the entire place.
Sadly, The Marcliffe is shutting its doors in November next year when its legendary owner, Stewart Spence, 66, retires. He has forged a deal with the development company Gibson Mcartney, which will demolish the local landmark, built in 1852, and replace it with a £90 million (Dh535.2m) office complex. A restaurant and spa are also planned for the 11-acre site. Gibson Mcartney hopes to attract the headquarters of a major international company — possibly an oil and gas company — to the “world-class” complex. Plans will be submitted to Aberdeen City Council in January.
Mr Spence has been in hospitality for more than half a century.
“By next year, I will have worked for 52 years,” he recently told The Scotsman newspaper. “It is the right time for me to retire. The last year has been the best we have had, and I would like to go out at the top.”