FIRST LOOK: Take a tour around Sunderland's Hilton hotel
Sixteen months after construction work began, Sunderland's much-anticipated Hilton Garden Inn will welcome its first guests on Thursday.
Ahead of opening day, the Echo was given a guided tour of the 141-bedroom hotel and its on site restaurant Karbon which stands in the shadow of the Stadium of Light.
Catherine Graham, director of sales, is one of up to 60 new appointments created by the hotel giant’s move into the city.
Speaking of the opening, she said: “I remember seeing the plans and the finished hotel looks stunning. We can’t wait to welcome the guests now, that’s when a hotel really comes to life. It’s been great to be part of a project that has generated so much public interest.
“We’ve had people looking through the windows to see inside and enquiries from as far afield as America.”
Early sales for the new hotel, the first Hilton Garden Inn property to launch in the North and the only one to date between Birmingham and Glasgow, have been strong.
“We are opening with strong business on the books,” she explained. “Dates of major events, such as Beyonce and the England vs Australia international match are doing very well and it’s nice to open with two key events like that in the diary. Airshow weekend is also doing really well.
“Football-wise, we’ve had bookings from Germany and Sweden for match days, as well as from across Britain. Opening night doesn’t coincide with any events, but people have booked for opening night because they are huge SAFC fans and want to be able to say they spent the first night here. There’s been a lot of interest in the rooms that overlook the stadium.”
In a nod to the site’s history as the former location of Wearmouth Colliery, the restaurant is named Karbon in reference to carbon and coal mining while meeting rooms have names linked with the shipyards, including Menvill, Doxford and Laing.
Meanwhile, the entrance hall is decorated with garden-inspired art works made at National Glass Centre and other pieces made by Sunderland University students, which will be changed regularly.
The Karbon grill bar and restaurant, which will offer pan-American food, has its own entrance and is aimed at both hotel residents and non-hotel residents.
Catherine said: “We very much want this to be a destination restaurant. We’ll be serving food daily from 5pm with bar snacks and alcohol served in the bar from noon.
“We’re in an unusual position here, but we’ve already had people who work in the stadium or who are visiting the Aquatic Centre show interest in having somewhere to come for a coffee and snack during the day.”
Standard room prices start from £119 with four suites, which sleep up to six people, also available.
Other features include a 24hour fitness suite, free wifi, triple glazing, central courtyard and laundry room.