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The VOICE of Northern Ireland’s catering, licensing and tourism industry

The official publication for


The VOICE of Northern Ireland’s catering, licensing and tourism industry

The official publication for





oncern is mounting in the hospitality sector as the countdown to the UK’s planned Brexit date reaches the two-month mark with little sign of any progress to avoid a no-deal scenario. As the February edition of HRNI went to print, Prime Minister Theresa May was due to present a Brexit plan B to Parliament on January 29. It follows the overwhelming defeat of her initial withdrawal agreement, and a narrowly avoided vote of no confidence in the PM, earlier in the month. The UK is set to leave the EU on March 29, and business organisations CBI Northern Ireland and IBEC in RoI have jointly urged politicians to avoid a no-deal scenario, which they say would result in an ‘immediate and unprecedented economic shock’. “Leaving the EU without a deal would damage the sustainability of the hospitality industry and impact on the potential growth of tourism in Northern Ireland,” said Colin Neill,

chief executive, Hospitality Ulster. “We appeal to our elected representatives to work together in a spirit of consensus government to ensure that a no deal scenario does not happen.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the vote against May’s Brexit deal “brings into stark reality the prospect of a no deal Brexit, which would likely be disastrous for the British economy and a hospitality sector that is well-equipped to make a vital economic contribution as we leave the EU. “There can be no delay, faced with such a stark outlook, for politicians to focus on working together to take any and all measures possible to ensure that British consumers are not in the direct firing line of the consequences of food and drink supply chain chaos and the price rises that would inevitably ensue,” she said. “If that means delaying implementation of Article 50 then ideological differences must be put aside for the sake of pragmatic economic benefit.”





ourism NI has launched its spring marketing campaign Say Hello to More promoting Northern Ireland as a short break destination of choice for domestic and Republic of Ireland visitors. The spring campaign runs from January until the end of March, features six themes covering every region in Northern Ireland and is expected to reach 142,364,000 adults across the island of Ireland. In 2018 the spring Say Hello to More campaign helped to deliver over 255,000 visits from the Republic of Ireland and domestic market which contributed over £30m to the local economy. “We are delighted to reinstate our strategic partnership with the NI Hotels @Hosp_ReviewNI

Rathlin Island

Federation and open a co-operative marketing fund to help local tourism businesses who wish to advertise in the Republic of Ireland,” said Naomi Waite, director of marketing at Tourism NI. “Hotel expansion has increased at a steady pace across Northern Ireland to meet the demands of our growing tourism industry and is a key driver of shorts stays in Northern Ireland.” FEBRUARY HRNI • 3

editorialcomment THE TEAM & CONTACTS Editor: Alyson Magee Manager: Mark Glover Art Editor: Helen Wright Production Manager: Irene Fitzsimmons Subscriptions: 028 9055 4598 (Price £27.50 UK, £37.50 outside UK) Published by Independent News & Media Ltd: Hospitality Review NI Independent News & Media Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road Clarendon Dock, Belfast BT1 3BG Contact: Editorial: Tel: 028 9026 4175 Sales: Tel: 028 9026 4266 The Review is the official publication for: Hospitality Ulster: 91 University Street, Belfast, BT7 1HP. Tel: 028 9032 7578. Chief Executive: Colin Neill Chairperson: Mark Stewart The Institute of Hospitality Northern Ireland Branch Email: Web: Chair: Marianne Hood FIH Vice Chair: Siobhan O’Sullivan MIH Northern Ireland Hotels Federation: The McCune Building, 1 Shore Road, Belfast, BT15 3PJ. Tel: 028 9077 6635 Chief Executive: Janice Gault President: Gavin Carroll Design & Production by: Independent News & Media Ltd Printed by: W. & G. Baird Ltd. The opinions expressed in Hospitality Review are not necessarily those of Hospitality Ulster or the NIHF.

Hospitality Review is a copyright of © Independent News & Media Ltd 2016

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ell, Christmas and New Year are done and dusted for another year, and it appears to have been a successful festive season for many (according to Hospitality Ulster’s survey – see right). Unfortunately, the vibrancy of the season is often followed by a major lull for venues in January and February as customers count the cost of Christmas and hibernate. Many are also reining in unnecessary expenditure as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, and potential economic catastrophe, looms. Many hospitality businesses take the opportunity to shut their doors for a few weeks and carry out refurbishment projects, and among those currently doing just that are The National in Belfast, The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle and The Bushmills Inn. We look forward to seeing the results. And other businesses get innovative over the quiet months, coming up with promotional offers and special events to try and attract customers back into their venues. With Brexit, low consumer confidence is only one of many concerns, which include security of food and drink supplies not only across the border with the Republic of Ireland but also across the Irish Sea from Great Britain and from continental Europe and beyond. Major stockpiling is under way and many hospitality businesses are pondering whether they will have customers after March 29 if the economy goes into freefall and whether they will have anything to offer them if they do have customers; it’s all a bit doomsday perhaps but certainly not inconceivable. On a more positive note, one event which is guaranteed to bring hoards of visitors with money to burn to our shores, regardless of all Brexit outcomes, is The 148th Open at Royal Portrush this July. Over ps7-10, we talk to a few of the stakeholders and North Coast businesses hard at work to ensure the infrastructure

is in place and memorable hospitality on offer to make The Open an event to remember with a lasting legacy. Among those featured this month are Tourism NI, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Babushka Portrush, the Magherabuoy Hotel and Woodgate Aviation. We are keen to continue the series as the countdown continues so, if you are involved in some way in organising The Open or preparing your hospitality businesses for the visitors it will bring, please let us know and we’ll be happy to shine a spotlight on your work. With the 148th Open already enjoying distinction as the first championship to sell out, which it achieved in an amazing eight weeks, prospects are already looking good. And a repeat of last year’s July weather for the duration of the event would really be splendid. In the meantime, we are looking forward to Tourism NI’s gala event, Eyes on the 148th Open Royal Portrush, at Titanic Belfast on January 31, and then a reward for getting through the drabbest months of the year with The Top 100 Hospitality Businesses 2019, also at Titanic Belfast on February 27. The unveiling of this year’s Top 100 is eagerly awaited and HRNI will again be bringing you an exclusive publication featuring Northern Ireland’s most outstanding businesses making the cut from tiny pubs to five-star hotels. Our February edition, meanwhile, takes its usual tour around the province, starting in Belfast with Adam Sarhan at The Ivory and Jane Hodgers at Panama, heading up the east coast to Castello Italia in Carrickfergus and then heading across to Kesh to find out about the latest developments at Lusty Beg Island Resort. Enjoy…

Hospitality Review NI is a part of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). If you believe you have been unfairly treated, you can contact IPSO in writing via its website for guidance on what to do. The service is free. IPSO can then advise on whether it’s likely you have grounds for a complaint and what to do about it. The normal procedure is for the complainant to then contact the publication’s editor directly. If no agreement is reached, the complainant can go back to IPSO to look for an adjudication, or for it to take over the complaint. Full details are available at Alternatively, email, or, or telephone 0300 123 2220, or the out-of-hours emergency number: 07659 152 656. Or write to: IPSO, c/o Halton House, 20-23 Holborn, London EC1N 2JD. @Hosp_ReviewNI




majority of local hospitality businesses have reported stronger trading this past Christmas, with over 60% of operators enjoying a boost in beverages and over half welcoming increased food sales. In the first week of January 2019, Hospitality Ulster conducted a survey of its members across pubs, restaurants and hotels in Northern Ireland. More than 60% of businesses responding reported an increase in beverage sales over Christmas, compared to the same period in 2017, with 29% experiencing a lift of 10%-plus.

In food sales, more than 51% of respondents reported an increase, including 22% reporting a 10%-plus hike. However, the improvement was not the same for all businesses across the board and 20-26% of businesses also reported a decrease in food and beverage sales during the same period. “The figures in general are quite heartening after what has been quite a difficult year for business in Northern Ireland,” said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster. “The positive survey results demonstrate a clear resilience in the industry and a willingness to adapt



opportunities. We want to astings Hotels is investing ensure that our people almost £2m in tailored have the opportunity staff training over the to pursue a career in next four years across the hotel industry its seven hotels in and avail of the Northern Ireland. prospects it can The project, open up for them.” supported by Niall Casey, £400,000 from director of skills Invest NI, will involve and competitiveness Hastings developing its at Invest NI, said: executive management, From left, Niall Casey, Invest NI and Howard Hastings, “We are pleased supervisors and rooms Hastings Hotels. to be supporting this and catering teams. family business invest in the “People are our greatest asset development of its 1,000 strong so naturally the ongoing training and workforce. development of our staff is of the utmost “We have offered Hastings over importance,” said Howard Hastings, £400,000 towards this investment managing director of Hastings Hotels. which will increase its capacity and “This is a very exciting time for the hotel performance and contribute to the industry. continued growth of our vibrant tourism “We want to ensure Hastings Hotels industry. I wish the company continued has the infrastructure and services success.” in place to take advantage of future @Hosp_ReviewNI

and plan ahead with great offers of food, drink and entertainment put on over the festive season. “I think the fact that trade was up for many members shows that people really do enjoy the experience of a night out. We are seeing a boom in craft products like gin and beer, where people enjoy sampling a wide range of different types of drinks. We have also seen a sharp increase in non-alcoholic spirits and beers. Customers are seeking the overall experience, rather than just the product. “Food sales continue to grow and again that comes down to the wide and growing range on offer out there, right across Northern Ireland. “It is worth noting however that this upturn hasn’t been the case across the board and there are still many business owners facing an uphill struggle, particularly as we enter what is to be a very precarious year for business in Northern Ireland.”

GAME OF THRONES SPINOFF TO BEGIN FILMING IN AUTUMN Filming on the new Game of Thrones spin-off will begin in Northern Ireland in the autumn after location shoots in the Canary Islands. The Long Night prequel is set 1,000 years before the original worldwide smash TV series and will star Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts, of King Kong fame, in the lead role. Staff at the Paint Hall studios in Belfast, the main set location for Game of Thrones, have been told to prepare to fly out to Spain to work on the new spin-off.

AN END FOR GREYHOUND RACING IN NI The closure of Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium “spells the end of the dog racing experience” in Northern Ireland, its former assistant racing manager said last month. Bob Fenton, who is also a dog racing correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph, said the impact of the closure will be felt on tracks all around Ireland.




Pictured with Marianne Hood, chair of IoH NI and Pamela Ballantine, awards host, are the 2018 winners.


eadline is fast approaching to enter this year’s Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism, which will be held at Titanic Belfast on May 17. Self-nominate or nominate one of your colleagues by a deadline of Monday, February 18, with judging set to take place over March 12-13 at the Crowne Plaza Belfast. The Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism pays tribute to and recognises the achievements of many committed, passionate professionals in the hospitality industry throughout Northern Ireland. “These are the longest established hospitality awards in Northern Ireland, recognising the success of individuals working in all sectors of the industry,” said Marianne Hood, chair of the Institute of Hospitality (NI Branch). “The Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism provides a platform to celebrate individual managers who have made a recognisable contribution to their place of work and to the industry in general and we encourage everyone to get involved and celebrate success and personal achievements in our thriving industry.”

For further information, visit

CATEGORIES FOR THE 24TH INSTITUTE OF HOSPITALITY AWARDS FOR PROFESSIONALISM 2019 • Business Development/Sales Manager of the Year • Coffee Shop/Café Manager of the Year • Contract Catering Chef of the Year • Contract Catering Manager of the Year • Front of House Manager of the Year • General Manager of the Future • Hospitality Management Team of the Year • Hotel Chef of the Year • Hotelier of the Year • Housekeeping Manager of the Year • Human Resource Manager of the Year • Independent Bar Manager of the Year • Lecturer of the Year • Operational Manager of the Year • Outstanding Apprentice of the Year • Restaurant Chef of the Year • Restaurateur of the Year • Student Management Potential Award • Supplier of the Year • Unsung Hero Award



ospitality Ulster has welcomed recognition of Northern Ireland’s specific challenges in a White Paper setting out proposals for a post-Brexit, skills-based immigration system, published by Home Secretary Sajid Javid on December 19. “The issues around the migrant workforce within the wider Brexit debate is a concerning issue for the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland,” said Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster. “We are encouraged to hear that areas which we have pushed for - such as a review of the Shortage Occupation List specifically for Northern Ireland, understanding of the special challenges locally due to the border with the

Republic of Ireland, and the need to lower the minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £24,500 for NI - have been raised directly with the Home Secretary at the House of Commons. It is clear that our voice is being heard. “We are actively reviewing the white paper which has just been published and will be highlighting any impacts on the hospitality sector during the consultative period.” “We will be inviting the Home Secretary to Northern Ireland in the New Year as part of this process and will continue to press our case that the hospitality sector is vital to the local economy and that it must be protected.” @Hosp_ReviewNI



HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? Tourism NI has been working closely with the event organisers, the R&A, and Royal Portrush Golf Club for over six years, to bring The Open back to NI for the first time since 1951. I have had the privilege of working on the preparations for The 148th Open since 2015. It has been an exciting period of time and the scale of preparation already undertaken puts us in a strong position for delivery of the Championship later this year. WHAT HAVE YOUR PREPARATIONS ENTAILED? An event of this scale and ambition could not be delivered without the support of key public bodies, both locally and across Northern Ireland; nor without the R&A who have an experienced team that deliver this event in different Championship courses each year. My role is to support coordination of all activity across the key agencies to assist the R&A in delivery of The 148th Open, Royal Portrush. I chair a multi-agency coordination group that focuses on planning critical elements of event delivery, such as the traffic and transport plan and the marketing and communications plan. With over 12 months of planning already underway, delivery plans are well progressed. I am also responsible for coordinating activity within Tourism NI, where most of the organisation is supporting delivery of the event and engaging in activity to maximise the opportunities hosting The

148th Open presents for Northern Ireland. Considerable marketing and promotional effort has already been undertaken in partnership with the R&A and Tourism Ireland. This has helped drive global anticipation and demand for the event, with all general admission Championship Day tickets being sold in a record-breaking eight weeks and making The 148th Open the first ever Championship to sell out. We have been working very closely with the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, and other local authorities, to ensure that our tourism industry are ‘Open Ready’; as well as other agencies, such as Invest NI and Food NI, to increase the number of local suppliers supporting delivery of the event. We have also been working with the R&A, the Council and Volunteer Now to develop a volunteer programme that will enhance the welcome and quality of experience that visitors will have in and around the event. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? Hosting of The 148th Open will be another transformational moment in Northern Ireland’s tourism history and I am exceptionally proud to be involved in making it happen. The 148th Open will deliver over £80m in combined economic and media benefit to Northern Ireland. We will open our arms to welcome over 190,000 visitors, travelling from countries all across the globe. Royal Portrush Golf @Hosp_ReviewNI

Club and the breath-taking Causeway Coast will be transmitted to 80 million homes, across 150 countries around the world. Given the numbers, many parts of Northern Ireland will be involved in delivery of this event as they host visitors in their local areas. Volunteers will go that extra mile to deliver a warm and welcoming experience; and a talented, committed team across NI’s key public bodies will deliver, in partnership with the R&A, a safe and successful event, that will hopefully make our local citizens proud. WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE LEGACY OF ROYAL PORTRUSH HOSTING THE OPEN? The legacy of hosting The Open will be far reaching beyond the event itself. We are confident it will help deliver the final push to becoming a £50m golf tourism industry. We are already seeing an uplift in the demand for links courses across Northern Ireland. With the average golf visitor spending £2,228 per trip and a majority keen to experience an authentic 19th hole experience, the benefits in growth from this market will be experienced by visitor attractions, retailers, restaurants and local tourism businesses across Northern Ireland. We are confident that we will deliver an exceptional 148th Open Championship, one that will provide further endorsement to the world that Northern Ireland is a compelling destination to visit and a great place to live, work and invest. FEBRUARY HRNI • 7


GETTING ALL FIRED UP FOR THE OPEN NORTHERN IRELAND FIRE & RESCUE SERVICE (NIFRS) WILL IN FACT BE MAKING SURE JUST THE OPPOSITE HAPPENS, SAYS STATION COMMANDER CHRIS LALLY HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? NIFRS monitored The Open last year to guide our service requirements for The 148th Open, Royal Portrush. We started emergency planning work in September 2018.

fire and rescue service delivery in the area. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? Hosting The 148th Open is a coup for Northern Ireland. We know that the eyes of the sporting world will be on us in July and we’re confident that we’ll play our part in keeping people safe during this world-class event.

WHAT HAVE YOUR PREPARATIONS ENTAILED? NIFRS planning team includes emergency planners, tactical wildfire officers, prevention and protection officers, as well as strategic and tactical commanders. We’re working in partnership with other agencies to keep people who’re attending the event safe, while at the same time ensuring we maintain normal

WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE LEGACY OF ROYAL PORTRUSH HOSTING THE OPEN? The event will put Northern Ireland on the world stage. I’ve no doubt it will attract other high-profile events and investment for years to come.

SHOWCASING SMALL TOWN HOSPITALITY AND CHARM PORTRUSH HAS A RICH LARDER FROM WHICH TO FEAST, SAYS GEORGE NELSON, OWNER OF BABUSHKA HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? We have been preparing for The Open for approximately a year. However, Portrush has been undergoing a major revamp, which will see the town looking better than ever. As these works near completion, we are all focusing on our individual contributions to ensure the best possible atmosphere and reception when the event arrives. WHAT HAVE YOUR PREPARATIONS ENTAILED? Aside from working with the local Council, contractors and previous hosts of the British Open, we have been working with many individuals and departments, sourcing the best possible products, technology and design. This will allow us to offer an intuitive and effective service to both the time-pressed attendees at the event in the evening and to those who simply want to enjoy the scenery, beaches and hospitality Portrush has to offer. With an expectation of high demand for evening amenities, we have been developing a full week of evening events and menus. This, accompanied with online booking facilities, should allow those attending the golf as well as locals and seasonal visitors to the town, the best opportunity to make 8 • HRNI FEBRUARY

coffee roasters Koppi and organic farmer Vance; these guys are an important part of what we do and it will be so lovely to share their products and stories. It is exciting to receive such a high volume of international guests and share our small town hospitality and charm, while we hope to see all the familiar faces to whom Portrush is an annual retreat.

the most of their time. We expect that, despite the great atmosphere, the town may indeed be quieter during the day, with many attending the golf. With this in mind, there may be no better opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and fantastic food and produce available in Portrush. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? I believe that hosting the British Open creates a fantastic opportunity for Portrush to show off its many attributes. We are proud to work with amazing and award-winning local producers from Ursa Minor Bakehouse and Etherson’s Butchers to internationally-renowned

WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE LEGACY OF ROYAL PORTRUSH HOSTING THE OPEN? I believe the legacy of hosting The Open reaches well beyond our doorsteps, improving perceptions of Northern Ireland and helping us realise our country’s full tourism potential. I would hope that hosting such a prestigious event would attract more visitors throughout the year, as those wishing to avoid the crowds instead opt to enjoy a Lacada stout by a winter fire while feasting from our rich autumn larder of amazing produce. Northern Ireland’s developing food scene is something to get excited about and hopefully the spotlight of The Open will help reveal this year-round bounty. Follow Babushka’s preparations and get a taste of what you can look forward to on Instagram @babushkaportrush. @Hosp_ReviewNI


A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY FOR GOLF, TOURISM AND THE LOCAL ECONOMY THE REAL BENEFIT TO PORTRUSH AND THE REGION WILL BE OVER THE LONGER TERM, SAYS MAGHERABUOY HOTEL MANAGING DIRECTOR TREVOR CLARKE is ‘are we using our facilities to their maximum extent’? As a result of that we are now in the process of making four new accommodation units available ahead of the summer, designed to meet the needs of the high-spending golfing guest.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? We were approached by the Royal & Ancient in Summer 2015 with regard to availability of our accommodation for dates in 2019 and 2020. Without being told anything more in terms of what the booking related to, we were happy to accept provisional bookings for all 55 of our bedrooms for both years. So, when the R&A publicly confirmed The 148th Open would be held at Royal Portrush in July 2019, we were already fully booked. However there had been realistic hopes here on the Causeway Coast that The Open would return to Royal Portrush since 2012, when the Club hosted the Irish Open at fairly short notice. The success of that event certainly raised expectations that The Open might return to Northern Ireland sooner rather than later and we were tuned into that possibility since then. WHAT HAVE YOUR PREPARATIONS ENTAILED? We are an independently-owned and operated business and our planning group has primarily involved our Board and senior management team. We have focused our preparations on the

unique opportunity that The Open presents to Portrush and our business. There is no doubt the event will bring accommodation providers a shortterm windfall, but the real benefit to Portrush and the region will be over the longer term. So, at the Hotel we have developed a pre-event plan that aims to ensure we are offering suitable food and beverage options for visitors at the right times during the week of the event; we are communicating what we have to offer such as the convenience of our car park, entertainment etc. We have also been preparing our staff by providing enhanced customer service training, to better understand the needs of our golfing guests, involving a familiarisation visit to the Clubhouse at Royal Portrush as well as other local tourist attractions. We are working to develop menus that showcase the best of local produce across a range of dishes, and are ramping up our beverage offering with additions to our ranges of specialty gins, malt whiskies and craft beer selections, mindful of the expectations of the international visitor. We are seeking to maximise all sales opportunities, and an obvious question as we look around our extensive building @Hosp_ReviewNI

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? It has been an adventure that has brought renewed focus to our business. We know the eyes of the world will be on the spectacular Causeway Coast not just during the event itself, but in the lead-up to and in the aftermath of the competition - so we are working hard to improve all aspects of our operation. We want to capitalise on the fantastic opportunity that must be viewed jealously from all other corners of the UK and Ireland. We were also privileged to have provided the venue for a special meeting of the members of Royal Portrush in August 2014, when an historic vote was taken to approve changes to the Championship course necessary to make it fit for the demands of The Open. This vote effectively enabled the changes required to make The Open happen. WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE LEGACY OF ROYAL PORTRUSH HOSTING THE OPEN? The legacy of hosting The Open is a world of opportunity for golf, tourism and the local economy here on the Causeway Coast. The Department for Communities has invested £17m in making improvements to the public realm in Portrush and remodelling the train station. There has been a strong emphasis on infrastructure improvements which have led to derelict buildings and vacant town centre sites being brought back into use. It will put the area on the map both in golfing and tourism terms, and present Northern Ireland with an opportunity not just to show off its world-class golf courses, but everything else that makes up our tourism offering; food, drink, scenery, entertainment, culture, history and its people. Hopefully it will create an economic and community dividend the town will enjoy for many years to come. FEBRUARY HRNI • 9



HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? We began preparations ever since the announcement was made. The Open returning to Royal Portrush will be the single biggest sporting event to happen, not only in Northern Ireland, but the island in 2019, next only to Ireland winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan! We’re leaving nothing to chance. Woodgate Aviation’s keen to offer a fivestar service to clients who want a hasslefree experience. Don’t forget, some of the competitors and supporters will be jetting in on long-haul private jets and they are used to expecting the best. Our job is to make sure they get the best. WHAT HAVE YOUR PREPARATIONS ENTAILED? Our preparations at Woodgate Aviation have been extensive. We have looked at our capacity to accommodate private jets and helicopters; how we get clients from our FBO at Belfast International Airport to the course; the constructing of our international marketing; email drops and social media campaigns; public relations, both at home and in target markets; establishing international private jet linkages; and, of course, opening discussions with the organisers. In that respect, we had a visit recently from two senior figures from The Royal and Ancient (R&A) who are the organisers of The Open. The head of player relations and the championship transport operations manager viewed the hangar facilities and were briefed on what we have planned for the event. Our objective was to try and secure R&A approval for the range of services we provide or at least secure a mention 10 • HRNI FEBRUARY

in the official Players Guidebook. That’s very much a work in progress but it underlines our desire to win business before, during and after The Open and open the hangar doors to a much more extensive range of international clients. We are also offering hangarage facilities for aircraft and a re-fuelling service at competitive rates. So far, we have been in negotiation with a major private helicopter charter operator offering our services as a mini heliport for the duration of the event with the focus on providing shuttle runs for departing and arriving passengers. We are also in negotiation with private jet brokers and operators, briefing them on why they should choose Woodgate Aviation as their VIP handler at Belfast International Airport. Our own King Air aircraft are also being offered on brokerspecific private jet booking platforms with the aim of increasing our own charter revenue. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN PREPARING FOR THE OPEN? The Open is so prestigious that Woodgate is leaving no stone unturned. It represents a first-class opportunity for the company to tell the world that we are the foremost fixed-base operator in Northern Ireland, and the only one with a modern, purpose-built hangar.

In this our 50th year in business, we are determined to show private jet owners and operators globally that this is the ideal ‘private jet gateway’ to the entire island of Ireland and if you want the best possible service during The Open, then look no further than Woodgate Aviation. WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE LEGACY OF ROYAL PORTRUSH HOSTING THE OPEN? The legacy for Royal Portrush and golf in Northern Ireland will be immense. Golf tourism in Northern Ireland has already been boosted in the past with the success of US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell, and former British Open winners, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke. The sport will most surely grow in popularity locally, but more importantly, keen amateur golfers the world over will get to see the unrivalled quality of our courses. We have already catered for private golf groups flying in to play Royal County Down and Royal Portrush from Europe and the US. I expect we will see more of that type of lucrative business following on after the marquees are taken down and the professional golfers head to their next big open tournament. We are certainly preparing for a surge in demand after The Open, and that will be good for us and good for the Northern Ireland economy. @Hosp_ReviewNI




WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING? My dad was a chef as was my brother, so I’ve always been surrounded by cooking in our family. When I came back from living in Egypt for seven years, I worked at Roscoff in Shaftesbury Square with Paul Rankin and Andy Rea. I’m interested and inspired by exotic foods such as North African, Thai and Asian, which are evident in my menus at The Ivory. HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS? I picked up all my training on the job learning from some of Northern Ireland’s most respected chefs. WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE? I started my career at Roscoff as a kitchen porter when I was 16 and worked my way up, learning from some amazing but tough mentors. While working for the Rankins, I also worked in their other restaurants Rain City and Cayenne. I followed Andy Rea to Mourne Seafood Bar when he set it up and also worked in his other restaurant, Home. I’ve also been behind the stove at the Parson’s Nose in Hillsborough and Shed on Ormeau Road before taking up the head chef role at The Ivory. HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER? My dad has inspired me. He’s Egyptian and comes from a very small town where he basically had nothing. He has worked really hard and is someone who I look up to as a role model. WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE? September 2018. WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING? I like to call my style simple and rustic. I don’t like to overcomplicate things, but I like to combine good quality ingredients and let the flavours speak for themselves. I also think about vegetables 12 • HRNI FEBRUARY

first, what works well together before thinking about adding meat or fish to a dish to complete it. WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY? It’s very important to me to source local where possible. We have many brilliant producers in Northern Ireland and I like to support them, not just because they are local, but because their produce tastes so good and also as it helps to reduces the carbon foot print. WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF? Currently seven chefs which will increase to nine during the festive season. There are also three kitchen porters supporting the chefs.

WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE? I’ve worked alongside Andy Rea for some time and watched how his career has developed. He’s worked in some brilliant restaurants, here at home but also abroad and has gone on to set up some simple yet successful restaurants. HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK? I love to travel, I lived in Egypt and visit the country when I can. The Middle East has inspired my cooking ethos and I like to travel to different countries in the region. I’ve been with my partner, Anne Marie, for 15 years so it’s brilliant to take time away from the stresses of the kitchen to chill out and re-charge. @Hosp_ReviewNI




ur programme of activities for 2019 got off to a swing at the end of last month with a presentation of our food at Scotland’s Speciality Food Show in Glasgow, an event which enabled a group of local companies to pitch for business with leading trade buyers from across the country. Scotland is a market of more than five million potential buyers. And it proved to be an important business opportunity, which could lead to worthwhile sales for participating companies. Our showcase featured participants offering a broad range of authentic products from smaller businesses. They were among almost 150 from Scotland and parts of England at the show. We’ll continue to support these innovative companies as they follow the leads generated and turn these into sales. We’ll also be offering our companies opportunities to access business in Britain at other shows in this huge market especially the iconic Borough Market in London, building on our hugely successful participation there last March. It’s essential that Northern Ireland ups its game in Britain especially as Brexit approaches. I don’t know whether it will be a deal or no deal Brexit. But whatever the

outcome, it’s essential that Northern Ireland food and drink has the strongest presence possible in Britain. It is such an important marketplace and one that’s easily accessed and serviced from Northern Ireland. While our focus at the Speciality Food Show, supported by Invest Northern Ireland, was on our fabulously tasty and innovative food, the event also gave us an opportunity to promote Northern Ireland as the World’s Best Food Destination, an accolade from the World Travel Market in London last November. And it also followed the outstanding success of five local companies in winning the most significant categories in the annual Produce Awards organised by Delicious, the UK’s biggest selling consumer food magazine. The awards were a further endorsement of our food by many of Britain’s top food writers. Winning five of eight categories in the awards was a stunning achievement which included extensive promotion within the awardwinning magazine. As readers will also be aware, two of our leading restaurants were included in La Liste of the world’s top restaurants. They were Michael Deane’s EIPIC and Steve Toman’s OX, both based in Belfast

and Michelin star eateries. The latest awards are a further demonstration of the quality and originality of food and drink to be found here by trade buyers and, of course, visitors from throughout the world. This will also be another important year for tourism here as we move towards The Open at Royal Portrush. We’ve been working with Sodexo to develop opportunities for our food and drink during this globally important sporting event. We can now harness the food and drink potential of such events with even greater confidence because we have superb restaurants and bars specialising in creating original dishes using the superb ingredients to be found from local producers. Food, of course, is now seen as a major influence on the choice of a holiday destination, and many visitors generally spend upwards of a third of their budget on food and drink. In addition to our support for producers, mostly smaller businesses, Food NI will continue to develop our work with the hospitality and tourism sectors ahead; sectors which, I believe, have tremendous growth potential in 2019 and beyond. Winning Best Food Destination couldn’t have come at a better time for us all.



he 2019 KNORR Student Chef of the Year competition, celebrating its 22nd anniversary, is open to second year students from culinary colleges across the island of Ireland. Taking place in Waterford Institute of Technology on February 5, it is the biggest competition of its kind and has built up a reputation for the quality and high standard of skills and cooking displayed by young student chefs. Celebrating the nation’s love for street food, this year’s theme is Street on a Plate: a street food-inspired feast. The theme follows on from the influence that street food from around the world is having on Irish menus and gives students an opportunity to showcase their creativity and skill in the kitchen. “The KNORR Student Chef


Jade Ainscough, KNORR Student Chef of the Year 2018.

competition is a fantastic celebration of Irish food and the creativity of our future chefs who are given the platform to demonstrate their passion

for food. Ireland is highly regarded for our local and great quality produce and renowned for our talented chefs working right across the country,” said Audrey Crone, executive chef Ireland, Unilever Food Solutions. “The Irish palate has certainly evolved and we’re seeing more diversity and influence from various cuisines available in Ireland. We want our student chefs to embrace this challenge this year and I’m looking forward to seeing how they interpret this year’s theme.” This year, the judging panel will be joined by entrepreneur, businessman and broadcaster Bobby Kerr, who himself has vast experience in the hospitality sector. For more information, see knorrstudentchef. @Hosp_ReviewNI


A DAY IN THE LIFE everyone worth knowing and, as a result of his unrivalled expertise, Osborne King are still considered the go-to surveyors for most in the licensed market.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB? Undoubtedly the best part of my job is the characters that you come across on a daily basis. The licensed market is never dull and, with renewed confidence in the sector, it is exciting to see many local operators thriving and improving Northern Ireland’s offering. The worst part I suppose are ‘long no’s’. I’m sure this is a gripe for most, but often you can invest a lot of time and energy into a proposed sale or valuation only for the deal to be pulled at the last minute. WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR? Despite the recent optimism in the hospitality sector, there is no doubt that our licensing laws remain outdated. When you compare Belfast to other major cities in the UK, we are still lagging behind. Our opening hours legislation needs modernised, Easter trading remains an issue and the requirement for distilleries to have a licence in order to sell their product onsite are curtailing further growth in our sector. OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY I’m going to give the same answer as most and say every day is different and that fortunately there are no such things as typical days for me. Over the last 12 months, I have valued some of the most luxurious hotels in Northern Ireland as well as local watering holes in Derry, Fermanagh and Armagh. This is one of the great things about my role and it helps keep me up to speed with everything that is going on in the industry.

MARTIN McGREEVY DIRECTOR, OSBORNE KING WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE? I joined Osborne King as a graduate in 2005 and was made a director of valuation in July 2016. My work is mainly on behalf of clients and local lending institutions, preparing valuation reports and, over the last six years, I have had particular focus on the licensed and hotel market. WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN HOSPITALITY/ TOURISM? My first introduction into the local hospitality/tourism sector was when the late and great John Martin took me under his wing to assist with the writing of valuations reports. After the property crash, valuation reports became a lot more arduous and John being the character that he was would not have been the most patient, as many in industry will testify to. This experience was absolutely priceless as there wasn’t much John didn’t know about the licensed game. He knew 16 • HRNI FEBRUARY

PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE Being promoted to director in Osborne King was a very proud moment for me. I started my career as a placement student in Osborne King in 2003, was offered a job as a graduate in 2005 and, with a lot of help and support along the way, I’ve managed to work my way up through the company. This, however, is not unusual for Osborne King with many of my fellow colleagues having had a similar professional journey. As the largest independent commercial practice in Northern Ireland, Osborne King has always encouraged and promoted homegrown talent. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK? I have a two-year-old son and every weekend my wife and I try to get out and about as much as possible. Unfortunately he is of an age where he never stops and often I have to go into work to get a break. As well as that, I’m a keen sports fan and I try and watch and attend as many games as I can, be it the annual Down hammering in the Ulster Championship, going to the Kingspan to watch Ulster or following my adopted home town Ballymena in the Irish League. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW I’m a long suffering Leeds United fan. After 17 brutal years, I have a feeling 2019 will be our year. @Hosp_ReviewNI



From left, Mark Sandys, global head of Beer & Baileys at Diageo and Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations.


he iconic global brand Guinness is to become the new title sponsor of the Six Nations, with the Championship to be known as the Guinness Six Nations from 2019. The Six Nations is one of the world’s best attended sports events and regularly attracts record TV and online audiences in the UK, France, Ireland, Italy and all over the world. The new partnership with Rugby’s Greatest Championship cements Guinness’ position as one of the game’s biggest supporters. The new sponsorship is a six-year deal and considerably strengthens Guinness’ commitment to rugby, adding to an already extensive portfolio that includes the Guinness PRO14, and partnerships with the four Home Unions and leading European clubs Leinster and Munster. Guinness will work with Six Nations to build on its incredible heritage. Guinness will, in particular, seek to champion both the player and fan experience and will use its sponsorship


to encourage the millions of adult fans watching or attending the games to drink responsibly. “We are absolutely delighted to enhance our long-standing relationship with Guinness and they will be a terrific title sponsor for Rugby’s greatest championship,” said Benjamin Morel, CEO of Six Nations. “Guinness are world leaders and our partnership between two great iconic brands will enable us to reach new audiences on a global scale. “We could not be more excited to “WE COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED TO BE WORKING WITH GUINNESS OVER THE COMING YEARS ON DEVELOPING NEW AND INNOVATIVE WAYS TO CONNECT WITH OUR FANS AND CONSUMERS.” BENJAMIN MOREL, CEO OF SIX NATIONS

be working with Guinness over the coming years on developing new and innovative ways to connect with our fans and consumers.” John Kennedy, Diageo president for Europe, Turkey and India, said: “We are really looking forward to the start of the Guinness Six Nations in February 2019. Working with the Six Nations, we want to enhance both the Championship and the fan experience whilst using the partnership to encourage the adult fans watching, or attending the games to drink responsibly.” Mark Sandys, global head of Beer, Baileys and Smirnoff at Diageo, said: “This announcement affirms our longstanding support for the game of rugby and cements our position as one of the world’s biggest rugby supporters. We truly believe in the power of sport to connect communities and we’ll be working with the Six Nations to ensure that fans’ experience of the Guinness Six Nations is their best yet.” @Hosp_ReviewNI



had a refurbishment and relaunched as The Jeggy Nettle. remises that once housed Belfast’s And recently she opened a smallest bar will double in size £300,000 ‘new concept’ cafe deli, and have a rooftop terrace if a Panama City Garden and Cafe, on planning application to extend into a McClintock Street parallel to Bedford neighbouring building is approved. Street, creating 10 new jobs. Muriel’s Cafe Bar on Church Lane Part of the recent application has applied to take over the former will see Pablos double its size on Perfect Fit clothing alterations building, the ground floor and become a which spans two floors. specialist tequila and tacos outfit. It has plans to expand its Pablos “We would hope to start work in takeaway, next door to Muriel’s, into the March or April and that will be a shop unit’s ground floor and use the four-week project,” said Kane of upper two floors to extend Muriel’s. the £350,000 scheme at Muriel’s, If approved, it will mark owner which will add 10 new roles to the Janine Kane’s third major hospitality business. investment here in recent months. “We are obviously very interested Last summer the publican, who also in creating new jobs in Belfast and owns The Spaniard Bar on Skipper we are looking forward to realising Street, injected £300,000 into the the extension which we believe will former House Bar in Stranmillis, which add to the Cathedral Quarter.”





night, the venue will morph into a eannchor Group has announced lively, sociable space, serving drinks a £350,000 investment in the late into the evening. redevelopment of its popular bar Upstairs, cocktail bar and eatery, The National and club, sixty6 will in Belfast’s Cathedral become ‘Upstairs Quarter. at The National’, Set in the historic with a revised surroundings of one programme of DJof Belfast’s oldest led entertainment buildings - the former spanning both National Bank spaces at the Building on High Street weekends. - The National initially “Continued opened to the public in innovation and September 2013, following investment is crucial in a significant redevelopment From left, Petra Wolsey, group marketing director for our industry, to keep of the previously dormant Beannchor and Conall Wolsey, up with changing building. director of Beannchor. Photo credit: Elaine Hill consumer trends The evolution of The and demands,” National will include said Conall Wolsey, director of a significant renovation, with the Beannchor Group. “In line revamped interiors and the with the wider Beannchor Group’s introduction of a fully retractable commitment to reducing our carbon roof and heating system in the footprint, sustainability is a core popular National Garden outside focus. Our ambition is to achieve space, alongside a refreshed food zero food waste at The National and drink offering, with a focus on and we are working on a range of breakfast and lunch trade, highpolicies and initiatives to help us quality coffee, craft beers and reach this goal.” cocktails. Renovation work began mid The National will open for January, with the venue set to reopen breakfast at 8am and will serve food to the public in mid February. throughout the day until 5pm. At




new aparthotel, a pub and an apartment complex in Portrush have received almost £1m in public funds as part of efforts to prepare the seaside resort for the 148th Open Championship in July. The Department for Communities (DfC) said it has set aside several million pounds from a total £17m investment package for the purpose of bringing some of the town’s buildings back to life. The work includes improvements to streetscapes, enhancements to shop frontages and the new Portrush train station. While DfC said those projects will be completed ahead of the start of the Major golf tournament, which runs at Royal Portrush from July 18-21, it admitted that the majority of projects will not be ready in time. To date DfC has paid out £955,706 in grants to three developments, with another £2m worth of contracts issued for a number of as yet unnamed projects. It said £354,000 has been awarded to The Quays Bar on Eglinton Street towards a refurbishment and extension, while £485,000 has been awarded to an apartment complex at 22 Dunluce Avenue. Hotel group Andras House has also received £116,706 for its £1.4m plan to transform the former Northern Bank building on Main Street into serviced apartments with a bar and café. DfC said yesterday that it is continuing to work with private developers to bring other schemes in Portrush forward, with new announcements expected later in the year. However, given the long lead-in time, the majority of projects will not be delivered in advance of The Open, but will instead leave a lasting legacy, according to DfC. @Hosp_ReviewNI




ough Erne Resort has been crowned Top Rated Five Star Wedding Venue at the Wedding Dates awards, after also lifting the Overall Wedding Venue of the Year 2018 and Wedding Co-Ordinators of the Year 2018 titles. The Resort’s one-wedding policy aims to offer every wedding, from the most intimate ceremony to receptions of up to 280 guests, a bespoke and exclusive feel. The beautiful Ross Suite overlooks the picturesque Fermanagh Lakelands and the expansive grounds of the Resort offer a romantic backdrop for wedding celebrations. The Resort is also renowned for its fine

dining, with celebrated Head Chef Noel McMeel and his award-winning culinary team in charge of creating an exquisite dining experience for wedding guests. “We are extremely proud of our hardworking wedding team of planners, co-ordinators, chefs and supporting staff, who work together to make dream weddings come to life,” said Joanne Walsh, business development manager. “Attention to detail is our priority as well as ensuring each of our couples has a truly special and stress-free day. “We are so pleased to have achieved this award through the feedback of real weddings at Lough Erne and look



From left, Adrian Quigg, general manager, O’Neill Arms; Cathy McCormick, Tourism NI Quality & Standards Schemes coordinator; and Barry Dallat, managing director, O’Neill Arms.

ourism NI has awarded the O’Neill Arms Country House Hotel in Toomebridge a three-star rating under its Accommodation Grading Scheme. Located on the banks of the River Bann, the O’Neill Arms is a detached corner property surrounded by picturesque countryside. Previously known as The White River Hotel, the hotel is currently under the management of husband and wife team Barry and



ew luxurious guest accommodation has opened in Carrickfergus following significant investment by a local entrepreneur, supported by Ulster Bank. Walter’s Place, located along the Carrickfergus seafront, officially opened its doors to guests in 2018 following an almost £400,000 investment in From left, Jack Creighton, Walter’s Place; the purchase of the property, its Gemma Jordan, Commercial Banking NI; design and contemporary fit-out. and Girvan Gault, Ulster Bank. Owned by local entrepreneur Jack Creighton, Walter’s Place boasts seven character-filled double en-suite rooms complete with super-king size beds and stunning panoramic views of Belfast Lough. Finished to a luxury standard, the boutique accommodation is said to offer five-star luxury at competitive rates. In 2013, Jack, who also owns the hugely successful neighbouring bar Ownies, purchased the dilapidated property to extend the award-winning bar’s kitchen. With no further use for the remainder of the property, Jack identified a gap in the local market and highlighted the need for more out-of-city luxury accommodation. @Hosp_ReviewNI

forward to welcoming more lovely couples to experience our beautiful wedding facilities in the future.” Amanda Dallat, owners of awardwinning company, Arbutus Catering. “This is a great vote of confidence in the work we do to create the best possible experience for our guests,” said Barry Dallat, managing director. “The O’Neill Arms Country House Hotel is the perfect base from which to explore Mid Ulster and many attractions are within easy reach, such as the Seamus Heaney Homeplace and the Toome Canal, filming location for the Old Valyrian Canal in Season 5 of the Game of Thrones. We look forward to giving all our visitors a very special welcome.”



oe Park Resort, Limavady has been named Best Value Resort in Ulster at the 2019 Golfers Guide to Ireland awards, held at Druids Glen and Golf Resort in Co Wicklow. The award is the latest addition to a string of accolades for the resort, which took home Hotel & Spa of the Year at the 2018 Travel & Hospitality Awards while senior staff member Terry Kelly was named Golf Manager of the Year by the Golfer’s Guide to Ireland earlier in the year. “We are thrilled to have been chosen as the Best Value Resort in Ulster at the Golfers Guide to Ireland awards, acknowledging our commitment to maintaining a high standard of service across all aspects of the resort from the golf course to dining, from our spa and leisure facilities to bedrooms,” said Kelly. FEBRUARY HRNI • 29


THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY KEEP NORTHERN IRELAND BEAUTIFUL IS NOW OPERATING THE WORLD’S BIGGEST HOSPITALITY ECO LABEL, GREEN KEY, REPORTS ALYSON MAGEE A GLOBAL STANDARD FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM GREEN KEY RECOGNISES: • Hotels • Hostels • Small accommodation • Campsites • Holiday parks • Conference centres • Restaurants • Attractions AUDITING COVERS 13 CATEGORIES: • Staff involvement • Environmental management • Guest information • Water • Energy • Washing & cleaning • Food & beverage • Waste • Administration • Indoor environment • Green areas • Green activities • Corporate social responsibility


ackan Cottage Farm in Ballyroney is the first property in Northern Ireland to be accredited by Green Key, the leading global eco-label awarded to hospitality businesses demonstrating commitment to sustainability. Green key is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and operated locally by independent charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, which also manages FEE’s Eco-Schools and Blue Flag beach programmes. Sustainability is rising up the agenda for Northern Ireland’s rapidly expanding tourism sector, said Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Chief Executive Dr Ian Humphreys, speaking at a recent launch event for Green Key in Belfast. “Are we going to be ahead of the curve?” he said, highlighting visitors’ increasing expectation for the hospitality industry to address sustainability on their behalf so they don’t have to worry about it when they’re on holiday. Also speaking at the launch event, Copenhagen-based Green Key International Director Finn Bolding Thomsen highlighted the award as the biggest


global eco-label, encompassing over 3,000 venues in 57 countries. Green Key started out as a programme created by Denmark’s hotel and restaurant association over 20 years ago, subsequently adopted by FEE and boosted when a Dutch eco-label switched its 165 sites to Green Key. Partnerships with international hotel chains Radisson Hotel Group and Starwood Hotels and Resorts have bolstered its reach further, as has recognition by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, World Tourism Organisation and UN Environment Programme. The process of gaining Green Key accreditation involves applicants completing a self-assessment on paper, followed by an audit and, for successful recipients approved by either a national jury or third-party auditor, on-site audits during year one, two and subsequently every three years. “It’s really crucial we have the opportunity to send an auditor to the establishment,” he said. “The value is two ways, both for us from Green Key’s side to know there is compliance but also for the applicant to have guidance from us.” Depending on the nature of an applicant’s business, it may be audited against as many as 130 criteria in 13 sections, spanning guest engagement to water, waste and energy management. The criteria are divided into imperative and guideline measures, with greater compliance with the guideline elements expected on an escalating annual basis. Green Key holders are expected to make annual gains around, for example, reducing the use of water or hazardous chemicals, while increasing recycling and their use of organic, eco-label, Fairtrade or local-produced food and drink. The sustainability performance of third-party operators should also feed into the audit, while FEE has recently taken the step of incorporating CSR policy into its criteria. Some countries apply stricter criteria over and above FEE’s baseline standards for Green Key; for example, in compliance with national legislation. While data from the auditing is currently collected nationally, FEE is developing an international database in collaboration with the University of Surrey. It will protect the confidentiality of individual entries but allow businesses to benchmark their performance regionally,

nationally and internationally. And why should hospitality and tourism businesses join an eco-label? Bolding Thomsen says it not only offers proof of a commitment to sustainability for customers and partners but also a marketing tool, useful support services and both motivation and reward for invested companies. “You can market it to guests booking individually but it’s also in some countries now part of corporate purchasing policy,” he said. “Especially in Nordic countries, if the government sends representatives to use accommodation, they only use certified hotels. And the same goes for conferences.” Green Key aims to differentiate from other eco-labels through independence, transparency, and its focus on onsite audits and third-party verification. One of the longest-running programmes, it celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2019, and operates as a non profit. During his presentation, Bolding Thomsen offered examples of progress made by Green Key-accredited venues such as a Puerto Rico hotel saving 10% on its energy bill during year one of its membership, and a visitor attraction in the Netherlands saving 50% on its water bill through implementation of Green Key criteria. A hotel in Denmark achieved 50% organic-certified food, while a Radisson Blu hotel in Latvia demonstrated notable innovation by creating a beer from honey produced by bee hives on its roof as well as supplying honey for breakfast. Carbon and water calculation tools are available for public use on the Green Key website, while a members-only toolbox offers further information and extensive resources related to the criteria. The website, which attracts an annual 180,000 visits, also features an interactive map feature covering all Green Key properties worldwide and member news; social media boasts 10,000 followers; and a monthly newsletter goes out to members. Green Key is working with online travel agents to flag up its member properties; currently includes Green Key accreditation as a filter and Expedia lists Green Key membership on the landing page of individual venues. For more information, email Jennifer. or call 028 90736920. @Hosp_ReviewNI



luctuating extreme temperatures ranging from an arctic -14°C to a sizzling +35°C in 2018 resulted in a rollercoaster year for wildlife, according to one of the largest landowners in the UK, the National Trust. The prolonged, harsh end to the winter in February and March with the Beast from the East, mild May and sunny, hot weather in June and July followed by strong winds from Storm Ali in September resulted in wildlife reacting in an extraordinary way. Numbers of rare butterflies reached a peak, particularly migrant silver y moths, dark green fritillary, black rustic, dark pine knot-horn, lunar yellow underwing and round-winged muslin at Mount Stewart. In October, a camouflaged species of micro moth was confirmed as the first of its kind to be found in Northern Ireland, at the Giant’s Causeway.

It was also a record year for both red squirrels at Mount Stewart and grey seal pups on Strangford Lough in 2018, but the tern population on Strangford Lough encountered a poor breeding season due to otter and large gull predation and the big June storm. “This year’s unusual weather does give us some indication of how climate change could look and feel, irrespective of whether this year’s was linked to climate change,” said Dr David Bullock, head of species and habitat conservation at the National Trust. “It’s becoming less



ollowing the final season of the award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones, to air in April 2019, Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones Tapestry will travel to Bayeux in Normandy, northwestern France, home of the worldfamous 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry. The Game of Thrones Tapestry will be exhibited there from September 2019, near its historic counterpart. Tourism Ireland commemorated the contribution of Game of Thrones to Northern Ireland with its medieval-style, hand-woven tapestry, created in 2017 to coincide with season seven. The 80-metre long tapestry, woven from linen supplied by Thomas Ferguson’s in Banbridge and hand-embroidered by a team at the Ulster Museum, depicts some of the most memorable and iconic scenes from every episode of the series to date. Scenes from those final episodes will be added to the hand-crafted piece. “Our Game of Thrones tapestry has been hugely successful,” said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland. “It has attracted visitors from all over the world to Northern Ireland and has been


seen by around 150,000 visitors to the Ulster Museum. “The stellar popularity of Game of Thrones remains a fantastic opportunity for Tourism Ireland to promote Northern Ireland to a huge audience of potential visitors. Our aim is to engage with fans everywhere, to spike their curiosity about the landscapes and locations featured in the series and inspire them to come and explore them for themselves.” At the end of 2018, the tapestry scooped two awards, Best Branded Experience – Gold and Best Art Direction – Bronze at the 8th Annual Lovie Awards at BFI Southbank in London.

predictable every year to gauge what sort of weather we are likely to experience, and what this means for our wildlife. “We need to ensure that we continue to look after the land in our care and work with others to create joined up areas of the countryside, in effect nature corridors, to enable wildlife to move around easily if needed, to survive any type of weather. “This is something that we are aiming to do more of with our ambition to create 25,000 hectares of new, high-quality habitat by repurposing 10% of our land across the UK by 2025.”



reland was named Best Destination: Europe at the 16th annual Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards gala in New York last December, having also picked up the Alison Metcalfe, head of North America at Tourism Ireland. accolade in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Travel Weekly is the leading weekly newspaper for American travel agents and travel professionals, with thousands voting across the various categories. “Travellers nowadays have tremendous choice, which makes it more important than ever for us to ensure the island of Ireland stands out from other destinations, so this award is really good news, coming at the end of another record-breaking year for Irish tourism from the US and as we prepare to kick off another extensive promotional drive in 2019, in this all-important market,” said Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s head of North America. @Hosp_ReviewNI




ineteen tourism businesses from Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland joined Tourism Ireland in Cannes recently, for the annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM). ILTM is an invitation-only event for the global luxury travel industry, attracting more than 1,500 influential travel agents and decision-makers working in the luxury travel sector, as well as luxury travel editors and journalists from about 200 publications across the globe. “Our participation at this year’s ILTM in Cannes is an excellent platform to showcase the superb luxury tourism offering around the island of Ireland, from our boutique hotels, castles and luxury resorts, to our rich culture and heritage, and not forgetting our worldclass golf, superb distillery tours and bespoke culinary experiences,” said Louise Finnegan, Tourism Ireland’s head of Business Partnership.

Front, from left, Finola O’ Mahoney, Tourism Ireland; Roisin Wallace, Original Irish Hotels; Hillarie McGuinness, Tourism Ireland; Ciarán Hyland, Fáilte Ireland; Juno Thompson, Tourism Ireland; and Rebecca Graham, Adams & Butler. Second row, from left, Carmel Flynn, Parknasilla Resort and Spa; David Collier, Tourism Ireland; Paula Ward, Paula Ward’s Ireland; Sheila King, Sheen Falls Lodge; Eva Schmid, Killarney Hotels; Tanya Dawson, Luxurious Ireland; Susie Hopkins-Burke, The K Club; Michelle Maguire, Ireland’s Blue Book; Cróthur Murphy, Crafted Ireland; Serge Fonseca, Tourism Ireland; Leigh Heggarty, Galgorm Resort & Spa; and Geraldine Egan, Tourism Ireland. Back row, from left, Eóin McGrath, Culloden Estate and Spa; Conor Dillon, Dylan Hotel Dublin; Karen Fleming, Hayfield Manor; Ruthie Coleman, The Merrion; Marie Chawke, Dromoland Castle Hotel; Cian Landers, The Fitzwilliam Hotel; and Paula Stephens, The Merchant Hotel.

WORLD’S LEADING ONLINE STENA LINE’S THREE TRAVEL AGENTS SHARE TIPS IRISH SEA E-FLEXER NI, in SHIPS ARE IN partnership with Ttheourism Northern Ireland CONSTRUCTION Hotels Federation and Tourism Ireland, recently hosted a number of the world’s leading online travel agents as part of a workshop in Belfast. Demystifying the left, Tim Schofield, TripAdvisor; Alan Bulloch,; Role of Online Travel From Adrienne Hanna, Right Revenue; and Carolyn Boyd; Tourism NI. Agents was part of a series of workshops offered by Tourism NI as part of its Tourism Enterprise Development (TED) Programme. Over 200 people representing companies from the Northern Ireland tourism industry attended the workshop to hear from key speakers including Expedia, Travelzoo, TripAdvisor,, Lastminute. com and TripAdvisor Experiences, while the workshop also included 40 one-to-one appointments. “The internet has revolutionised the way that we travel, allowing consumers to search, buy and share trips at the touch of a button. However, there is still uncertainty about how online travel agents can help attract overseas visitors and encourage them to stay longer and spend more,” said Carolyn Boyd, industry development manager at Tourism NI. “This workshop is a fantastic opportunity for the tourism industry to meet face to face with representatives from some of the world’s leading online travel agencies and find out exactly how they can help to grow their business.” For a full list of events in the TED Programme and how to register, visit @Hosp_ReviewNI


tena Line has reached an important milestone in its major new fleet investment programme with Artist’s impression of the new the steel cutting of a E-Flexer RoPax ships. third E-Flexer RoPax ship to be deployed on its Irish Sea routes. All three of Stena Line’s new E-Flexer ships, planned to enter into service on the Irish Sea during 2020 and 2021, are now under construction at the Avic Weihai Shipyard in China. The first of the new vessels will commence operation on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020, with the remaining two ships to be introduced on the Belfast to Liverpool route in 2020 and 2021. “We are looking forward to welcoming two of the new fleet on our expanding Belfast to Liverpool service,” said Paul Grant, Stena Line trade director, Irish Sea North. “These ships will be the biggest ever to operate on the route and will increase capacity for freight and travel customers as well as raising service standards. They will also be among the most energy efficient ferries in the world with significantly lower CO2 emissions per freight unit against comparable RoPax tonnage.”





ourism NI has launched a new capital funding programme to facilitate the development of immersive experiences at tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. The Enhancing Visitors’ Experiences through Immersive Technology Programme focuses on projects which have at their core a technology solution to creating a new immersive experience that gives compelling reasons for visitors to come to Northern Ireland and encourages them to stay longer and spend more. Digital transformation is having a significant impact on the tourism industry. Today’s traveller seeks out authenticity and wants an emotional connection with their experience. New technologies have transformed how visitors can engage with a destination and its authentic stories, enabling them to enjoy a completely immersive experience. Applications, which closed in December, were welcomed from across the public, private and voluntary and community sector with successful applicants gaining access to funding of £25,000 to £500,000.

APPOINTMENTS GM APPOINTED AT SLIEVE DONARD From left, Rosemarie Mc Hugh, Tourism NI director of Product Development; James Fleming, volunteer at the Ulster Museum; and Caroline Bell, Tourism NI Capital Funding Team.

“Northern Ireland has a fantastic offering for visitors but it is important that we continue to look at creative and innovative ways to deliver experiences for our visitors which are authentic, compelling and memorable,” said Rosemarie McHugh, director of Product Development at Tourism NI. “The creative use of technology provides one such opportunity to tell our stories in a more interactive and engaging way. We know our industry is eager to grasp this opportunity and there is already a significant amount of developmental work underway in this space.”



espite GDPR legislation coming into effect nine months ago, many UK hospitality businesses are risking penalties by failing to adhere to some of the rules, according to IT solutions provider According to a survey of 1,002 UK workers in full or part-time employment, carried out by, 45% of businesses in the hospitality industry failed to wipe the data from IT equipment they disposed of in the two months following GDPR. The survey also found that 97% of hospitality businesses did not have an 34 • HRNI FEBRUARY

official process or protocol for disposing of obsolete IT equipment, with workers saying they wouldn’t even know who to approach within their company to correctly dispose of old or unusable equipment. “Given the amount of publicity around GDPR, it is arguably impossible to be unaware or misunderstand the basics of what is required for compliance,” said Matt Royle, marketing director at “So, it is startling to discover just how many businesses are failing to both implement and follow some of the simplest data protection practices. “This is especially startling to see from businesses within the hospitality sector, where sensitive customer information including address details and card numbers are handled all the time. “The fines involved in a GDPR breach can potentially run into the millions – and what appear to be less tangible impactors, like reputational damage, customer trust and loyalty, will ultimately become financially significant.”

Michael Weston has been named general manager of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa. He has almost 20 years’ management experience in the hospitality industry and previously worked for Walt Disney World, the Mooney Hotel Group, Hilton Hotels and Radisson Hotel Group. He holds a BA (Hons) in Hospitality Management with a Diploma in Industrial Studies from the Ulster University. Weston is responsible for leading the hotel team and the dayto-day management.


Niall Burns has been appointed deputy general manager of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, having worked for Hastings Hotels for over eight years and been named Bar Manager of the Year at the NI Institute of Hospitality Awards. He recently graduated from an executive management programme through the IMI and Fáilte Ireland, and will work closely with the GM to assist in the day-to-day running of the hotel.


Hastings Hotels has appointed Eoin McGrath as its new luxury leisure sales manager, a new position for the group. He has 10 years’ experience in the hospitality industry and has worked for Hastings Hotels for three years. McGrath is responsible for overseeing the luxury leisure sales bookings from across the world for Northern Ireland’s leading collection of hotels. @Hosp_ReviewNI







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THE LAST WORD in beautiful venues, Nick Lowe in Willowfield Church tops them all, but regularly I’m to be found in The Empire Music Hall; so much more intimate than a field and better acoustics too. LAST HOLIDAY: Skiing, late arrival to winter sports, now obsessed.


NAME JANE HODGERS COMPANY PANAMA BELFAST JOB TITLE DIRECTOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS ROLE? Three months. DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY? Atypical; the draw of hospitality for me is its constant change. Aside from the administrative aspect of my role, I love the development of new ideas, working with chef and colleagues; every day I’m learning. I’m always on the floor. I’m so grateful to all our guests for choosing to spend their time with us and it’s important to me that I have a connection with our customers. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Drug runner… no really, I did the prescription deliveries for my local pharmacy on Saturday mornings, then off to Villa Italia for an evening waitressing shift.



awaiting the return of Killing Eve, the clothes, the attitude, bad ass ladies. FAVOURITE FILM: The Big Lebowski, great soundtrack and always makes me laugh. FAVOURITE ALBUM CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Prince Purple Rain; never gets old. FAVOURITE BAND: I have no allegiance, every day something new. LAST BOOK READ: The Way Of Zen, Alan Watts. FAVOURITE CELEBRITY: Joan Collins, my idol.


FAVOURITE FOOD: Cheese FAVOURITE RESTAURANT: Noble, always the warmest welcome from Saul and the team. LAST HOTEL YOU STAYED AT: Grand Hotel Zell am See, Austria. LAST BAR/NIGHTCLUB YOU VISITED: Shelbys, a gem for the drinks aficionados. I am ruined by having such great eateries on my doorstep. FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: North Coast, my favourite week is family surf trip every July. INDOOR CONCERT OR FESTIVAL: My muddy unwashed days are behind me. Belfast has an incredible gig scene

FAVOURITE HOT DRINK: Coffee, in its every guise. FAVOURITE SOFT DRINK: Water. BEER OR CIDER: With the resurgence of craft brewing in Northern Ireland, always curious to try something new. WHITE OR RED WINE: Red Red Wine, my greatest vice. WHISKEY OR BRANDY: Brandy, it makes me feel like a playa’. GIN OR VODKA: Depends how it’s dressed up. COCKTAILS OR BUBBLY: Both, in moderation. WHAT FOUR PEOPLE WOULD YOU INVITE TO A DINNER PARTY? Voltaire, Dali, Dolly Parton, Ru Paul. ONE ITEM YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? Coffee machine. WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE? Nana Mouskouri. WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL JOB? Where I am right now. FAVOURITE QUOTE? “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.” Maya Angelou THE MOST IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON YOU’VE LEARNT? Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it. INSPIRATION IN YOUR LIFE? My friends and family, as Proust says: “They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” @Hosp_ReviewNI

Profile for Helen Wright

Hospitality Review NI February 2019  

Hospitality Review NI February 2019

Hospitality Review NI February 2019  

Hospitality Review NI February 2019