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August 2015




HOTEL EXPANSION HUNDREDS OF NEW HOTEL ROOMS IN BELFAST WILL BE LOOKING FOR GUESTS The Belfast Waterfront expansion and Titanic Exhibition Centre will certainly bring welcome business but can we rise to the challenge of 2 million rooms a year by 2020?

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MEMBER NEWS LOTS OF NEW HOTEL DEVELOPMENTS, LAUNCHES AND A NAME SHUFFLE P. 4 RECORD RECEPTIONISTS CELEBRATE THE FINALE OF AWARDS Nearly 200 receptionist and their colleagues partied in the La Mon Hotel & Country Club at the end of this year’s receptionist competition.

P. 16 GUEST ACCOMMODATION BRINGS QUALITY TO THE LOCAL MARKET NIHF Members, Belmore Court & Motel and Tara Lodge, explain why not being a hotel suits their business models.

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FRONT COVER. Artist impression of the new Grand Central Hotel, to be built in Windsor House by Hastings Hotels Group.

Celebrity Chef and first speakers announced for new-look Hospitality Exchange this October.

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE YEAR OF FOOD A LOOK AT SOME OF THE PREPARATIONS FOR NEXT YEAR’S FOOD CELEBRATIONS P. 26 LEGAL CASE BRINGS PROBLEMS FOR THOSE RUNNING UNDER-18 EVENTS School formals, birthday parties and even wedding receptions will be affected as restriction on any under-18 being on a licensed premises after 9.30 pm is enforced.

P. 23 TAKE BACK CONTROL FROM THE ONLINE TRAVEL AGENTS A look at how taking some simple steps to change your booking procedures could keep you out of OTA therapy.

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HOTPLATE Northern Ireland Hotels Federation The McCune Building, 1 Shore Road Belfast BT15 3PG Tel: 028 9077 6635 Web: nihf.co.uk Email: office@nihf.co.uk



he summer has seen a significant rise in visitor numbers with our members reporting a busy season. Overseas travellers have arrived in good numbers, mainly through the tour operator route, from an increasing number of long haul destinations. There have been many reports of new hotel developments, primarily in Belfast, but with other projects starting to appear further afield. It is good to see such positive news emerge for the sector and to see confidence return to the industry. In addition to the new developments, it is great to see people beginning to invest again and planning for growth. In the last issue of Hotplate, the General Election was looming and we now have a majority Conservative Government in power. The Chancellor’s first budget held a number of surprises for businesses, particularly with the introduction of the National Living Wage. For hotels and those in the wider hospitality industry this will have a considerable effect. People

are the single biggest cost in the sector (but also our greatest asset), and a total increase of 38% by 2020 from the present minimum wage level will present a major challenge for most businesses. It is hoped that a recovering economy will allow the sector to flex prices and continue to trade profitably. The NIHF has had a busy year and is currently working on the programme for Hospitality Exchange 2015. This is the showcase event for the industry and takes place on 13th & 14th October in the Europa Hotel, Belfast. I hope to see you all there and thank you for your support over this year. Mandy Patrick MBE



GRAND ENTRANCE. » The Old Inn has completed the new Verina Suite with this amazing staircase and double height ceilings.

NIHF MEMBER DEVELOPMENTS HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS ANTRIM TAKES WORLDHOST TO HEART The Holiday Inn Express has become the first hotel in Antrim to receive WorldHost Business Recognition.



Hastings Hotels has unveiled its plans for the latest addition to its portfolio which will see a £30m investment and the creation of over 150 new jobs for Belfast.

Andras Hotels has announced a £2.5 million upgrade of its Days Hotel, which will see it reopen as Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre this summer.

Sir William Hastings commented, “This acquisition represents our biggest single investment and upon completion in 2018 the hotel will operate at the upper end of the 4-star market offering 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and office accommodation. “It will bring the number of bedrooms in our group to over 1,000 making us the largest privately owned hotel chain on the island of Ireland,” The new hotel will be called the Grand Central Hotel Belfast.

Julie Stirling, HR Manager at the Holiday Inn Express commented: “We are passionate about service standards and are incredibly proud to have achieved WorldHost Business status. Customers will know that we have made a commitment to delivering an exceptional experience for them.”


Phase one of the project, due for completion in mid-August, will see all 250 bedrooms refurbished, to include new carpets, curtains, pocket-sprung beds, state-of-the art televisions, safes, ironing centre and stylish furniture.

Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh has unveiled its bigger and better dedicated Business Centre which has recently undergone a £300k facelift, representing a substantial investment for the family owned hotel.

Phase two, to be completed in early 2016, will see all guest bathrooms completely refurbished and air-conditioning provided to each room.

The refurbishment has increased the hotel’s business centre capacity, bringing the number of conference and meeting spaces to six, in addition to a new dedicated business centre entrance for delegates as well as a larger arrival reception and break out area. Silverbirch’s Business Centre has received a complete interior make-over, with a new elegant and stylish décor.

The Group has further plans to expand its hotel portfolio, with planning permission lodged for a new 179 bedroom £12million hotel in Belfast city centre.



NEW RESTAURANT, KOVE, LAUNCHES AT KILLYHEVLIN. » Sarah Travers joined the team at the Killyhevlin Hotel to host a dinner to mark the launch of the hotel’s new restaurant, KOVE. The opening follows a £2k investment into the design of the restaurant which has been given a glamorous, contemporary Art Deco style make-over which takes full advantage of its unsurpassed views of Lough Erne.

GALGORM RESORT GEARING UP FOR LAUNCH OF NEW FACILITIES. » Opening in September, the Resort has undergone a £10 million expansion that includes an additional 48 deluxe guestrooms and suites and the creation of a unique indoor & outdoor Spa Village that will be the first of its kind in Ireland.




The Bushmills Inn has commissioned the work of Lisbane artist Kathryn Callaghan to hang in the hotel. Two original works and two commissioned works will be displayed and among the works commissioned are Bushmills Millennium Malt and Mouton Rothschild 2001 both of which are original ink pourings.

Award-winning head chef Niall Gorham joined the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle earlier this year and has made a number of changes.

Ballygally Castle has launched a brand new Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea which will delight fans of the world renowned show as well as those who love the indulgence of a delicious afternoon tea.

The hotel has also partnered with The Belted Galloway Club Ireland to select a locally reared pedigree Beltie for the restaurant. Naturally raised and grass fed, the Beltie produces exceptionally lean and flavourful meat as they have the rare ability to marble first and then put on back fat. The house burger is now a ‘Beltie’ burger and the hotel also features select cuts at their traditional Sunday Carvery each week.

This has included changing the traditonal Sunday carvery to a new menu which changes weekly according to the freshest local produce available. For Father’s Day, Niall created a main and dessert dish alongside the full menu featuring Bushmills 12 year Whiskey: Roast Sirloin of Beef, Yorkshire pudding with Bushmills & Mushroom Cream sauce and a Cranachan dessert. This was a huge success, with a full house - so popular in fact that the Roast Beef with Bushmills is now a permanent fixture on the menu.

The tasty treats, inspired by the fantasy lands of Winterfell, Iron Islands, Kings Landing or Stormlands, includes Lannister egg, Baratheon Bread, Little Fingers Chicken Caesar wrap and Jon Snow Cakes to Dothraki Trifle with mini Dragon’s eggs! General Manager of Ballygally Castle, Norman McBride said: “Our delicious afternoon tea just got better as we’ve added a little Game of Thrones magic to our selection of sumptuous edibles.”





n the last edition of Hotplate, we reported on hotel expansion in Belfast. Since then it seems that news has broken almost daily on new projects underway in the city. There are reports of a possible 17 new hotels or expansions planned for Belfast. These include a number of high-end unique hotels, a quirky urban project from Beannchor and several international branded properties. The growth in the city would suggest an additional 900 hotel rooms by the end of 2018 with a further 700 possible by 2020. Belfast City Council has set a goal of doubling the city’s tourism revenue to £870m by 2020. This is an ambitious target and would require significant increases in visitors from all markets. The current investment of £30m in the Waterfront Hall looks set to bring a real step change in the conference market and should support shoulder/off peak business. It should also affect the balance of trading, increasing weeknight trade and reducing reliance on the more cost-sensitive leisure market. The current reported expansion means that in real terms there would be an additional 254,000 rooms to sell over the cost of a year up to 2018 and nearly 2 million rooms a year by 2020. The last period of major expansion saw an increase of 54% in the number of bedrooms between 2006-8. Whilst it must be recognised that this growth coincided with the worst recession of modern times, the city simply could not sustain the new supply. It resulted in a significant collapse in room rate and occupancy. Occupancy in 2007 averaged 77% with a room rate of £71.37. The rate in 2008 peaked at £73.09 but demand started to fall with a downward trend lasting 38 months through to April 2012. It should also be noted that the type of hotel product that came into the city altered the city’s bedscape immeasur-

JANICE GAULT Chief Executive


LEFT. » Possible design for proposed City Quay’s hotel development.

BELOW. » Artist impression of new hotel in Titanic Drawing Offices.

ably with the additional of some 991 budget bedrooms. To put this in context, there were 90 branded budget bedrooms at the start of 2007 and 1,081 by the end of 2011. This now represents 34% of Belfast’s overall hotel stock. Supply over the last 4 years has been in single figures, with few significant openings, and since April 2012 the market has somewhat stabilised. But, it is important to note that room rates have yet to return to the 2008 highpoint. This could be as a result of the marked increase in budget properties but in reality the reduction has been driven by lack of demand and a shift away from business tourism to a predominately leisure-led market. It is important that the next wave of expansion brings opportunity to the market and acts as a catalyst for growth. Many will view the expansion with intrepidation and dread. The memory of the negative effect of the last growth spurt is still fresh in many operators’ minds. However,

without growth and expansion, Belfast will struggle to attract conferences and may reduce its appeal in the longer term. The latest expansion will bring changes and the market will have to adjust accordingly. Belfast city centre is likely to shrink as the majority of new hotels fall within a 1 mile radius of Belfast City Hall. Hotels on the periphery will need to look carefully at their business strategy going forward. The advantages these properties hold, including parking and easy access, can offer real appeal to the touring and leisure markets. In the longer term they may not attract sustainable levels of business tourism and getting the correct combination will be the key to survival. As Belfast once again faces a period of considerable growth, the mix of business in the city and the alignment of accommodation products will be an important part in the future success of the city.







The Waterfront appoints five new staff with work progressing well on £29.5 million development.

Building of Titanic Exhibition Centre underway.

Perch opens new rooftop bar in Belfast’s Linen Quarter.

Following planning approval in June, work on the construction of the Titanic Exhibition Centre is well underway with the first exhibition, the Wedding Journal Show, taking place in September, attracting some 300 exhibitors and over 10,000 visitors over three days.

The trend for rooftop bars has arrived in Belfast. Perch, which is part of complex that contains Chinawhite and Rita’s bar is run by the same team who manage El Divino and the Albany.

Doubling the venue`s event space to 7,000m2 and enhancing its technology capabilities has facilitated the return of many events as well as bringing a significant increase in bookings. Even before Belfast Waterfront opens the doors to the new facility, it has already secured 50 events for 2016 to 2021, which will bring over 43,000 delegates to the city, generating a welcome 94,000 delegate days. To ensure the growing demand for the new centre is met Belfast Waterfront has appointed five new staff. Susie McCullough joins the team from Tourism Northern Ireland, bringing a wealth of experience and invaluable knowledge to her new role as Director of Sales and Marketing. Susie will lead a team of 15, who collectively boast over 150 years in the events industry and have a proven

track record in managing and winning prestigious events. The recruitment of Aoife Glenn and Peter McCartney, as Conference Sales Executives - GB and International, will further strengthen relations with an expanding international clientele. Whilst Kim Keightley, Exhibition and Business Sales Executive, is gearing up to sell 2,500m2 clear span space perfect for gala dinners and elaborate corporate events plus meeting rooms accommodating up to 200 delegates to local and national businesses. Key to supporting the centres` overall goals will be Lisa Turkington, the newly appointed Digital Marketing Executive responsible for devising multi-channel marketing strategies that will amplify the brand on an international level.

The 120m long TEC, which has a 50m internal span, will be constructed opposite the Titanic Studios on Queens Road. It is envisaged that the TEC will drive a significant number of visitors to the city and discussions have already taken place with organisations interested in bringing new exhibitions to Northern Ireland with leading local shows including Improve Your Home, Creative Crafts and the Self Build Show also confirmed for 2015/16.

The venue which opened at the end of June comprises of a rooftop bar complete with charcoal pit and a downstairs bar serving food and drink seven days a week complete. The same group are set to replace its nearby pub, Shiro, which closed in June with a new concept bar and kitchen called Sweet Afton. The new venue will be run in conjunction with Diageo and is set to open in August.



BELFAST BOUTIQUE. » Beannchor has announced plans to open a new £4million hotel in Belfast city centre. The new 55-bedroom hotel will wrap around Victoria St and Ann St, occupying Lagan House. Subject to planning approval the hotel is expected to open in early 2016.


GLENEAGLES SOLD BY DIAGEO Having owned one of Scotland’s premier hotels for over 30 years, Diageo sold the 232 room property last month to Ennismore, the group behind chic Hoxton Hotels. Gleneagles will be run as a standalone business and will receive significant investment.

DATA ROAMING, SPANISH STYLE Funky Spanish hotel chain, Room Mate Hotels, is offering complimentary portable WiFi to its guests with the launch of WiMate Total WiFi in 19 properties in 12 cities across Europe and the Americas.



Dalata, the largest hotel operator in Ireland, is to open 13 hotels across the UK and Ireland under the Clayton Hotels brand by the end of 2015. Among the properties acquired was the Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue, which has been rebranded as the Clayton Hotel Belfast.

The five-star Lough Erne Resort has been sold for an estimated €11 million to a group of US investors. The hotel had been on the block since Bank of Scotland (Ireland) placed it under the charge of administrators KPMG in May 2011 on foot of a €33 million secured debt.

Clayton Hotels is a 4 star brand with a focus on the corporate market – the principal distinction between Clayton Hotels and the more family orientated sister hotel group – Maldron Hotels. The company is investing €27m in the redevelopment and upgrade of both brands across the island.

A US investment group led by Vince Avenue, which is headed by Michael Saliba and Tru Hotels and Resorts, a hotel investment and management company founded by American hoteliers Jeff Mahan and Mark Ward, have acquired the property. Tru has been appointed to oversee the management of the resort.

Available in the brand’s Spanish hotels since 2014, the service enables guests to access the Internet beyond the hotels’ walls without incurring data or roaming charges. Guests can request the service during the online booking process on the Room Mate website, or at the hotels’ front desks on arrival. The WiMate Total WiFi mini router grants up to 100 MB of highspeed Internet per day anywhere in the city on five devices, including mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Room Mate hotels also offer breakfast until noon, late checkout at noon and are opening 10 new hotels across Europe by the end of 2016.



THE FUTURE OF... HOSPITALITY The plans for this year’s Hospitality Exchange are well underway. The 2015 event takes place on 13th and 14th October in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

to showcase the best local produce. The food theme continues with an appearance by leading food impresario and Great British Menu judge, Oliver Peyton.

The hospitality sector is now recognised as a key economic driver with forecasts of double digit growth over over the next five years. With this in mind, the programme for Exchange 2015 will focus on the future.

The event will also look at the business aspects of the industry and its position in the wider economy. As always, there will be an opportunity to debate issues with an industry panel and an insight into policy decisions and developments.

The line-up includes sessions on the future of food, developments in events and attractions as well as a student focused session on future careers. The chef demonstration will feature one of the UK’s hottest new talents Ollie Dabbous, who will be joined by local chefs

The finale of Exchange will be the infamous Gala Ball. This year we are travelling back in time to the 1920’s when it was all about flapper girls, rising hemlines and sidecar cocktails. Often referred to as the Roaring Twenties, we’re sure that it will see Hospitality Exchange end with a bang!


13th & 14th October 2015 | Europa Hotel Belfast DR MORGAINE GAYE AND OLIVER PEYTON GAZE AT THE LATEST TRENDS As Northern Ireland’s Year of Food approaches, Hospitality Exchange is keen to look at the future of food. Food futurologist, Dr Morgaine Gaye will give an insight into future food and give an expert opinion on developments in the 21st century. The session will also include Oliver Peyton, Great British Menu judge and one of the UK’s leading restaurateurs. He will speak about devel-

opments in dining, new food offerings and where he sees the restaurant business going in the next decade. He will also give an insight into his fascinating roller coaster career. There will also be an update on the exciting calendar for the Northern Ireland Year of Food. The speakers will form a panel at the end of the session and take questions on food related topics.


FOOD FUTUROLOGIST. Âť Dr Morgaine Gaye is a food futurologist who looks at food and eating from a social, cultural, economic, trend, branding and geo-political perspective.




13th & 14th October 2015 | Europa Hotel Belfast OLLIE DABBOUS WILL WOW DELEGATES Hospitality Exchange is delighted to announce that the guest chef for 2015 is Ollie Dabbous, chef patron of Dabbous in London. The restaurant opened in February 2012 and received a Michelin Star in 2013. The industrial décor at the restaurant reflects the stripped down fine-dining which had the food critics raving and the dining room booked out. Dabbous was launched to great critical acclaim, being heralded as the hottest new restaurant since the opening of the Fat Duck. The first critic to review was Fay Maschler of the London Evening Standard, who said “The star ratings on these pages correlate to the quality of cooking. Five stars is reserved for when a place comes along that changes the game.” She awarded the restaurant a virtually unheard of 5 out of 5. Rave reviews have continued to flood in, making Dabbous one of the most talked about eateries in London. The result: frustration for those trying to secure a table and the need to hire an additional member of staff to answer the phone! Previously, Ollie has worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Hibiscus, Mugaritz in Spain and London’s Texture, where he was head chef. 2014 saw Ollie open his second restaurant Barnyard just around the corner

from Dabbous. Barnyard is a no reservations restaurant serving simple dishes to an incredibly high standard. Ollie had his first book also titled ‘Dabbous’ published by Bloomsbury in 2014. The book is truly special with incredible design, stunning images and of course – outstanding recipes. Ollie will create a tasting menu at this years event and will demonstrate some of his signature dishes, with all attendees receiving a signed copy of his book. Hospitality Exchange has attracted culinary stars over the years including Raymond Blanc, Tom Kerridge and Gordon Ramsay, who was guest chef at the first Hospitality Exchange. Delegates and diners are in for a real treat in 2015 with a chef who has a true connection with food and an immense culinary talent. Further details on Ollie Dabbous’ session and the rest of Hospitality Exchange will be published in September and on the website at hospitalityexchange.co.uk.


FOOD CREATIVITY. Âť Ollie Dabbous has been described as the most wanted chef in Britain. Industrial chic is his style - a bit rough around the edges.





OTA SELF HELP Right Revenue is a brand new cloud based revenue product, offering a modular system to suit the business demands of any hotelier. The entry level product ‘Right Track’ ensures accurate business tracking, allows hotels to manage their selling rates and provides detailed hospitality analytics. Right Revenue interfaces with several PMS systems and provides detailed analytics and daily rate recommendations based on forecasted demand. Running hundreds of calculations each day, Right Revenue will ensure you sell the right rate, to the right person, at the right time and for the right duration – all with the goal of adding profit straight to your bottom line. For further details register for a demo at www.rightrevenue.co.uk or email ask@rightrevenue.co.uk

Relationships….who needs them??!!! All that arguing and fighting and constant comprise. Well the truth is, we all need them and like every good relationship, there are always 3 sides to every story – your side, their side and the truth - same goes for your relationships with your OTA’s. We all gripe about their dominance, the hefty commission cheques we need to pay out each month but lets look at both sides of the story and see if we can come up with the truth – without the need for therapy! The cold hard facts are that at the start of the recession, as hoteliers, we all panicked and signed contracts that weren’t always in our favour and that often gave too much control to the OTA’s. But the flip side of that is that they do deliver business. Why? Well they offer 24/7 visibility in markets we could never afford to reach. Let’s face it, how many of us can afford expensive marketing campaigns in China! So should we see those commission cheques as a marketing cost – in my opinion yes. But as hoteliers, we often forget one simple fact, those bookings that come through are not for example Booking.com’s customers but they are OUR customers. You probably noticed that booking. com recently stopped sending you the bookers email when they confirmed. Why? Because they don’t want you to be able to communicate with customers directly and entice them to cancel their booking and come to you for a better rate. So rule number 1, collect contact details from EVERYONE on arrival and make sure you segment them by channel.

Lets wind it back a little. We all know that Booking.com is the most persuasive booking engine in the world with the screaming messages of ‘only 2 rooms left’, ‘6 people looking at this hotel’, ‘book now to avoid disappointment’, ‘no booking fees’, ‘no cancellation fees’, ‘best rates guaranteed’ – I could go on. But how many of these are actually true and how many of these facts could we use to our advantage as hoteliers? Start by looking at your own booking engine provider. If they collect their commission at source then change it and change it today. Ask them to invoice you monthly and take that booking barrier away. Think about it, why would a customer book direct with you if you are charging them say £4.00 at time of booking when Booking.com charge nothing. Then there’s that ‘Best Rate Guarantee’, if you don’t have your very best rates available on your own site then you need therapy! Try an ‘Internet Exclusive’, ‘Book Direct for the Best Rate’ as examples and then make sure you do have those best rates on your own site. Discount your B&B rate by a certain amount and to avoid conflict with your OTA contracts, make sure it comes with T&C’s. Lets say you pay Booking.com 15% commission, how much could you afford to accept a booking for directly that would cost you less than that 15%? 83% of people* will visit both an OTA and your own website before booking, so how else do we entice them to book direct? How is the messaging on your own site? Put your advantages up-front-and centre. For example: Book Direct


EXCHANGE LAUNCH LUNCH MEMBERS AND TRADE JOINED TOGETHER IN JUNE AT THE EUROPA HOTEL TO LAUNCH HOSPITALITY EXCHANGE 2015 for the Best Rates Guaranteed / No Booking Fee / Flexible Cancellation Policies / Free Wifi / Free Parking / Breakfast Included in all Rates – the list is endless. Make sure this message is clear and visible on your website and on your booking engine. So once they get to your booking engine, what rate offering are they seeing? Are you flexing your rates inline with FORECASTED business demands? Are your best selling rates listed high on your rate order (and categorically I can pretty much guarantee these will be your B&B rates – no matter how attractive your packages are). Are you taking into consideration your business trends, lead time, pick-up by market segment and importantly not just your rooms sold but what you are forecasting to sell… These are just a few of the considerations your need to make to entice that business direct and like all good relationships I could go on but we have seen our side as hoteliers; the benefits the OTA’s bring, so here is the truth… OTA’s are not something we should be fighting with, after all we invited them into this relationship and they will be around for a while. So the lesson is, use them and use them wisely. Remember that ‘billboard’ affect – for every one booking we get through an OTA, they have the potential to drive 3 or more customers to our own site. So lets ditch the need for therapy and lets live happily ever after... * Forrester Research






he La Mon Hotel & Country Club played host to the 2015 Receptionist of the Year awards’ dinner and it was another “lively” night! With a record number of entries to the competition and a limit on the number of finalists we could actually judge, it was a tough elimination process. The twenty-two finalists across three categories were joined on the night by friends, colleagues, judges and guests and proceedings were smoothly compered by Marc Mallett. Category sponsors, Tourism Northern Ireland and Avvio were on hand to assist with the awards and further support was provided by Life: One Great Adventure and Frost Couture. Belfast had a handle on the top awards, which went to Ibis Belfast, Benedicts of Belfast and Tara Lodge but there was plenty of representation in the finalists from Down, Derry, Antrim and Fermanagh and each county has had winners in the past. All-in-all, another fun night and a celebration of the high standards of receptionists that greet our guests every day.

RECEPTIONIST OF THE YEAR. » The awards in the main category were presented to winner, Martin Hutchinson, Ibis Belfast; runner-up, Emmett McErlane, Maldron Belfast and third place, Michelle McCaffrey, Belmore Court & Motel.

Hotel & Guesthouse

RECEPTIONIST of the year

17 RECEPTION OF THE YEAR. » The team awards went to winners, Tara Lodge; runner-up, Bushmills Inn Hotel and third place, Slieve Donard Resort & Spa.

MOST PROMISING. » The Most Promising awards went to winner, Natalie Kavanagh, Benedicts of Belfast and runner-up, Cory Quinn, Wellington Park Hotel.


The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation is the representative body for the hotel, guest accommodation and guesthouse sector. The Federation is here for you. We offer free advice on employment, licensing, social media, technology and business rates. One-to-one support is available to every member. Over 40 members have availed of this service in the past year so give us a call to arrange.

Call 028 9077 6635, Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm or email office@nihf.co.uk.




NEW TOURISM MINISTER JONATHAN BELL TAKES OVER THE TOURISM BRIEF FROM LONG-TERM MINISTER ARLENE FOSTER Jonathan Bell MLA was appointed as the new Minister of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in May 2015. Jonathan is an MLA for Strangford.



ohn McGrillen took up his position as Chief Executive in July. A former board member of the tourist board, John was Director of Development at Belfast City Council with responsibilities for urban development, tourism, economic and international development and the management of Belfast Waterfront and the Ulster Hall. Previously he was Chief Executive of Down District Council. Commenting on the appointment, Tourism NI Chairman Terence Brannigan said; “John brings with him great knowledge and expertise in tourism and I am confident that the experience, skills and qualifications he demonstrated during the recruitment and selection exercise will be a huge asset to Tourism NI as we move forward and build on the success of recent years. “John’s expertise will also be invaluable in the context of the Review of Public Administration as we foster even greater collaboration with local authorities across Northern Ireland

to deliver a dynamic, exciting and job sustaining tourism industry that benefits all regions”. Terence Brannigan was himself appointed as the new Chairman in March. He is a Board Member of Co-operation Ireland and has been a Visiting Professor for the Business Institute of the University of Ulster since June 2010. Three new Board members have also been appointed. Colin Neill and Michele Shirlow were appointed with effect from 1 January 2015 and Geoff Wilson was appointed with effect from 1 March 2015. All are for a three year period. The Federation has already met with the new Chief Executive to discuss a range of issues affecting the sector. We will continue to work closely with Tourism Northern Ireland to ensure that the very best conditions exist for tourism growth.

Following his appointment, he said: “This is a time of great potential for Northern Ireland and it is important that this potential continues to be given every opportunity to be fulfilled to the maximum. “Northern Ireland’s tourism product has never been in a stronger position. We have become known on the world stage as the home of major events. There is a renewed confidence from the industry too, as was demonstrated with news that the Hastings Group has bought Windsor House with the intention of establishing a new city centre hotel.” “I look forward to working with all of the Department’s partners and stakeholders as we continue to grow a dynamic and innovative economy which will benefit all of the people of Northern Ireland.”



A TALE OF TWO NON-HOTELS BELMORE COURT & MOTEL AND TARA LODGE ARE MULTI AWARD-WINNING PROPERTIES. WHAT CAN WE LEARN? Guest Accommodation is a relatively new category of property, being introduced into the certification scheme in the last review some five years ago. It took in some former B&Bs as well as restaurants, pubs and a wide variety of other accommodation types. Two of the most successful properties in this category are the Belmore Court & Motel in Enniskillen and the Tara Lodge in Belfast, both 4-star graded and the recipients of many recent awards. Hotplate decided to look more closely at each to see how they have thrived outside the traditional hotel framework.

“As Northern Ireland’s only 4-star motel we offer guests a unique experience by offering two distinct types of accommodation to best suit their needs.”

with money set aside for updated mini kitchens, new furnishings and new Respa beds.

The Belmore Court features normal ensuite rooms with everything you would expect from a hotel as well as motel rooms for those on a budget or who want self-catering options. They offer a basic breakfast option for guests and offer a range of dining options in partnership with local hotels and restaurants. As Terry says, “it allows us to invest our resources in our accommodation product; resources that would otherwise go into the food and beverage element.”

Tara Lodge has 34 rooms in Belfast’s Botanic area and has been led for 16 years by long term manager, Nora Douds. The property has been No. 1 in Belfast on TripAdvisor since 2007, has featured in the Travellers Choice Top 25 multiple times and has just been awarded the Best B&B in Northern Ireland by the AA for 201516. They are also triple winners of the Housekeeping Award and hold the 2015 Reception Team of the Year.

Belmore Court & Motel The Belmore Court & Motel is a 60-room family-run property in the centre of Enniskillen, celebrating over 25 years in business. Originally started as a motel, the business doubled in size a few years ago and now offers a variety of room types including some with mini kitchens for those who want more flexibility during their stay. A three-time winner of the Federation’s Housekeeping Award, they have also won the Reception Team award as well as multiple TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence and many more. Terry McCartney from the Belmore Court believes that continual investment is key to delivering a great experience. He says, “monitoring guest feedback has been an essential element to adapting our business to suit their needs. We have continued to grow and invest in our product to meet and exceed customer expectations.”

Terry feels that it is important to manage guest expectations, “if guests arrive “expecting” a hotel, it dictates their expectation levels and may start their experience with us off on the wrong foot.” The Belmore Court has produced some innovative marketing videos through YouTube and Facebook and also actively uses TripAdvisor to set expectations. The property plans to continue investing over the next few years

EXECUTIVE. » Belmore Court bedroom with iPod docking station ironing centre, hairdryer, straighteners, free Wi-Fi and Nespresso coffee machine.

Tara Lodge

Like Terry, Nora believes that it is important to constantly invest in the product with a regular redecoration schedule and replacement of soft furnishings. She also believes in recruiting the right people for the business and training them regularly. “The team that make up Tara Lodge are every bit as invested in the success as the owner. This tight knit team, who are friends as well as colleagues, are always one step ahead of our guests.” she says.

21 The rooms at Tara Lodge feature everything you would expect and more, including chilled mineral water, coffee making facilities and a security safe. Each room features King Koil Pillow Top beds, luxury toiletries and a Grohe power shower. Tara Lodge offer a full cooked a la carte breakfast for all guests.

SIGNATURE DOUBLE. » Tara Lodge bedroom with oak furniture, GHD straighteners, Bluetooth speakers and a Nespresso coffee machine.

Apart from breakfast, the property is able to solely focus on delivering high quality accommodation with great service. Nora says, “as we do not have a bar or restaurant we are able to recommend many local bars and eateries without creating competition for our business. We are also able to create partnerships with restaurants and events to help sell the Belfast experience.” Tara Lodge also has to manage expectations from guests and so works extra hard to offer information on local facilities and to “wow” guests with a highly personalised service. As the property is solely reliant on room sales, they are more keenly aware of ensuring a high occupancy with a good level of ADR. As Nora says, “any drop in room sales can impact the business significantly. In addition, we find SEO optimisation can be tricky as we are neither a hotel nor a B&B.” TripAdvisor success has led to Tara Lodge being very popular with international travellers but, perhaps less well known within the local market. Nora hopes to change that by reaching out to local businesses to develop affiliate packages and attractive city breaks to suit all needs.

SECRETS TO SUCCESS The Belmore Court & Motel and Tara Lodge are different in many ways but they have a few things in common.

» Belmore Court & Motel

Summary These two Guest Accommodation properties are definitely no “poor cousins” to any hotel. Belmore Court & Motel and Tara Lodge are appealing to a definite customer demand and it is not necessarily about a budget offering. Each can command room rates equal to or more than full service hotels nearby. Each property puts staff training and recognition front and centre and their housekeeping presentation and cleanliness is immaculate. Personal, friendly service is also vitally important and is clearly reflected in the five-star reviews and many awards.

» Tara Lodge collecting AA award for 2015

» Belmore Court & Motel and Tara Lodge were joint winners in under 90 room category for the Housekeeping Awards 2015

TripAdvisor Each business is number one on TripAdvisor for their market. This demonstrates great consistency in delivering a service that customers value. Each responds to criticism in a positive manner and views the platform as a marketing tool. Free Wi-Fi International travellers appreciate free wi-fi as they usually can’t use their own mobile data connections without a fee. Kids, too, can be kept amused with wi-fi for their gadgets. Cleanliness Each is a multi award-winner of our own Housekeeping Award and actually shared the accolade in 2015. Even the tea & coffee sachets are treated with respect, with not a frayed corner in sight!


NORTH COAST TOURISM CYCLE FOOD. » The recently opened winebar, Bartali (menu right), takes its name from a famous Italian cyclist.

NORTH COAST GOLFERS AND RIDERS The North Coast is one of the jewels in Northern Ireland’s tourist treasure chest with its fabulous scenery and rugged coastline. The region has long benefited from its connection with golf at Royal Portrush, recognised as one of the worlds leading courses and the annual staging of the North West 200 Motorcycle Race. In recent times, the landscape has become intrinsically linked with the hit TV series Game of Thrones, exposing it to a totally new audience. This increased attention has resulted in increased activity in the hospitality sector. The Ramada Portrush has recently been sold to the City Hotel Group and is now under the management of Interstate Hotels. Another institution, The York, has been bought out of administration and is being run by the locally based Fletcher family who also operate 55 Degrees North in Portrush. The area has also seen a real food revolution with openings such as Harry’s Shack and Babushka making the most of their stunning seaside locations.

A new winebar in Portballintrae, on the site of the old Sweeney’s, has been opened by the team behind Belfast’s Coppi and Il Pirata. Bartali follows the same Italian cycling theme as the group’s other restaurants (named after the five-time Grand Tour winner in the 1940s and 1950s - who was also the chief adversary of Fausto Coppi.) Tony O’Neill, owner of Thornyhill Restaurants, said it was the coastline that lured him to open a new restaurant on the north coast. “We’ve been looking at the north coast for the last couple of years, since we opened Coppi. I love it up there - it’s such a beautiful part of the world. The beaches are gorgeous and the coastline is fantastic.” Its great to see this traditional holiday destination benefit from increased activity. The area boasts Northern Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction, the Giants Causeway, which underwent a major redevelopment in 2012. Naomi Waite, Tourism NI Marketing Director, says the north coast’s popularity is still very much driven by the landscape. “The scenery and beaches

of the north coast continue to attract visits from local residents and out of state visitors alike, with the resort towns of Portstewart and Portrush benefiting from the family market and a high number of day trips and short breaks.” However, increasingly the north coast’s tourism is driven by sports tourists and Game of Thrones fans looking to find the Isle of Pyke and the road to King’s Landing. Ms Waite said: “The Causeway Coastal route, Carrick-a-Rede and the Glens are recognised worldwide for their stunning landscapes and, increasingly, by screen tourism fans who take tours to locations such as Ballintoy Harbour and the Dark Hedges. Major events such as the Irish Open and Giro d’Italia too have brought an increased interest from golfers and cyclists keen to have their own unique experience of the golf courses and cycling routes of the north coast.” This can only increase as preparations continue for the hosting of The Open Golf Championship at the end of the decade.


LEGAL UPDATE. LANDMARK RULING ON UNDER 18 EVENTS A recent ruling against the Glenavon Hotel could have considerable implications for the hotel sector in Northern Ireland. A number of functions have people under the age of 18 on the licensed areas of the hotel premises after 9.30, including weddings, family parties and school formals. A number of premises have been cautioned in relation to the staging of under 18 events in the past and many have ceased to stage formals and teenage discos as a result. The background to the Glenavon case is as follows. The Court of Appeal recently published its decision in relation to a long running case involving the legality of teenage discos held at the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown. The decision found such events to be illegal and contrary to the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 and will have important consequences for hotels and the licensed trade generally. By way of background, Glenavon House Hotel had been running monthly alcohol-free teenage discos at its premises since 1994, most recently in its Sense Nightclub, a venue which can be hired for other functions including community events. Following what was obviously a policy shift from the PSNI and PPS, the hotel was convicted by Dungannon Magistrates Court in April 2014 of breaching the Licensing legislation, more specifically Article 58 which imposes a restriction on having children on licensed premises which contains a bar or any part which is used ‘exclusively or mainly for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor’ (Article 58(1)(c) (ii)). This decision was appealed by Mr Brian Morris, Director of Glenavon House Hotel. The case turned on this Article 58(1)(c) (ii) and the interpretation of what use

the premises were put to overall. The nightclub is open every Saturday and the Court interpreted its main purpose to be the sale and consumption of alcohol. It can also be hired for other functions where alcohol is available while the alcohol-free teenage discos were only held once a month. Therefore, the court found the main use of the premises was the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor. This opinion was contested by the hotel who believed the main purpose of the premises was as a nightclub, which is an entirely separate purpose to the sale and consumption of alcohol. It was Mr Morris’ view that the legislation should and does not prevent under 18s from attending alcohol-free events on a licensed premise where the bar is not being used and alcohol is not available. The Court of Appeal disagreed and stated that Mr Morris’ view was not consistent with the leading case on the matter, a case from 1914 no less which essentially found that it is not possible to say that a room or venue becomes a ‘bar’ at certain times of the day or week; it is a bar at all times whether alcohol is available or not. The Court went on to say that if it was intended that alcohol-free events for children on licensed premises be exempt from the law at certain times then the law would clearly express this. The law does not and nor can the Court build in such an exemption. This decision has wide-ranging implications for the hotel sector. It highlights the restrictions imposed by licensing laws on the use of your premises and may put a stop to bars and function rooms being used for any events attended by under 18s. This could include weddings, school formals and even licensed restaurants. The legality of such use will depend on the interpretation of Article 58 and how the premises are mainly used.

ADVICE. » Contact the NIHF on 028 9077 6635 for advice or O’Reilly Stewart directly on 028 9032 1000.

Hoteliers should consider carefully any such bookings. One of the outcomes/recommendations of the recent review of licensing law was that function rooms in hotels could be used for under 18 events provided the bar was locked and adequate security measures were in place. This was accepted by 75% of those responding to the consultation but no changes have been adopted to date. This case raises a number of questions and has implications for businesses. Where are young people to socialise and how can we as a society safely entertain groups in an alcohol free environment? Weddings and family parties may no longer be in a position to include children after 9.30 pm and for hotels who rely on the school formal trade, an important off season income will be cut off. It also surely casts doubt on the fitness for purpose of Northern Ireland’s archaic licensing laws when the leading case in this decision is one over a century old. For further advice, please contact O’Reilly Stewart on 028 9032 1000.






he wedding market has been a productive sector for the hotel industry in Northern Ireland over the last decade. Hotplate has conducted some research into the market, gathering prices from the border counties and speaking with wedding expert, Ciara Crossan, about what trends are developing at the moment.

LICENCES. » Galgorm Resort & Spa hosts more wedding ceremonies per year than any other hotel.

Research by NISRA shows that there were 8,550 marriages in Northern Ireland in 2014, up 5.1% for 2013 but well down from the the over 10,000 ceremonies throughout the 1980s. The most popular day of the week remains a Saturday, with August being the most popular month of choice. Hotels have been the traditional choice for years but couples are now looking for something different and are prepared to spend to get that once in a lifetime experience. The average wedding is set to cost £22,000 in 2015, a cost that has doubled since the millennium and appears to be on an upward curve. And, yet, the Loughshore Hotel Belfast has great success with weddings at £15 per head. Our research around the border counties indicates that packages are

being created on a bespoke basis but, with an 11% VAT differential and a very weak euro, it is harder for local hotels to compete. There is considerable competition in the matrimonial market with lots of new and quirky venues coming on stream. Today, you can get married in a lighthouse, a football stadium or a theatre. Many historic houses and buildings have also tapped into this lucrative market offering a level of exclusivity and originality that couples appear to crave. Couples are researching on the internet and will visit an average of five venues before making their final choice. Hotels remain very popular but they will need to think outside the box to maintain their market share and attract new business. Wedding expert Ciara Crossan, from online business weddingdates. co.uk says, “Brides are looking for something different. A current trend is a DIY rustic feel with props such as vintage bicycles, chalkboards and wooden hearts. Even in a standard hotel environment, couples want to personalise the space and adapt the surroundings to their chosen theme. Hotels should ask in advance if they can use some of the

couple’s images to show how the look and feel of a room can be altered considerably with themed staging as this will help attract prospective brides and grooms.” A couple of other tips from Ciara are: Most research is being done in the evening between seven and nine. It is a good idea to set up an automated system with a degree of personalisation to go back to the couple immediately, instead of them having to wait to get a response. Social media is a great way to communicate and allows hotels to show a less formal side. Use great imagery, NEVER STOCK IMAGES, and don’t underestimate the power of Instagram or Pinterest to help you sell the dream of a wedding in your venue. If you are in the wedding business WeddingDates may be a great service for you. They connect online couples with hotels and venues that have availability on their preferred wedding date. Their system allows hotels and venues to drive enquiries for their available inventory as well as provide automate responses as your outof-hours wedding coordinator.




he chancellor, George Obsorne’s announcement of the introduction of a national living wage in his first budget with the purely Conservative Government came as a surprise to industry insiders. A “new national living wage” (NLW) of £7.20 per hour will be introduced next April for all working people aged 25 and over. The current minimum wage for those ages 25 and over is £6.50; this will rise to £6.70 in October. The NLW of £7.20 will follow in April 2016, representing a hike of 11% and an aim to reach £9 per hour by 2020. The “national living wage” (NLW) will be compulsory and the Low Pay Commission (LPC) will recommend future rises, with the Government aiming for it to reach £9 an hour by 2020. Osborne said that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) claimed the national living wage would have only a “fractional” effect on jobs. The OBR said that by 2020 there will be 60,000 fewer jobs as a result of the national living wage, but almost one million more in total. A net gain of 940,000 jobs! The OBR has estimated that the cost to business will amount to 1% of profits. To offset that cost, the Government is cutting corporation tax to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020. Small firms will also benefit from a cut in their national insurance contributions. “From 2016, our new Employment Allowance, will now be increased by 50% to £3,000,” announced Osborne. “That means a firm will be able to employ four people full time on the

new national living wage and pay no national insurance at all.” Alongside the Budget, the Government published an entirely new remit for the LPC. To ensure that the rate of the NLW is set at a sustainable level and continues to take account of broader economic conditions, the LPC’s remit will require it to set the NLW in a way that reflects the growth in median earnings.


WATER CHOICES MERCHANT HOTEL LAUNCHES NEW WATER MENU This summer the Merchant Hotel launched its new water menu, with an exclusive range of 13 bottled waters. The handpicked selection has been curated to include some of the world’s purest waters, with bottles originating from 10 countries including Italy, Iceland, Finland, the Faroe Islands and Fiji.

The LPC’s remit in relation to the NMW, which will now only apply to those under 25, will remain unchanged. The Government will ask the LPC to set out how it will reach 60% of median earnings by 2020; based on OBR forecasts.

Prices on the new water menu start from £4.95 and go right up to £26.45 per bottle, with a description of the water and its mineral content guiding guests through the options available. Never ones to do things by halves, the Merchant has also appointed two new water butlers that can help guests choose the water that is right for their palate, explaining the unique benefits, tastes and attributes of the different brands, many of which can be rarely found in the UK and Ireland.

Business reaction from the hospitality sector has been mixed. For those who have set their budgets for next year, an additional 8% pay rise is certainly a challenge. Others have commented on the erosion of differential saying that the introduction of the NLW will see massive increases in the overall payroll with those on a higher pay grade seeking an 11% increase to maintain their wage status. Others have broadly welcomed it saying that it will give the sector a better image and career status.

WATER BOYS. » General Manager, Gavin Carroll with MD of Aqua Amore, Michael Tanousis.



YEAR OF FOOD 2016. F ood, Glorious Food is one of the most recognised songs from the classic musical film Oliver and in 2016 Northern Ireland will have an opportunity to celebrate its own glorious food heritage. The aim of the year long initiative is to help us build an international reputation for food production and hospitality. The region already has some internationally recognised produce including Armagh Bramley Apples, Lough Neagh eels and Comber Early Potatoes. All of whom hold EU “Protected Geographic Indication”. Northern Ireland has punched considerably above its epicurean weight in the Great Taste awards with 99 companies being recognised in 2014 scooping a record 264 awards. This included 11 in the highest three-star category designated by the UK Guild of Fine Food. Food will be at the centre of a campaign to raise awareness and accelerate growth in hospitality and food production. The plan is to establish Northern Ireland as a region with passion, excellent and sustainably coupled with the imagination and creativity to build on its food heritage. As part of the Year of Food initiative, there will be a number of unique new events and plans are underway to make each month a celebration. The year will start with a January celebration of breakfast, not alone a great start to the day but a real opportunity to beat the January Blues and highlight a meal that many of us see as a true taste of ulster. Each of the following months will have its own food thematic: Sweet treats February for the ever romantic Valentine inspired month, A happy and Healthy July, followed by Harvest Celebration in October.

The calendar is well underway, taking into account notable dates such as St Patricks Day, Chinese New year and incorporating other established local food festivals into the plan. The year of food will be an opportunity to bring stories of our local produce to life on a world stage including a plan to link produce with celebrity chefs who choose to use Northern Irish produce. As the year of food approached, Hotplate has been out and about looking at some of the local festivals taking place that celebrate our food heritage. Festival Lough Erne The inaugural Festival Lough Erne took place in the Broadmeadow, Enniskillen. The three day event successfully showcased what Fermanagh has to offer with a programme packed with local produce. Several thousand visitors flocked to Festival Lough Erne to watch cookery demonstrations, enjoy signature dishes from local restaurants in the aptly named Pop-Up Restaurant and sample local produce through a collective of Fermanagh’s Larder which promoted a wide range of local Fermanagh produce. Celebrity chefs, Noel McMeel and Teresa O’Hare led a ‘Ready Steady Cook Off’ with the very Rev. Monsignor Peter O’Reilly and very Rev. Kenneth Hall on Saturday morning to a chorus of laughter and applause. Visitors to the Festival also had the opportunity to learn from renowned culinary experts Joe Kelly, Jenny Bristow, Paula McIntyre and Ian Orr. The inaugural Festival Lough Erne was organised by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in partnership with the Festival Lough Erne Committee, and was part funded by the Department of

Agriculture and Rural Development, Tourism NI, Lakelands & Inland Waterways, private sector and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Comber Potato Festival The Third Comber Potato Festival, organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council in partnership with Food NI and the Comber Earlies Co-operative took place from the 2-5th July. The event celebrates the world renowned and EU recognised Comber potato and has become a firm fixture in Northern Ireland’s food tourism calendar. The famous potatoes, which have been granted EU ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ are internationally recognised because of the unique climate and the geographic position of Comber which produces the distinctive earthy, sweet and nutty flavour.


GOURMET. » Noel McMeel from Lough Erne Resort putting the final touches to his menu at the Federation’s Gourmet Dinner in 2014.

AWARD WINNING BOOK Noel McMeel’s ‘The Irish Pantry’ has been awarded third best cook book in the world at the 20th World Gourmand Cookbook Awards which took place in Yantai Wine Region, China.

FESTIVALS. » Ready Steady Cook with local clergy was a fun part of the Festival Lough Erne.

Flavours of the Foyle The wet weather did little to dampen spirits at the ‘Flavours of the Foyle’ which took place on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July in the Guildhall Square, Derry-Londonderry. The event was an opportunity to celebrate local seafood and visitors had the opportunity to see local chefs in action at the Theatre Kitchen, visit food stalls hosted by chefs and restaurants offering ‘Fish is the Dish’ gourmet street food to try and buy; The event also featured Family Entertainment stalls – featuring the Loughs Agency Riverwatch Touch Tank; Food NI Taste Adventure; crafts, face painting and much more! There are lots of other festivals on over the summer months with others in the Autumn. They are a great family day out and a chance to celebrate our greal local produce and good food heritage.

Regarded as the world’s most prestigious cook book awards, this recognition establishes the Lough Erne Resort’s executive chef as one of the foremost chefs working and writing today. The event acknowledges books in a range of categories but the cookbook award is the most coveted and was contested by chefs from 205 countries globally. Only nine entrants were shortlisted and McMeel’s book was the sole representative on the shortlist for both the island of Ireland and for the UK. The category was won by Danish chef Martin Pilsmark for his book ’61 Clicks’.

THE FUTURE OF... HOSPITALITY 13th & 14th October 2015 | Europa Hotel Belfast

An exciting programme of workshops, demonstrations and social events, focusing on how hospitality and tourism will shape our futures. Full programme published in September.


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Hotplate August 2015  

A look at Belfast hotel growth.

Hotplate August 2015  

A look at Belfast hotel growth.

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