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P. 10-11 MEMBER NEWS Refurbishments, awards and celebrations in the Northern Ireland hotel world.

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FIRE SAFETY Time to review fire safety procedures in light of the recent London tradgedy?

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LIQUOR LICENCE DEADLINE Make sure you have all the documents in place for the renewal of 5-year licences.

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FRONT COVER. Tourism Politics P. 4



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RECEPTIONIST AWARDS PHOTOS FROM THE AWARDS AND ASSESSMENTS P. 21-23 REVENUE MANAGEMENT Five steps to bringing greater control and more revenue from OTAs.

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BREXIT: ONE YEAR ON CEO of ITIC examines potential impact on Irish tourism.

uring, my Presidency of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, the hotel sector in Northern Ireland has continued to recover well, recording another bumper year in 2016. The news has been good with over 2m hotel bedrooms sold in 2016, 38 new projects in varying stages of development and the media speaking in positive terms of the transforming power of the tourism industry. As I look around my hometown of Derry-Londonderry on a glorious day, I am happy to report an influx of tourists enjoying the sun and the city. They are also enjoying our historical buildings, city walls and experiencing great food and drink. Much and all as these visitors enjoy our built heritage and food produce, the thing that most guests comment on is the people they meet. They speak about the extra dimension that meeting local people brings to their visit and how this interaction enhances their holiday experience. I concur with their view that what makes the difference is our people.

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Over the last few weeks it has been a busy awards season with many of our members successful in both being nominated and winning awards at the Tourism NI and the LCN awards to name a few. I would like to congratulate all our members on their recent successes. The one thing we all have in common is that our people have been responsible for our success.

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

Much has been made of the current shortage of staff and issues around recruitment and retention of skilled people. As a sector, we are now

BUSINESS TOURISM A look at how the new Waterfront is bringing business to Belfast.

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paying on average 8% above the National Living Wage. Yet the difficulties continue and as a CIARAN O’NEILL sector, we President have a job to do the address this situation. We need to address our image issues, convince parents and educators that the sector offers a great career choice and lobby government to support the industry. Training strategies, which have been consulted on now, need to be actioned; recruitment drives need to be expanded and new sources of talent tapped. Hotels have led the way with major investments and have multiple opportunities throughout Northern Ireland. People policy now needs to be enabled to ensure that we can fill these roles and ensure our potential employment levels are reached. As we move forward it is imperative that a partnership approach is used to encourage people to enter the industry and highlight the exceptional career opportunities it can bring. I am confident the remaining days of the summer season will continue to produce the positive growth pattern for our members.



TOURISM POLITICS TOURISM IS RECOGNISED AS AN ECONOMIC DRIVER IN THE DUP WESTMINSTER AGREEMENT. Tourism has a role to play in the transformation of Northern Ireland and its contribution to the local economy has grown considerably in the last decade. The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation has campaigned for a better business framework for the sector highlighting the challenges it faces. The recent deal agreed between the Conservatives and the DUP has placed Northern Ireland firmly in the spotlight. In their election manifesto the DUP stated that one of their aims is to make Northern Ireland tourism a £1bn industry. Much has been made of the Conservative-DUP deal for Northern Ireland which includes several infrastructure projects and schemes that will help tourism. However, an important development is the inclusion of a clause stating that there will be “a detailed consultative report into the impact of Air Passenger Duty and VAT on tourism to recommend how best to build on the success of that sector.” VAT is currently 20% for all accommodation and tourism products in the UK. The UK is one of only three countries in the EU that do not to apply a reduced VAT rate to tourism products. The Federation has sought a reduction in VAT, working with the CutTourismVAT campaign in calling for a reduction in VAT to 5% on accommodation products in the first instance. There have been

many studies done to show how this reduction would stimulate growth, improve competitiveness and become cost neutral in under five years. However, the Treasury has not been keen to implement a VAT reduction, particularly as under current EU legislation such a measure would have to be applied on a UK wide basis. Brexit would remove this stipulation and mean that Northern Ireland could apply a different VAT from the rest of the UK. This would acknowledge and address our unique position in sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland, a region which has recognised the value of tourism and operated a reduced VAT rate for the sector since 1986. Further support for the industry in the Republic of Ireland has seen Air Passenger Duty reduce to €0, resulting in significant growth over the last three years. As an island destination air connectivity is key to growth. The fact that the island of Ireland is promoted as a single island destination beyond these shores makes the differing VAT and APD regimes even more challenging. The NIHF welcomes the recognition of the role of tourism in the agreement and is keen to see the sector grow to a £1bn industry.

JANICE GAULT Chief Executive




AVERAGE WAGE IN HOSPITALITY IS 8% ABOVE THE MINIMUM SET BY GOVERNMENT AND CONTINUES TO RISE. The average rate of hourly pay for hospitality workers sits at £8.12, 62p an hour higher than the National Living Wage (NLW) according to Fourth, who analyse wage costs for the leisure and hospitality industry. When under 25’s are stripped out of this figure it rises to £8.26. This figure comes from Fourth Analytics using data on the hourly pay of thousands of hospitality workers and is blended across the hotel, restaurant, QSR and pub sectors. Hotels, along with other sectors face a real challenge in meeting the demands of above inflation rises given single figure profit levels.

Vice-President, Gavin Carroll, with Jim Creaney of LinenCare.

In the recent general election campaign both the major parties pledged to increase the NLW. The Conservatives pledging to raise the NLW for workers over 25 to 60% of median earning with Labour countering with a pledge to raise the National Minimum Wage to £10 for all workers aged 18 and over by 2020. Projections from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggest that the Conservatives’ policy would affect 2.8 million workers and raise the cost of employing them by 4% on average, costing employers £1bn per annum. Labour’s policy would affect 7.1 million workers and raise the cost of employing them by almost 15% or £14bn per annum.

Stephen Murray, Ibis Belfast City; Pat Moran, La Mon Hotel and Marc McCrea, Ramada Encore.

Competition for employees and a shortage of skilled workers at all levels is also driving wage costs up. Added to this, there is a reduction of skilled workers coming from the EU and concerns about the status of those already in employment in the UK. Analysts predict increasing wage cost pressures for the industry; the real question is how great they will be and what measures can be adopted to address them.


National Living Wage for over 25s


Average Wage in Hospitality Industry Adrienne Hanna, Right Revenue; Rebecca Tyagi, Ibis Queen’s Quarter and Carolyn Boyd, Tourism NI.



SILVERBIRCH HOTEL. » The completed Drumragh Suite, part of the £4m redevelopment of the hotel.





Building on the success of the Bullitt hotel concept, the Beannchor Group is setting its sights on further expansion of the brand in Belfast and Dublin.

Members of the Hastings family Howard Hastings, Allyson McKimm, Aileen Martin and Julie Hastings raise a glass to toast the golden celebrations marking 50 years of ownership of the Culloden Estate & Spa.

Andras Hotels has announced a £5million extension to the Holiday Inn Express. The project, due for completion in April 2018, will see 60 additional bedrooms over three floors with 60 car parking spaces, provided over two underground car parking decks and at surface level.

The original Bullitt Belfast will undergo a significant expansion, with the addition of a rooftop bar and restaurant this summer, closely followed a further 30 bedrooms by the end of the year. Beannchor has also secured premises on Dublin’s Capel Street and is planning to open a new 100 bedroom Bullitt Dublin hotel within the next two years. Bill Wolsey, Managing Director, Beannchor said, “This Bullitt brand has really resonated with its customer base, which gives us confidence to invest in the roll out of the brand into new markets.”

Hastings Hotels purchased the property in June 1967, and over the course of the last 50 years, under the direction of Sir William Hastings, has transformed the Culloden in size and luxury. The festivities coincided with the completion of a renovation programme which has seen £4.8m invested in the 5 star property over the last three years.

Each new bedroom will have air-conditioning, fresh modern decor, USB charging points, and stylish bathrooms. The hotel lobby and restaurant will be remodelled, complete with an all-day café concept. The breakfast offering will also be upgraded to offer the Holiday Inn Express new standard including Grab and Go items as well as a full Irish breakfast – all of which are free for every guest. The hotel’s five meeting rooms will be refurbished with new decor and new audio visual equipment.



EVERGLADES HOTEL. » A £1.5 million refurbishment of the Grand Ballroom at the Everglades Hotel has been unveiled. It is now the largest facility of its kind in the North West and is able to accommodate 650 people theatre style and over 400 when set up for round table events.

MALDRON HOTEL BELFAST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Maldron Hotel Belfast International Airport has completed the refurbishment of its bedrooms, restaurant, bar and lobby area.



Work has begun on a £2 million investment programme at Galgorm Resort & Spa, expected to be completed by the end of the summer. The expansion will see the development of a 2 acre spa garden, two tier fitness suite and spa eatery.

The Corick House Hotel & Spa has invested £2.5 million over the past 4 years and the Carleton Restaurant, one of the original rooms in the 15th century country house, was recently transformed with a £70,000 refurbishment.

The Spa Garden will feature olive trees, walkways, handcrafted water features and relaxation beds. The 60 seater halo dome will be home to the Spa eatery, Elements, and has been carefully constructed to cause minimal impact of the surrounding environment with a strong ethos of healthy eating. A further extension will take the onsite Fratelli restaurant to 180 seater. It will encapsulate La Taverna @ Fratelli, offering authentic Venetian sharing plates and platters and an all-Italian wine list.

Accolades in 2016 and 2017 have included Yes Chef Awards Best Country House Dining 2016, NIHF Restaurant Awards Best Hotel Restaurant Runner Up 2016 and Irish Restaurant Awards Best Hotel Restaurant in Ulster 2017. The hotel has added a spa and deluxe bedrooms, restored the bar to include a new gin and cocktail bar, and carried out a £200,000 refurbishment to the conferencing and banqueting suites.

The hotel has also been renamed to account for the soon-to-be-opened Maldron Hotel Belfast City in the city centre.

FULLERTON ARMS The Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy has been awarded a Taste of Ulster award and also received a Highly Commended award in the Tourism Northern Ireland awards for Most Promising New Business.



NIHF PEOPLE & AWARDS HOLIDAY INN BELFAST. » Alla Pahomova from Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre won the Housekeeper of the Year Award at the 22nd Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism.

LOUGH ERNE RESORT. » Hotel of the Year (more than 75 rooms) at the LCN Awards. Included is Ronan Skeath from category sponsor, Hugh Jordan & Co.

STORMONT HOTEL. » Jonathan Topping, general manager of the Stormont Hotel has been crowned Hotel Manager of the Year at the Licensed Catering News Awards. Also pictured is Kirsty Newell of category sponsor, Alchemy Hospitality.

KILLYHEVLIN LAKESIDE HOTEL. » Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges in Enniskillen has claimed the title of Hotel of the Year (Up to 75 Rooms) at the LCN Awards, supported by Tempus Two Wines. The overall sponsor for the Awards was Linencare and the event was supported by TourismNI and Q Radio, who staged a live broadcast in the foyer of the Europa at the beginning of the evening.

HASTINGS HOTELS GROUP. » Staff from Hastings Hotels are pictured at the 2017 Irish Hotel Awards after picking up five prestigious gongs. The Slieve Donard Resort & Spa was named Irish Hotel of the year, Conference & Business Hotel of the Year and employee Raymond Edgar picked up Groundsman of the Year while the Culloden Estate & Spa was named Luxury Hotel of the Year and Natalie Gourley from the Stormont Hotel won Conference Manager of the Year.


NITA AWARDS NIHF MEMBERS COLLECT THREE AWARDS AT THIS YEAR’S FERMANAGH-BASED EVENT. The Northern Ireland Tourism Awards took Enniskillen Castle by storm in a celebration worthy of Hugh the Hospitable Maguire. The annual black tie event recognised 37 of the industry’s most inspirational individuals, businesses and organisations and marked tourism’s success over the past year.

Themed as a banquet that could have been hosted by local Gaelic chief Hugh the Hospitable, the event in the recently refurbished Enniskillen Castle was organised by Tourism Northern Ireland in association with Diageo Northern Ireland. It followed the Tourism NI Annual Conference held earlier in the day in Fermanagh’s Killyhevlin Hotel.

The Bushmills Inn Hotel & Restaurant was a double winner, taking both the Hotel of the Year and Customer Service Excellence prizes.




» Mark McKeown, First Trust Regional Manager presents Kelly Neill of the Bushmills Inn Hotel and Restaurant with the award for Hotel of the Year at the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards in association with Diageo.

» Professor Stephen Boyd, Ulster Business School presents Anne-Marie O’Neill and Ciaran O’Neill of Bishop’s Gate Hotel with the award for Most Promising New Tourism Business.

» Mark McKeown, First Trust Regional Manager presents Nikki Picken of the Bushmills Inn Hotel and Restaurant with the award for Customer Service Excellence.

VALLEY HOTEL. John Williamson MBE from the Valley Hotel in Fivemiletown collected the LCN Lifetime Achievement Award after nearly 50 years in business. John, and his wife Sally, have now retired from the business and it is run by their children, Greg, Paul, Lisa and Diane. John bought the hotel in 1970 for £13,250 and traded through many terrorist attacks, building a strong reputation for live music. A lifelong boxing fan, he now travels the world as a representative of the British Boxing Board of Control.





The official tourism figures for Northern Ireland were released at the end of May and were heralded as a record performance. They told a good story with some interesting underlying trends. Visits grew by a mere 1%, overall nights actually fell and domestic tourism reduced significantly. So where is the good news? Firstly, there is the expenditure figure growing from £764m to £851m. A considerable increase of 11%. What is of even more significant is the increase in contribution from overseas visitors, rising by 13% and coming in at £614m. Domestic visits may have dropped but spend from this sector also grew.

4.6m TRIPS

15.2m NIGHTS

£851m SPEND

The increase in visitors from out of state is great news for a growing hotel sector. Hotels are the accommodation product of choice and as the number of holidaymakers from overseas grows, demand for hotel products will increase. Visitors from beyond the island of Ireland reached 1.4m with a number of interesting facts emerging, including that most popular attraction with the new and developing Chinese market was the Giants Causeway. One fact not to be missed in the midst of all the statistics is the performance of the Republic of Ireland market, which grew by an amazing 36% and reached a record 455,000 visits. The exchange rate has played a role in this but promotion in the market by Tourism Northern Ireland, supported by the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, has honed interest in our attractions and shown the excellent value Northern Ireland can offer. Hotplate asked the Chief Executives from our tourism agencies, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland, for their comments on 2016.


TOURISM IRELAND Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Official NISRA figures confirm that 2016 was the best year ever for overseas tourism to Northern Ireland. Last year, we welcomed 2.1 million overseas visitors, an increase of +9% over 2015. Visitor numbers from Mainland Europe grew by +15%, from GB by +7% and from North America by +9%. And, more importantly for the economy, revenue from overseas visitors grew by +12% – to over £543 million. Overseas holidaymakers increased by +15%, a continuation of the positive trend since 2011, which has seen overseas holiday visitors grow by +58.7% and overseas holiday revenue by+79.5%. “Tourism Ireland is determined to ensure that tourism growth continues and we are undertaking an extensive programme of targeted promotional activity throughout 2017, to promote Northern Ireland around the world. We are highlighting iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and our unique National Trust properties. And, once again, we will join forces with Game of Thrones creators HBO this summer, leveraging the huge popularity of the TV series to showcase Northern Ireland. Tourism Ireland will leverage the tourism benefits of the semi-finals and final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which will take place in Belfast in August. Our activity also includes a focus on golf

and we’re taking every opportunity to highlight the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart and the fact that Royal Portrush will host The Open in 2019. “We continue to leverage our strength in digital marketing. Tourism Ireland is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (almost 4 million fans), number four on Twitter (over 403,000 followers) and number three on YouTube (over 31 million views). Our international website, Ireland.com, attracts over 19.3 million unique visits each year and is available in 29 markets and 11 language versions. “Tourism Ireland continues to provide thousands of promotional engagements for Northern Ireland tourism enterprises overseas – to help them do business and facilitate them to ‘close the sale’, particularly in the digital space. Our priority markets are GB, Mainland Europe, North America, Australia and Developing Markets. We are committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland continues to increase its share of the global travel business.”

NIALL GIBBONS Tourism Ireland

TOURISM NORTHERN IRELAND John McGrillen, Tourism NI Chief Executive charts the success of last year and outlines plans to further grow performance. “Last year we welcomed 4.6 million visitors who stayed for more than 15 million nights generating over £850 million to the local economy, an 11% increase on 2015. This equates to £2.3m spent every day by visitors to Northern Ireland. “The positive tourism performance figures issued by NISRA are corroborated by the Northern Ireland serviced accommodation statistics and industry feedback that show hotels achieved record breaking occupancy and sales in 2016. “With the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink taking centre stage last year we were able to shine a light internationally on our local food and drink offering, our indigenous produce and our exemplary hospitality industry, which really galvanised the industry. “Other factors contributing to success include the state of the art conference and event facilities at Belfast Waterfront which have been a game changer for business tourism in Northern Ireland, delivering 34 national and international conferences with 50,000 delegates and an economic return of £21 million.

“We’ve also had more really exciting new products come on stream including HMS Caroline, the new visitor facilities in Enniskillen Castle and the outstanding Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which is the equal of any visitor attraction of its kind anywhere in the world. And of course Titanic Belfast was voted the World’s Leading Visitor Attraction in 2016. Undoubtedly if Northern Ireland is to benefit from tailoring our tourism product to reflect the wider international desire for travel, we must secure very healthy growth from our current core markets as well as exploiting the opportunities that are arising from our merging markets including China, India and other parts of Asia. To ensure we are capitalising on these opportunities we must focus on a number of key areas, as follows; investment in product; a compelling marketing proposition; effective packaging of the Northern Ireland tourism offering; incorporation of new technologies and enhanced digital capacity of local tourism businesses; and, lastly, ensuring a commercial focus to our endeavours. These priorities will be essential if we are to grow export sales to £1 billion by 2025, a challenging, but achievable, target in the current environment.

JOHN MCGRILLEN Tourism Northern Ireland



YUMMY BRUMMIE FOR EXCHANGE The eighteenth Hospitality Exchange will take place on 17th and 18th October 2017 in the newly rebranded and refurbished Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast. The Federation held a networking lunch to launch this year’s programme. Attended by trade partners, hoteliers and key industry stakeholders, Hospitality Exchange has become a regular fixture in the hospitality calendar featuring an industry focused conference and a trade exhibition. The conference programme is currently under development and will focus on a number of key sector topics. One of the most popular elements is the guest chef demonstration and Glynn Purnell, known as the Yummy Brummie, is confirmed as the star of Hospitality Exchange 2017. A wellknown character in the UK culinary world, Glynn has owned and operated

the eponymously named Purnell’s in his home town of Birmingham since 2009. He started his career at the tender age of 14 and has worked with Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes and Claude Bosi. Commenting on his upcoming visit Glynn said “Hospitality Exchange is an important trade, hotelier and industry event, as it shows the latest possibilities for chefs in their kitchens. I’m really passionate about what makes our kitchens work for our teams and customers, and I look forward to seeing my colleagues and peers at this inspiring industry event.” Glynn is known for his many TV appearances including ‘Saturday Kitchen’ and is currently filming a major new series ‘My Kitchen Rules’ with Rachel Allen which will appear on our screens this autumn. In addition to his demonstration, Glynn will create a gourmet dinner featuring several exceptional local

products as part of the menu. Glynn added, “I am very excited about creating a gourmet dinner for the Hospitality Exchange event. I will be bringing over a handful of my team from Purnell’s in Birmingham to work with me to make sure the people of Belfast see how we do things in Birmingham! The menu we have created will celebrate some favourites from the Purnell’s menu over the last 10 years, as well as reworking some of my original dishes using some exceptional local Northern Irish products.” The exhibition stands are now on general release with strong interest this year given the level of expansion planned in the hotel sector. The final programme will be released in September 2017. For further information keep an eye on the event website hospitalityexchange.co.uk which will be updated regularly.


The Industry Conference & Exhibition 17th – 18th October 2017 Crowne Plaza Belfast

Employee Purchase Program

Working has its perks. Members of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and their staff qualify for discounts on the latest Apple products and accessories.

Program benefits: - Up to 10% off Apple products and accessories - Complimentary shipping on orders over ÂŁ50 - Free engraving on all new iPod and iPad models - Mac customisation NIHF Members can avail of the special discounts by going to the website http://store.apple.com/uk/go/eppstore/nihf.




EOGHAN O’MARA WALSH Irish Tourist Industry Confederation

BY EOGHAN O’MARA WALSH, CEO OF THE IRISH TOURISM INDUSTRY CONFEDERATION, THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY FOR IRISH TOURISM BUSINESS INTERESTS. How quickly time flies. It has now been a year since the Brexit vote and UK and indeed world politics - has been in a state of flux ever since. A 52%-48% vote in favour of leaving the EU seemed to be leading to a hard Brexit interpretation however the Conservative Party’s electoral setback in this month’s UK election has once again shone a spotlight on the nature and tenor of any new EUUK deal. Although “leave” supporters, the DUP backing for the Tories may in fact lead to a more moderate Brexit with trade and movement of people flowing more freely between North and South. Of course such has been the giddy pace of political change that who knows what the next year holds! One thing is clear though – the softer the Brexit the better for tourism throughout the island of Ireland, North and South. And let there be no doubt about it: the impact of Brexit on Irish tourism has already been real and material. A weakened pound and consumer uncertainty are having a serious impact. Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows that arrivals into the Republic of Ireland from Britain are down 11% for the most recent quarter. Moreover European arrivals are flat and, considering circa 70%, of all international visitors to Northern Ireland come via the South, the Brexit impact should be of serious concern to tourism everywhere. Arrivals from North America are thankfully powering ahead but

depending on a single market for growth is not without risk; an oil price shock, a weakened dollar, a terrorism scare, all risk quickly damaging US tourism numbers. The truth is that for tourism to prosper to the island of Ireland – North and South – there needs to be a healthy spread of business and solid market diversification. Unfortunately, with Britain being such a key source market, tourism in Ireland is very exposed to Brexit. And with approximately 300,000 jobs on the island within the tourism and hospitality sector the tourism sector must be supported. The industry needs to continue offering a high quality and good value product and must also strive to remain competitive. In this latter regard time has surely come for Northern Ireland to get a lower tourism Vat rate and get rid of its punitive Airport Departure Tax. Equally though the Northern Irish Executive, and the Government in Dublin, need to step up to the plate and support our key indigenous sector through appropriate funding. Tourism has worked very effectively as an all-island sector and Tourism Ireland is funded by both Belfast and Dublin administrations. That agency needs a significant step change in its budget and an immediate restoration of its international marketing funds which have been cut 40% in recent years. Destination

marketing and promotional campaigns are fundamental if Ireland is to consolidate its business from the Britain and crucially diversify into new tourism markets. Development Agencies in the North and the South – Tourism Northern Ireland and Fáilte Ireland respectively – must be encouraged to publish Brexit strategies that support local tourism industries during this uncertain time. But we also need to look ahead and ensure that tourism’s interests are central to UK-EU negotiations. This is particularly the case in relation to ensuring that the Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland is maintained. Tourism, by its definition, is the free movement of people and a border which hinders that movement would be detrimental to tourism businesses in the North and South. Likewise maintaining liberalised aviation access must be a critical aspect of the talks. As the UK leaves the Single Market it therefore leaves the Single Aviation Market and an alternative must be out in place; the idea of less flights between the UK and EU would be nothing short of disastrous for tourism on this island. It has been a dramatic year. Such is tourism’s performance, in terms of jobs and regional balance, that all efforts must be made to support and grow this key all-island sector.


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LEFT. » Fergal Mulligan, Bunzl McLaughlin; Ciaran Meyler, United Wines; Jun Tanaka and Paul McKnight, Culloden Estate & Spa.

TASTE OF TOURISM SUMMIT SUCCESS The Taste of Tourism Summit in the Culloden Estate and Spa attracted over 200 businesses and delegates who listened to the experiences of a range of speakers from Ireland and beyond, who have used food and drink to attract new customers, improve profits and enhance their reputations. Speaker and renowned Irish chef Catherine Fulvio who runs the award winning Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Co Wicklow said: “It was a truly inspirational day which provided a chance to network, to learn and to taste some of Northern Ireland’s best produce. A common underlying theme was the emphasis on the quality of the produce available locally and appreciating the value that it brings to the tourism industry, providing visitors with memorable moments.

“I was joined by speakers from all sides of the table and the event was practical and informative with some good old fashioned advice as well as looking at future trends. I for one came away with fresh ideas and was reminded of basic rules that apply to good customer service around food. The role of food in the overall development of tourism for a destination cannot be underestimated”. Award winning journalist and commentator Eoghan Corry, described as one of Ireland’s most travelled writers, and a guest speaker at Taste of Tourism added: “Catching the latest food fashion is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to increase tourism numbers and spend. The problem is that everyone knows. At ITB, the biggest tourism fair in the world, earlier this month there were nearly 1,000 different regions and nations extolling the value of their food.

“Places that you would not associate with culinary artistry such as Lithuania are stepping up to the plate. Food is cool. The prime time spots that used to be occupied by travel programmes are now occupied by travel programmes masquerading as food programmes.” The event was sponsored by Tourism Northern Ireland, Invest NI and Tourism Ireland, along with a range of local suppliers. The Taste of Northern Ireland Gourmet Dinner was supported by Bunzl McLaughlin and the artisan food market was supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.


LEONARDO HOTEL EDINBURGH. » From Premier Inn to bespoke decor. The Berlin-based company, one of Europe’s fastest growing hotel groups, has invested more than £6 million in the complete refurbishment of the former Premier Inn in Edinburgh’s Haymarket district.

THE LATEST NEWS FROM THE HOTEL WORLD GEORGE BEST HOTEL FOR BELFAST Signature Living has announced it will be opening a George Best Hotel as the company’s first project in Belfast. Located in the landmark Scottish Mutual Building, the George Best Hotel will celebrate the career and glamorous style of the man Pele famously described as “the greatest player in the world”. Founded by Lawrence Kenwright, Signature Living has been an innovator in the hospitality industry since 2008, renowned for restoring iconic derelict buildings into unique hotels and hospi-

ECHO DOT ANSWERING QUERIES tality experiences. The Shankly Hotel is a tribute to legendary Liverpool Football Club manager Bill Shankly and 30 James Street was previously the headquarters of the White Star Line – famous owners of the RMS Titanic.

Village Hotels is trialling the use of Amazon Echo Dot to answer straightforward questions posed by customers. The devices are currently being piloted in Glasgow and Warrington, before being rolled out across all 28 hotels.

The George Best Hotel is the first of many hotels planned by Signature Living in Belfast. The company is rumoured to have secured the old Crumlin Road Courthouse but has not revealed plans for it or any other sites.

Guests will be able to engage with the in-room virtual assistant to find out restaurant, pool, gym and spa opening times, things to do in the local area, checkout times and delivering wakeup calls. At Village’s 29th hotel, which will open in Portsmouth this year, the technology will be integrated with every aspect of the room experience from entertainment to air conditioning.



FIVE STEPS TO OTA HEAVEN? TAKING SOME SIMPLE STEPS COULD BRING BETTER FINANCIAL RETURNS AND MORE CONTROL. In these days of ‘high commission cheques’, and ever-increasing demands from OTA’s such as Expedia or Booking.com, I would ask if you have the simple steps in place which will encourage your customers to Book Direct? 1.



Rates - Seems obvious I know, but do you actually have the best rates on your brand site? If you do, then make sure your customers know that. You need to shout that you have the very Best Rates Guaranteed and we need to start training customers that ‘direct is best’. Availability - Do you have the best availability online? Again kind of obvious but stand back and analyse... Never give too much inventory to the OTA’s and make sure you look at dates far into the future. You may be reacting to the here and now but lets face it, clever rate and availability management happens when you are reacting to dates in the future. The golden rule is that you should never have rooms available on third parties when you are closed on your brand site. Watch-out for OTA’s that demand allocations. I often see hotels that are genuinely full on their brand site but that an OTA is still selling rooms from an allocation. Reasons - Give your customers reasons to Book Direct and again make sure that

your website and booking engine have cohesive messaging. These messages could be Book Direct for: priority upgrades / arrival drink or late check-out, but also include what you already provide as not all guests will know. As an example: free wifi or complimentary parking. Or better still, how about offering a competition - Book Direct to Win! This could be an upgrade to your premier suite / a chance of winning an overnight stay / bottle of Champagne etc. You can chose one person per week to win and then advertise and promote on social media. 4. Don’t be fooled - if you get low inventory notifications from OTA’s do you re-act? Should you? Perhaps you should consider turning this on its head and using these notifications to advise you of days when demand is high... Perhaps these are days when you could capture business direct. 5. Restrict - don’t be afraid to restrict the OTAs. If you have days of high demand, why not consider implementing a 2 night minimum stay? Another trick is to close out popular room types when you forecast you are going to be busy. That way you have a much greater opportunity for guests who know your hotel to book direct.


10 TIPS FOR CYBER SECURITY Small business owners can’t assume cyber crime won’t happen to them. But you can help mitigate the risks if you take some important steps to protect yourself and your business online. These steps are outlined below:

3. Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software on all your devices.

7. Be cautious of clicking on links sent to you within emails, social media websites or unfamiliar websites.

4. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Also, consider using two factor authentication for added security.

8. Use a firewall and check that your internet router/firewall has the latest firmware installed.

1. Make regular backups of your key systems and data. Keep copies securely off-site and check that they work.

5. Use different passwords for different systems.

9. If you operate a Wi-Fi network make sure it is encrypted (eg WPA2) and regularly change the Wi-Fi password.

2. Keep the operating system, web browser and all other software on your devices up to date with security patches.

6. Encrypt any sensitive data and do not send passwords or other sensitive data via email unencrypted.

10. Use a VPN if you are accessing your systems over public Wi-Fi or insecure network.



TIME TO REVIEW FIRE SAFETY HOTELIERS ADVISED TO RE-EXAMINE PROCEDURES, PARTICULARLY FOR OVERNIGHT INCIDENTS WHEN STAFF NUMBERS MAY BE LOW. Given the recent terrible tragedy in London, it might be timely for all hotel and accommodation premises to carry out an extra check on their fire safety arrangements.



Diamond Systems concern may be that your guests enjoy their stay; but besides offering first rate service, this should include ensuring maximum safety. Fire safety legislation is extensive and hotel and guest accommodation owners (as the “Responsible Person”) need to be aware of their legal obligations under: • •

Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010, and The Equality Act, which brings into play additional provisions which must be made, particularly for hearing impaired guests who may not hear a fire alarm warning signal.



5. To meet your legal requirements for fire safety, we would recommend taking the following measures, although this list is not exhaustive: 6. 1.

Ensure an annual fire risk assessment is carried out. In between this annual review, if you make any alterations to your premises, including changes in personnel, the onus is on you to update fire safety arrangements. The risks to people

and property are high in hotel buildings, however the risks can be drastically reduced by taking appropriate fire protection measures. A comprehensive life safety system is needed to ensure personal safety and damage mitigation in case of fire. The cornerstone of such a system is a fire detection and alarm system that guarantees the earliest and most reliable fire detection, and activates the alarm devices and the relevant fire safety controls. Fire detection and alarm systems must be tested by competent individuals at intervals of no more than six months. Competency can be assured by choosing a fire alarm company which has third party certification, such as the BAFE SP203 scheme. You should receive an engineer’s report on the results of the inspection and it is important to review this and ensure any recommended remedial work is carried out. You must display a fire alarm zone chart next to the fire alarm control panel, to assist the fire brigade in locating a fire. This should be updated for any structural changes you make to your premises. Special provisions must be made for any hearing impaired guests to facilitate their evacuation, with options including vibrating pillows and visual alarm devices. You must have a detailed and up to date evacuation plan with documented procedures for the systematic, safe, and orderly evacuation of the building in case of fire or other emergencies. Fire drills should be carried out on a regular basis to ensure that all members of staff are

familiar with all aspects of this plan. 7. If an evacuation becomes necessary, hotel guests must be able to rely on the escape route identification notices to find their way out of the building. All bedrooms and public areas must have clear signage to direct them to the nearest emergency exit. To enable a safe evacuation, the emergency lighting must be turned on in all relevant areas. Emergency lighting systems must be subject to regular maintenance inspections by competent individuals, at six monthly intervals. Over and above any codes and regulations, it is the moral responsibility of the hotel management to protect guests and staff from fire hazards. The reputation of a hotel is directly related to successful fire prevention. Even one incidence of fire where the prevention measures prove insufficient can damage a hotels otherwise good reputation, which is then extremely difficult to re-establish. NIHF trade partner Diamond Systems will be happy to help with this matter. As a specialist provider of electronic life safety and security solutions in Northern Ireland for over thirty years, they have the expertise to help you meet your legal obligations for fire safety. For help and advice with any aspect of life safety and security at your hotel, including how to eliminate false fire alarms using the latest technology on the market, and to request a copy of our free 40 page guide to Fire Protection in Hotels, please email angela@ diamondsystems.co.uk or contact 02890 207 207.


ANOTHER GREAT RECEPTION YEAR THE AWARDS CONTINUE TO GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH AND THE JUDGING BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT EACH YEAR. The annual Hotel Receptionist of the Year awards ceremony was held in May. Almost 80 entrants were competing for gold in the various categories. Scooping the title of Hotel Receptionist of the Year 2017 was Laura Curran of Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry-Londonderry. The judges described Laura as “someone who has such passion for the job and the industry, she should be bottled and used as a global ambassador!” Meanwhile, the accolade of Most Promising Hotel Receptionist of the Year

2017’ supported by Net Affinity, was bestowed on Adam Sweeney, Waterfoot Hotel, Derry-Londonderry. Adam was described by the judges as: “warm, energetic and enthusiastic with exceptional business acumen. This person’s passion for hospitality and their story of progression is a real inspiration”. Finally, in the team category the title of Hotel Reception of the Year 2017, sponsored by Tourism Northern Ireland, went to Bushmills Inn, Bushmills. One of the judges summed up the interaction they had with the team as: “Possibly one of the

best check-in experiences I have ever had throughout my years of hotel inspecting. The experience was a perfect mix of genuine hospitality, very good systems and a well-trained team”. The competition is kindly supported by Tourism Northern Ireland, Right Revenue, Net Affinity with additional support from Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Life: One Great Adventure.



Sophie Emerson from the Old Inn collects the runner-up trophy in the main category.

Sponsors, Net Affinity, with the two trophy winners in the Most Promising Category.

The team from Andras Hotels.

Armagh City Hotel attending the Gala Awards as finalists in the team category.

Team winner and runner-up with Barra Best and Sam Corr from category sponsor, Tourism Northern Ireland.

City Hotel Derry team and guests.

The Receptionist of the Year Awards are supported by



BUSINESS TOURISM WATERFRONT BRINGING GROWTH TO BELFAST In any city the hotel industry relies heavily on business tourism to provide vital revenue. To help grow the number of business travellers visiting Belfast and to stimulate economic growth, 2016 saw the opening of Belfast Waterfront’s new 7,000m2 conference facility – the city’s single largest investment in business tourism. Hotplate caught up with Catherine Toolan, Managing Director of Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Ltd, to find out more about their future plans and to congratulate the team on their outstanding first year in operation. Catherine is delighted with the team’s performance in the opening year, with the venues together hosting over 340 entertainment and business events. “In our first year of operating we welcomed over 300,000 visitors, sold over 252,000 tickets and served a taste of Northern Ireland’s famed food to over 233,000 people. The newly extended Belfast Waterfront created over 50,000 delegate nights, generating an economic return of £21m for the city. The exceptional effort and dedication of the Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall team, and Visit Belfast together with other partners from across the city, have made this year such a great success.” In addition to attracting business visitors who spend up to £488 per day, the new Waterfront development has transformed Belfast into a serious contend-

er as a major conference and event destination. In fact during 2016-2017 an impressive 76% of conferences were newcomers to the stunning riverside facility. And this is only the beginning, with 2017-2018 shaping up to be just as busy.

to attract such international customers. Indeed in the coming years a major challenge for the city will be maintaining a vibrant cultural programme that continues to capture the spirit of the place and appeals to everyone especially business travellers.

“This summer Northern Ireland’s capital city will play host to delegates attending the Belfast Pathology Conference, the 44th European Physical Society Conference on Plasma Physics and the 15th International Pragmatics Conference (IPrA2017) at the Waterfront, to name just a few. These events alone are expected to generate nearly 13,000 delegate nights and inject £5.1m into the local economy,” adds Catherine.

Catherine highlighted that it is also important to play to the region’s strengths. As a prominent university city and home to leaders in industry sectors such as Information Technology and Life Sciences, providing a platform for experts to share experiences with peers is critical to creating a sustainable competitive advantage. With this in mind, partnerships with local conference ambassadors will become more important than ever in helping promote the city as the perfect host destination.

Looking ahead, the team at Belfast Waterfront are focused on continuing to attract new international conference business to the city. This sector represents a major revenue stream for the venue and will be key to helping Belfast Waterfront achieve its goal of generating £100m for the city over 5 years. Whilst organisers quickly fall in love with Belfast, there is no doubt that the trade as a whole does still have to work that little bit harder to encourage these high value clients to cross the Irish Sea. In this highly competitive market it is crucial that the city pulls together, offering competitive, value for money deals

There is no denying the landscape has become more competitive. Despite this Catherine believes Belfast has a unique and competitive offering. “Belfast still has a sense of newness, mystique and edginess as an international city. It is very accessible and while you can reach the city centre from the local airports within 30 minutes or less, you can also be walking on a beautiful beach in 20 minutes. The people of Belfast are very welcoming and it is very clear to me that the city has a really joined up approach, working in partner-



FEDERATION GOLF DAY THE FEDERATION HELD ITS ANNUAL GOLF DAY AT THE HILTON TEMPLEPATRICK HOTEL IN MAY. The Texas Scramble format went down well with the players. The team prize went to Galgorm Resort & Spa with runners up Everglades Hotel and third place to the Slieve Donard Resort team.

Golf was followed by a delicious steak in the hotel. Thanks to all who took part and to Coca-Cola HBC and Tennents NI for support.

ship to sell the city. From Visit Belfast and our hotels, to our Mayor and elected representatives, to transportation and city tourist facilities we all play our roles. From my past experience many cities talk the talk but rarely do they walk the walk in the same way as I see Belfast doing. “Recent investment in the city’s infrastructure, our new state-of-the-art conference facility and the number of hotels planned, make for a very attractive proposition. Our ‘one team’ approach, outstanding facilities and famous hospitality have together helped create amazing experiences and are constantly commented upon by clients. However if we’re to stay ahead, we need to continue to evolve.

Brian Graham, Neil McVeigh, Oliver Mort and Matthew McClure from Galgorm Resort & Spa.

“For the Waterfront, it is important to be future-proof and continue to deliver a service beyond our client expectations. Ongoing investment in technology is critical to remaining ahead of the competition. We recently launched a new, interactive 3D modelling tool which reflects our commitment to developing services for our customers. From a city perspective increased connectivity will remain vital to positioning Belfast as a must-visit destination and to the future wellbeing of the city’s business tourism economy.” Sammy Ginger, Neil Devlin, JP McCafferty and Desmond Morris from Everglades Hotel.



SUMMER WINE CIARAN MEYLER FROM UNITED WINES LOOKS AT HOW PALATES CHANGE AS THE WEATHER HEATS UP. Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring, My summer wine is really made from all these things, Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time, And I will give to you summer wine. Bono and The Corrs did a great version of this exceptional song and it always puts me in the mood for a nice glass of something fresh and fragrant. At this time of year everyone is looking recommendations on what to drink for the summer. As the weather changes, so too does the mood. We don’t crave the big spicy full bodied reds, instead white and rosé wines come back into fashion. A few years ago Neil Mc Guigan & John Torde brought us “The Semillon Blanc”, a noble grape widely regarded as the best white grape for producing sweet wines. However, Neil has produced this stunning, lively, fragrant and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc style Semillon, which is really complex yet fun. He’s also recently added Frizzante (fizzy wine) to the range. Once again taking ideas from the Italians, this lively Frizzante is bursting with light floral fruits, really clean and refreshing on the pallet and finishing with a surprisingly great length. One of my favourite’s in The Mc Guigan Black Label range is the Moscato. It is similar in style to the Italian wines which made this grape famous, however it has its own twist. With aromas reminiscent of Turkish delight and passionfruit, and a slight spritz rather than fully sparkling, it is only 9% ABV, so you won’t feel overpowered by this one, whilst sunning yourself in the back garden. If you don’t fancy the Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc is always a safe bet, however be brave and step outside New Zealand, as Chile and South Africa are producing some outstanding Sauvignons - not copycat styles but wines with a character of their own, South African Sauvignons tend to be softer, subtler in style and almost European. Try Nederburg Winemasters Reserve and great Chilean Sauvignons from the Casablanca Valley which are bursting with citrus fruits, green chilli peppers and fresh herbs. Also recommended is the Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc. Other excellent summer wines include Nederburg Rosé, Villa Mura Valpolicella Classico and Santa Rita’s new 120 Pinot Noir (try the Pinot slightly chilled with bar-b-cued meats). Enjoy then while it’s hot!


SMOKING SPACES 10 YEARS ON FROM THE SMOKING BAN Smoke-free legislation was introduced into Northern Ireland in April 2006. Over the last decade, businesses have adapted well to the legislation with over 99% compliance since its introduction. One unexpected development has been the creation and construction of smoking areas for customers (and staff). Initially, many of these structures were small bus shelter type prefabrications but over the last decade the smoking area has become ever more a more sophisticated space. Hotels and bars now feature elaborate beer gardens, balconies and rooftop lounges. Outdoor space has become a valuable asset for businesses but it is important to note that if you have a smoking area then it must meet the requirements of the legislation: • •

Smoking is not permitted in any area which is fully or substantially enclosed An outdoor area should not be confused with a smoking shelter/area. Outside space does not necessarily have to be a smoking area and your customers may wish to enjoy your outdoor space with a smoke free environment If your smoking area has a roof, then to comply with legal requirements as a smoking area, it should not have walls or sides as part of the construction that enclose more than 50% of the space. Note that this includes awnings, umbrellas and movable partitions. Enclosed areas also include marques, tents and walled spaces with awnings even if they are retractable. All are considered enclosures and do not comply with the legislation.

Offering customers, a pleasant experience is important and outdoor space can give a business greater appeal and flexibility. Being compliant with The Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 is essential and if you have any queries, please contact the environment health department in your local council who will be happy to advise you on this issue.


LIQUOR LICENCE DEADLINE. RENEW YOUR LICENCE NOW The deadline for the 5-yearly renewal of Liquor Licences in Northern Ireland is fast approaching and hoteliers urgently need to get their affairs in order. All licences must have been renewed by the end of September and the deadline for submission in each court jurisdiction will be some time in August. The renewal application itself is relatively straightforward and must be prepared and served on the Courts and the other statutory bodies at least 3 weeks in advance of 1st September 2017, and therefore we would strongly recommend that you speak to your solicitor and put together the various proofs including the original liquor licence and NITB certificate if appropriate. Taking early advice is extremely helpful, particularly if there are any missing documents or irregularities with the Licence which need to be addressed. Generally, a solicitor will be able to make the renewal application by submitting the requisite paperwork and you will not have to attend court. However, where there are complications or issues with the licence then a court attendance may be necessary. Most problems or issues that arise can be addressed and dealt with if early advice is sought. Failure to renew a Liquor Licence by

the statutory deadline in September is likely to mean that the licence is dead, and that the licence holder is no longer permitted to sell alcohol to the public, the effect of which would be terminal for many businesses in the sector. However, the legislation does provide a mechanism for renewal outside the time limit, provided the application is made no later than 12 months from the date on which the licence expires. The Court will only renew a licence in these circumstances if it is satisfied that there is good reason for the failure to renew at the proper time – simple forgetfulness is unlikely to persuade the Court so the advice is renew now and don’t take the risk! O’Reilly Stewart can guide you through the renewal process and offer an extremely competitive fee structure. Contact our Licensing Department on 028 9032 1000 to discuss.

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

The Industry Conference & Exhibition 17th – 18th October 2017 Crowne Plaza Belfast

Programme We’re putting the final touches to the programme, which will be online at hospitalityexchange.co.uk at the end of August. Exhibitors should give us a call now on 028 9077 6635 to secure a stand.

Contact Hospitality Exchange The McCune Building 1 Shore Road, Belfast, BT15 3PG 028 9077 6635 hospitalityexchange.co.uk

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Hotplate July 2017  

The magazine of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.

Hotplate July 2017  

The magazine of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.

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