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HOSPITALITY EXCHANGE NINE PAGES ON THE CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION. P. 7-15 MEMBER NEWS Refurbishments, awards and celebrations in the Northern Ireland hotel world.

P. 4-5 UNIFORM FINES HMRC is targeting Members for Minimum Wage breaches. Read our advice here.

P. 28-29 TWENTY YEARS OF TOURISM Michael Williamson from ASM reflects on 20 years of NIHF and tourism.

P. 20-21 THE GRILL Gerry Lennon from Visit Belfast is under The Grill, musing on his own 20-year journey in tourism.

P. 15-16 FRONT COVER. See Page 8 for details of the 20th Anniversary Hotel Heroes.

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





his will be my last message as President of NIHF. I can hardly believe it’s been two years since I took up the post in October 2017. I have really enjoyed my term of office and it has certainly been one of the most interesting and possibly confusing times for us all. Brexit has dominated throughout with daily updates on deals, no-deals and changes in Downing Street. Yet, as we go to press, we seem to be no nearer a solution that we were two years ago. The process has been a real challenge for the tourism and hospitality sector on a number of fronts. Firstly, we have lost a lot of really good staff from the EU who responded to the uncertainty by seeking employment elsewhere or returning home. This, along with the falling value of sterling, makes the UK a less attractive destination to work in. Secondly, consumer confidence has taken a real dent with people booking less often and much later. You can sense

a jitteriness in trading and the news that Northern Ireland has effectively fallen into recession in August will do little to restore faith or address the sector’s concerns. There is no doubt that we have been through tough times before, but the conundrum of Brexit appears to have stumped even the most seasoned political observers. The Federation is twenty years old this year and to mark the occasion, we ran an initiative to find twenty hotel heroes, one to mark each year. There was a phenomenal response and the twenty lucky winners were recognised in a ceremony in the Observatory at the Grand Central Hotel on 10th September. A fitting tribute to the people who make a hotel stay so special for all our guests. I would like to take this opportunity to thank not only those who have supported me over the last two years but also those who have assisted the Federation since its inception. The hotel sector is now a major economic player with a significant role to play in

GAVIN CARROLL President the future of Northern Ireland. I know that there will be challenges ahead but with support and understanding we can overcome these and maximise the opportunities that will also come our way.

COLLABORATIVE NETWORK NEW SKILLS NETWORK TO TACKLE INDUSTRY IMAGE AND SKILL ISSUES. The NIHF has been co-ordinating the creation of a collaborative network for the tourism and hospitality sector. The network, HATS, is made up of a wide range of hospitality and tourism companies and is supported by Invest NI for a three year period. Currently over forty businesses are involved in the network, which is also supported by a number of key industry stakeholders. The recruitment process for a Project Director to

run the network is being finalised and the key tasks of the role are to bring the sector together, assess skills requirements and signpost opportunities. The networks programme of activity will include looking at image, how to attract talent, retention of staff and engaging people in the sector. Further details will be released via the NIHF’s social media network and on recruitment platforms.



FULLERTON ARMS. » The Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy has continued with updating its family and dog-friendly accommodation.





Malone Lodge Hotel recently hosted a Charity BBQ Event in support of Cancer Focus NI. This is the second year the hotel has organised a family event to support the charity, which is just a few feet away from the hotel. The family event was loaded with fun activities like a bouncy castle, face painting, colouring, cookie decorating and games hosted by the hotel’s resident DJ.

It’s been a glittering year for Holiday Inn, Belfast City Centre with a trio of highly coveted, prestigious awards.

The Slieve Donard Resort & Spa has undergone a renovation programme which represents a £1.1M investment from Hastings Hotels. There has been a full renovation and redevelopment of the kitchen including layout and all new equipment and the Drawing Room has been redesigned.

The day ended with lots of smiles from the kids who were fully entertained throughout the day and happy parents who were left to enjoy their tasty BBQ, while the kids are playing. Lastly, the hotel is once again able to raise much needed funds for their charity, Cancer Focus NI.

For General Manager Vikrant Tyagi, the IHG’s Heartbeat Torchbearer Award is his greatest source of pride. Only presented to truly outstanding venues, this award is reserved for hotels that have delivered exceptional quality consistently in all aspects of operation. It is presented to just a small number of IHG’s European hotels annually.

It has been awarded the much-coveted Belfast Business Awards ‘Best Hotel’ and the Federation’s ‘Housekeeping Team Award’, while also achieving Elite Status in the IHG’s ‘Heartbeat Torchbearer Award’.

The £1.1M renovation programme has included a brand-new kitchen and modernised team member areas to ensure a harmonious working environment and a nice space to relax during breaks. Also included in the investment programme are 16 bedrooms, the Lighthouse Lounge and the Drawing Room.




» Clayton Hotel Belfast has unveiled the next stage of its £3m investment at its 4-star Belfast city centre site; a brand new, state of the art Meeting and Events Centre offering flexible, tailor made business solutions in the heart of the city.

» Killeavy Castle in Co Armagh has been awarded National Winner Newcomer of the Year 2020 at the Georgina Campbell Irish Food and Hospitality Awards.




Hilton Belfast began an exciting full refurbishment in June. The hotel has a new gym as well as a new look for Sonoma Bar & Grill (pictured) with intricate detail and nods to Northern Ireland, including Giants Causeway-inspired tiles and a feature ceiling replicating the Titanic restaurant.

Bushmills Inn has announced that the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust will be one of the hotel’s nominated charities for the next three years.

Richard Taylor is the new Deputy General Manager of the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa. Richard has worked in hospitality for 15 years, most recently in the Everglades Hotel.

A style-led new bar concept will be revealed in time for Christmas to replace the existing Cables Bar. Hilton Belfast started a multi-million pound refurbishment schedule in June, a process that will see all bedrooms updated by February 2020.

Discussing the partnership Alan Walls, says: “We have been fundraising for the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust for the last three years. The charity fundraises to fulfil the dreams of terminally ill, life limited and deserving children by taking them to see Santa at his home in Lapland, Finland. In the last three years, thanks to the hotel’s generous donations and the support of our customers, we have raised over £15,700 to help the charity with its invaluable work.

Mark Gailey has been appointed to the position of General Manager at Crowne Plaza Belfast. Mark has held senior roles within the hospitality industry in Asia for the past 22 years. Niamh Rice is the new spa manager at the Culloden Estate & Spa. She has more than 12 years experience in the spa and beauty industries. Beech Hill Country House has a new Head Chef, Vincent Mahon. Vincent has years of experience in the 4 star Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo and the Rockhill House Estate in Letterkenny.



With our new 2019 Christmas Partyware Catalogue, getting ready for the festive period really couldn’t be any easier. Follow our easy guide found inside, and not only will your food amaze your guests, but your table setting will too! Make sure to keep a special eye out for our Charme range of Christmas themed products, carefully selected by Bunzl McLaughlin’s Category Specialists to ensure quality and value. The range includes Christmas themed crackers, tableware, napkins, decorations and much more!


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15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast

Book your tickets now

Only a few weeks to Hospitality Exchange Tuesday 15th October Morning


Meet and Mingle

Breakfast Bite

Taste the Island Buffet Lunch

Start the day the relaxing way. Beat the traffic, enjoy breakfast for free and explore the exhibition.

Something a bit different from the Crowne Plaza kitchen for Tuesday’s casual lunch.

The wind-down to day one includes a glass of wine and a networking opportunity.

8.30 £ Free

Food for Thought New trends, the ingredients for success and ideas for business growth. 10.00 £ 35

17.00 £ Free

12.45 £ 15

Recruit and Retain Masterclass Top tips on the challenge of people, skills and delivering a great customer experience. 14.00 £ 35

All Day Exhibition Over 50 exhibitors will be on site showcasing innovation within the industry at this free exhibition, which is open from 8.30am – 5pm. 8.30 – 17.00 £ Free

Wednesday 16th October Morning Business Breakfast Forecast, performance review and a look back at two decades of tourism.



The free exhibition with over 50 exhibitors is open from 9am to 2pm, so just pop in whenever you want.

The Big Birthday Ball Celebrate 20 years of Hospitality Exchange.

9.00 - 14.00 £ Free 19.30 £ 95

8.00 £ 25

Tourism - New Dimensions Opportunities, economic outlook and the new Northern Ireland Brand. 10.45 £ 25

Afternoon Speaker Lunch Entrepreneurial insights and how to build a successful hotel empire. 13.00 £ 35




15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast hospitalityexchange.co.uk

Ian Taylor, industry titan tells his story

The Independent Hotel Creator Ian Taylor, owner of the Kaleidoscope Collection, returns to his native Northern Ireland to speak about his hospitality journey from qualifying at Manchester Met University and managing the Crowne Plaza at Heathrow to becoming one of the most innovative independent hoteliers in the UK. A serial entrepreneur, Ian bought the Cotswold House and Noel Arms in Chipping Norton along with his wife Christa in 1999. The properties were developed along a boutique concept, winning awards for their style and bespoke service. Having pretty much set the standard for what is now the ‘boutique country house experience’, the Taylors moved on to pastures new, purchasing the Abbey Hotel, Bath where they set about working their magic once again.

Occupancy set new records, an award-winning brasserie was added, and new acquisitions were made. Today, Ian heads up a collection of three properties in Bath (The Abbey was sold last year) No.15 Great Pulteney, The Bird, and his latest acquisition, Homewood. To date the collection has been a stellar success with exceptional growth and double-digit profits. Strong links have been formed within the local community with colleges, crafts and culinary venues benefiting from their success. A real inspiration, Ian has never been afraid of a new challenge or accepted the traditional constraints of hospitality. Ian joined us at Hospitality Exchange 2005 and it will be interesting to hear his views on the


dramatic changes to the local hotel scene fourteen years later. He’ll be in conversation with the BBC’s Mark Simpson on 16th October, giving an insight into his success, thoughts on the future of the industry and his take on our local hospitality scene.



15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast hospitalityexchange.co.uk

Indulgent, luxurious food without the waste

Food for Thought As food becomes a more important element for visitors choosing a holiday destination, local businesses are having to adapt and evolve to meet a changing set of customer requirements. Understanding and catering appropriately for new food movements such as vegan, organic and a myriad of others is a real challenge. Coupled with this is the growing need to show a sustainable approach to food through menus that offer local, seasonal produce. There is also a requirement to limit waste not only from an environmental perspective but to control cost and display social responsibility. Recognising these factors, a new session has been curated for Hospitality Exchange 2019 called ‘Food for Thought’. The morning will provide insights into how to adapt and promote your business, address the challenges

of creating a great food destination, while considering sustainability. There are some fantastic speakers on the menu. Guest chef, Theo Randall, will chat about what inspires him and delegates will get a FREE copy of his book “My Simple Italian” to take away. Food commentator, Chris Bavin, will talk about trends, consumer needs and sustainability. His career has taken him from greengrocer to farmer, with a culinaryfocused TV career on the side. Award-winning travel writer, Pól Ó Conghaile, will reflect on the food renaissance that has been taking place on the island of Ireland since 2016, as local businesses continue to build on the Year of Food and Drink. A celebration of everything delicious about this place, their efforts are being supported by a three-


year autumnal promotional food campaign ‘Taste the Island’ which was launched in 2019. Pól will look at great food experiences and give his take on what hits a culinary high spot. Sustainability with a practical approach will be covered by Wendy Duncan, whose career with Unilever has seen her develop real expertise in this area. Wendy will outline how you can adapt your business, improve profitability and adopt an environmentally responsible approach. To complete the line-up, we’ve brought together a panel of industry experts to discuss market challenges and the skills shortage. Hopefully the ingredients make for a great morning with a dollop of culinary curiosity and some food for thought on the side!



15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast hospitalityexchange.co.uk

A Masterclass from Cornell University’s Rob Kwortnik

Recruit and Retain Professor Robert Kwortnik is no stranger to the Northern Ireland hotel market, having worked with the Federation to create a tailored programme for local hoteliers at the world acclaimed School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. He’s taken the learnings from this process and combined it with best practice from around the world to create his 2019 masterclass on people for this year’s Hospitality Exchange. People have been identified as one of the major challenges for the hospitality and tourism sector. Rob will look at some of the quandaries the local industry faces: recruitment, retention and engagement. He will draw on the good practice he has experienced in his exploratory visits to the island as well as outline some best

practice from international operators that could be adapted to suit local needs. Skilled staff who are able to deliver excellent service to your brand standard are an integral part of business success. Rob’s content will give you pointers for your business, with a clear focus on people, profitability and perfecting the guest experience. This session will also explore the adoption of a code of conduct for the industry and the advantages it could bring. The Retreats Group, a Welsh-based luxury boutique hotel operation, has broken the mould when it comes to retention and increased profits by double digits along the way. Their story will resonate well with local businesses as they have faced the challenge of being an independent hotel group


with isolated rural locations and the difficulties posed by a poor industry image. Samantha Wilson-Croft will present on how they have overcome these hurdles and give some takeaway tips she has picked up in the three decades in the industry. From an global hotel chain to an independent boutique hotelier, Jack “Casey” McDermott has run the gamut of the hospitality sector. He’ll give delegates a taste of life on a plain in Spain where he’s become a major local employer, champion of local produce and guardian of the environment. He has a great story to tell with lessons learnt along the way and a passion for people that has delivered success on every level. So, if people are posing you a problem and recruitment has become a recurring nightmare, join us and gain some invaluable knowledge from this masterclass.

MenuCal helps you and your business put allergen and calorie information on your menu. MenuCal is a FREE, easy to use, online tool to help food businesses in Northern Ireland. It enables your food business to manage allergens information and calculate calories in the food you serve. MenuCal can help your food business comply with legal requirements to manage and record the 14 main allergen ingredients in food. The tool ensures the information is accurate and consistent, helping customers to feel more confident asking about allergenic ingredients in food when eating out. Once you have put in the information to enable you to easily identify the allergens in your recipes, it is then simple to calculate and display the calories if you wish to. MenuCal supports the Northern Ireland obesity prevention strategy, “A Fitter Future for All� by helping your business to provide healthier options. Food businesses can help to improve consumer diets by enabling them to make healthier choices. With the help of the tool, you can calculate the energy values - kilojoules and kilocalories - of food and create the potential to increase profitability by making smarter choices about the food served.

MenuCal is practical and simple to use - there are training aids available including demos for businesses new to the tool. MenuCal stores information safely and securely and is always confidential for the user. It can be tailored to suit your business and is also accessible on a web enabled mobile device. Chefs, caterers and small food businesses helped develop MenuCal. To help you get started, check out the interactive online guide: menucalni.co.uk


15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast hospitalityexchange.co.uk

Big Debates at Hospitality Exchange

Panel Discussions It’s good to talk and great to debate. A big part of hospitality exchange is about conversations and debates. We’ve added to this element of the programme in 2019 with some great panels as part of the line-up. Food for Thought Hear from locally based chef and food ambassador, Noel McMeel and hotelier, restaurateur and culinary champion, Ciaran Fitzgerald, who is based in Kinsale and a major force behind this destinations foodie focus and reputation as a culinary capital. They’ll be joined by Tracey Jeffrey who runs one of Northern Ireland’s leading food tour experiences. Topics for discussion include building on our food heritage, the Taste the Island campaign and the on-going chef shortage.

Business Breakfast Expansion, costs and growing pains have been on the industry’s agenda for the last eighteen months. A leading panel including benchmarking and performance aficionado, Sarah Duignan of STR, industry expert and advisor Michael Williamson, Tom Barrett who created and heads up the Hotel Portfolio at Savills and Patrick Short, who heads up business banking at First Trust ,will discuss fiscal matters, industry challenges and the effects of expansion. Tourism - New Dimensions

Toolan CEO of the ICC, Waterfront and Ulster Hall along with Richard Williams of Screen Northern Ireland. They’ll look at bumps in the road ahead, Brexit and the issue of skills and staff shortages. Delegates can pose their own questions on the day – remember a problem shared is a problem halved! Added to this is a conversation with Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland and John McGrillen, Tourism Northern Ireland. They’ll be speaking about the success of The Open, a new brand for Northern Ireland and the outlook into 2020.

Opportunities for Northern Ireland in Screen, Business and Golf will be debated by Pat McCann, CEO of Dalata Hotel Group, Dr Joanne Stuart from NITA, Catherine

Exhibition Over 50 exhibitors will be on site showcasing innovation within the industry at the free exhibition, which is open from 8.30am – 5pm on Tuesday and 9.00am - 2pm on Wednesday.




THE GRILL HOTPLATE GRILLS GERRY LENNON FROM VISIT BELFAST ON THE CHANGES TO THE CITY AND THE ORGANISATION OVER THE LAST TWENTY YEARS. Where did you start you career? I began my tourism career in 1998 with Antrim Borough Council before joining Belfast City Council as Tourism Development Manager in 1994, and after a brief sojourn from tourism with BT Northern Ireland I was appointed Chief Executive of Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau in October 2000. Over the last 20 years, I have been part of Team Belfast that’s witnessed the city transform itself into one of the top places to visit in the World. Can you describe your role in 50 words? Visit Belfast is the Destination Marketing Organisation responsible for promoting Belfast as a city break, conference, day trip and cruise destination, whilst managing three gateway Visitor Information Centres and a range of visitor servicing initiatives. As a public-private partnership, my role is to manage the pooled resources required to deliver tourism growth. Visit Belfast celebrates twenty years in business - what are the major changes in your business over the twenty years? It’s a totally different landscape now… In 1999, a little over 500,000 overnight trips were taken in Belfast generating £80m to the city economy. Last year over 1.7m trips were taken generating 5.2m bednights, £395m and supporting 19,000 jobs. During this time, Visit Belfast has evolved from a marketing organisation to a marketing, sales and visitor servicing partnership that generates £130m in economic impact for the local economy and a return on investment of £1:33. Two decades ago, the mainstay of our visitors were those visiting friends or relatives or those who ‘had’ to come here for work - today, we’re attracting international visitors on city breaks, short breaks, cruise holidays or as part of a conference. Visitor demand is also filling our accommodation providers’ rooms across the week and across the year and the increase in hotel room sales has been over 300% – reflecting the balanced tourism portfolio of city break, conference and cruise tourism we now have. Operationally, the single biggest change has been the move from print promotion to digital promotion bringing with it huge opportunities to reach markets right across the world

24-7; but one thing that has remained constant is the passion Belfast people have here to deliver memorable experiences. How do you think Belfast and Northern Ireland has progressed as a destination since over the last two decades? Belfast has come a long, long way in twenty years. In the mid-Nineties, when Belfast City Council had the vision to set up Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (as we were named then), tourism was barely an aspiration for Belfast; today the city is being listed as the number one place to visit by leading travel influencers such as Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveller. These awards affirm that Belfast is truly on the tourism map This transformation is down to four things: political stability, improved/affordable access, huge investment in our tourism offering and concerted tourism marketing. Thanks to investment from both the public and private sectors, the industry is now a cornerstone of the city’s economy and has played a significant part in the city’s renaissance; from the Titanic and Cathedral Quarters, across the city through to South Belfast and the Gaeltacht Quarter and North Belfast, tourism has brought welcome investment and jobs. Today’s tourism landscape is unrecognisable to the one we knew 20 years ago: the city’s hotel portfolio has grown from 16 hotels with 2,500 rooms to 37 hotels with just short of 5,000 rooms; air access connects us to not only Great Britain but also Europe; investment in our attractions (City Hall, Ulster Hall, Ulster Museum, Belfast Waterfront/ICC Belfast, Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol and HMS Caroline) bring global recognition and not to mention today’s vibrant evening economy – all these ensure there are more and more reasons for people to come to Belfast.

Particular recognition must go to Belfast City Council and Tourism NI for their vision and financial support in tourism development; and their investment in global events have helped to raise the positive profile of the city and region, from the European Music Awards in 2011, the World Police and Fire Games, Giro d’Italia, Tall Ships right through to the Open hosted in Royal Portrush in July. These investments have brought so much positive media attention; a far cry from the kind of media attention Belfast often received in the Nineties! How important do you feel that Belfast is for Northern Ireland’s tourism success? Tourism in Northern Ireland has been on a rapid upward curve and Belfast’s performance has been a key contributor to that good news story. As Northern Ireland’s main urban destination, Belfast is now fulfilling its role in driving the region’s visitor economy, now contributing 33% of Northern Ireland’s trips, 32% of its bednights and 41% of overnight spend (in 1999 this was just 23%, 21% and 25% respectively). Today, out-of-state visitors staying in Belfast were estimated to have spent £335.5m in Northern Ireland, that’s 50% of the total visitor economy. From a standing start in 1999, compared to similar city and regional destinations, Belfast is now at the growth stage. The city has the capacity to see Belfast’s tourism economy double and therefore contribute even more to Northern Ireland’s future tourism performance. How important are people in delivering a world class experience and how can we gain standout for this destination

in a crowded market? Investment in our tourism infrastructure provides the building blocks for tourism development but without the right people, these developments would lack the heart and passion to succeed. The level of team work and collaboration across our partners is constantly fed back to us as a key differentiator, making it easier for conference organisers, cruise lines and tour operators to do business here. Belfast consistently exceeds expectations and visitor research points to the both the people and our attractions for this success. We are renowned for going the extra mile and that’s what continues to give the city stand out in a hugely competitive market place. What do you see as the challenges for coming year? Tourism has gone from strength to strength over the last two decades, and in particular the growth trajectory over the past 5 years has been phenomenal. But it’s important to remember, destination promotion is fiercely competitive, so our challenge continues to be getting our voice heard in a crowded market place. Next year, in particular, we will have to deal with the uncertainties arising from Brexit and where necessary drown out any of the negativities that may arise from it. In any business or sector, we have to constantly invest in our product, people and marketing if we are to continue the growth trajectory we are on and to reach the level of tourism performance our key destination competitors are currently achieving.



HOTEL HEROES CELEBRATING TWENTY HOTEL HEROES AT THE GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL People are the lifeblood of the hotel industry and to celebrate its 20th anniversary the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) recognised twenty hotel heroes at a special awards ceremony in the Observatory at Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, on Tuesday 10th September. The excitement was palpable as the heroes were welcomed by host Pamela Ballantine and their significant contribution to the industry was recognised. The initiative is part of the Federation’s celebrations to mark its twentieth Anniversary by celebrating one of its biggest assets, people. It is their individuality and uniqueness that gives the industry its personality and brings a hotel stay to life. Each of the twenty hotel heroes received an individual trophy and a goodie bag on the night. They will also be guests of honour at the gala ball at this year’s Hospitality Exchange which will continue the anniversary celebrations.

The Federation has always been keen to highlight the commitment of staff and the passion that they have for the industry. The hotel market has grown dramatically over the last two decades and now directly supports in the region of 10,000 jobs. NIHF members were asked to nominate someone within their business who has really made a difference. The person may have been performing a valuable ‘back of house’ role or meeting customers each day. Either way their contribution has been noted as enhancing the overall hotel experience. The finalists are an excellent representator of the breadth of careers within the sector with stars from Hotel Managers to kitchen porters and those in back offices who keep the cogs of a hotel operation running. The star-studded evening finished with a cocktail reception adding a touch of pizzazz to the event with a toast to the deserving winners.

HOTEL HEROES AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast, Lynsey Guest, HR Manager Bishops Gate Hotel Derry, Paul Sharkey, Excutive Chef Causeway Hotel, Davy McMaster, Kitchen Porter City Hotel Derry, Clare Campbell, Guest Services Manager Corrs Corner Hotel, Martin Toner , General Manager Europa Hotel, Martin Mulholland, Head Concierge Everglades Hotel, Sean Kavanagh, Kitchen Porter Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, Linda Graham, Setup Manager Hilton Belfast Templepatrick, Sophia Beattie, Housekeeping Supervisor Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre, Valerie McFadden, Housekeeper Jurys Inn Belfast, Katey Smyth, Assistant Front Office Manager Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges, Patricia Kavanagh, Accounts Manager Malone Lodge Hotel, Louise Tinsley, Reception Supervisor Merchant Hotel, Paula Stephens, Director of Sales Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Patricia O’Hare, Restaurant Supervisor Silverbirch Hotel, Alana McCauley, Head Receptionist Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Nora Hanna, Business Manager Stormont Hotel, Phil McCartan, Accommodation Services Manager Wellington Park Hotel Belfast, Malachy Toner, General Manager White Horse Hotel, Emma Davis, Reservations Manager

HOTEL HEROES Âť All twenty hotel heroes. 18 were able to attend the award night and received their awards in person. Congratulations to everyone and thanks to all those that nominated an employee.




MICHAEL WILLIAMSON FROM ASM LOOKS BACK AT THE LAST 20 YEARS OF TOURISM IN NORTHERN IRELAND. The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation is 20 years young in 2019. Established in the last millennium (just!), it has been the voice for the hotels sector during a period of unprecedented change in the tourism landscape. Were it a child, its 20th birthday would mark its transition from a teenager into adulthood. So, to recognise the important milestone that is its 20th anniversary, it seems fitting to review the world in which it has grown up. Northern Ireland’s tourism industry was a very different place in 1999. The signing of The Good Friday Agreement changed perceptions of the country as a destination but in truth, we were ill-prepared to become a convincing tourism destination.


Museum 215,000 and Belleek Pottery around 190,000. Two cruise ships visited Belfast.

has been supported and augmented by intensive marketing and investment in world class events since 2011.

To its great credit, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (rebranded as Tourism Northern Ireland) realised that private sector investment would only occur if

And that strategy has worked. In 2018, Northern Ireland hosted 16.3 million overnight stays of which 72% were out of state visitors. Of the total, we estimate that 23.5% stayed in hotels, meaning that the industry welcomed more than 3.8 million overnight guests. The Giant’s Causeway welcomed 1.04 million visitors, the Ulster Museum 585,000, Titanic Belfast 815,000, Belleek Pottery 209,000 and Belfast welcomed 145 cruise ships.


In that year, there was around 10.6 million overnight stays of which approximately 15% were taken in hotels. The annual hotel bedroom occupancy rate across Northern Ireland was 58% and the EBITDA ratio was 10.9% at £4,230 per room. Of 15,100 tourist accommodation bedrooms on 1 January 1999, 4,899 were in hotels. During the year, the Giant’s Causeway welcomed around 395,000 visitors, the Ulster

the public sector acted as a catalyst and its Strategic Framework for Action of 2004 sought to develop our greatest natural assets as 5 “Signature Projects” to deliver international standout. The public sector then invested around £300m in the Walled City of Derry, the Giant’s Causeway, the Causeway Coast Touring Route, Saint Patrick and Titanic Belfast/Maritime Heritage and this

If anyone has any doubts about the importance of the hotel sector to Northern Ireland tourism then consider the following. The very substantial increase in visitor numbers and overnight stays has driven around £0.5bn of private sector investment in hotel stock. Since 1999, it has added 4,322 additional bedrooms. In total, hotels now account for almost 40% of all tourist accommodation stock (9,221 out of 23,250 bedrooms) meaning that in the past 20 years, 53% of all new bedroom supply of all types has been developed by hotels.


In 2008, total revenue per available room (TrevPAR) in the hotels sector was £37,794 and EBIDTA per available room was £3,630 (a ratio of 9.6%). In 2018, TrevPAR was £69,158 and EBIDTA was £13,567 (19.6%). The average bedroom occupancy rate across Northern Ireland was 75.6% - a long way from the 57% two decades earlier. Today, the sector directly employs around 12,000 people, has a wage bill of

UNDER 5,000 HOTEL ROOMS IN 1999. ALMOST 10,000 IN 2019.

£210m annually and spends a further £250m per annum on supplies and services. If it wasn’t for the sterling work of NIHF, then most of this would go unnoticed. So, raise a glass to all of those involved in making tourism what it is today and especially to the NIHF and its transition to adulthood. Cheers, and here’s to the next 20 !



PARTIALLY EDIBLE MEAL TRAYS » Industrial design studio PriestmanGoode is swapping single-use plastic for ground coffee beans and rice husk in its overhaul of throwaway cabin service goods from meal trays to toiletries. Developed as part of a new exhibition at London’s Design Museum titled Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink, PriestmanGoode has redesigned various elements of the on-board cabin service in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

THE LATEST HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY NEWS NORTH POLE IGLOO HOTEL A luxury pop-up hotel is offering guests the chance to sleep under the stars in the North Pole — if they’re willing to part with $100,000. Would-be guests can reserve a stay at the North Pole Igloos — which will be the northernmost hotel in the world — throughout April 2020, the only month in the year when it’s safe to travel to the region. A stay at the igloos starts at 95,000 euros ($105,055), which includes two nights in the Norwegian islands of Svalbard and one night at the North Pole. Flights be-

SPACE HOTEL tween Svalbard and the North Pole are included, as well as meals, security and travel guides. The camp itself is comprised of heated glass igloos, which have been tested in extreme Arctic weather conditions and will be moved around the area as the weather changes. Transparent ceilings and walls allow visitors “to be one with the nature and experience the Northern Lights,” according to the hotel operators.

Everyone’s searching for the next big business idea and a new business, a start up in today’s world, the Gateway Foundation has latched onto the idea of building a hotel in space. With Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk‘s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, looking at space travel, it sounds like a potential money spinner. Gateway Foundation want to call the hotel after famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who imagined the concept in the 1950s. The first commercial space hotel will be more like a cruise ship than Stanley Kubrick’s sleek space station from 2001, says Tim Alatorre, senior design architect of the Von Braun Space Station. “Eventually, going to space will just be another option people will pick for their vacation, just like going on a cruise, or going to Disney World,” Alatorre said.



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DIFFERENT IS THE NEW BLACK ARE YOU READY FOR THE ‘ALTERNATIVES’? TRADITIONAL ACCOMMODATION AND MEAT EATERS LOOK OUT. There has been further confirmation from two very well-respected bodies about how the industry is changing (not just me ranting about what I think will happen in our industry but actual cold, hard facts) and I thought it was worth bringing these to the table. The first is Alternative Accommodation. I have been watching the rise of Airbnb and I felt for a long time that their offering will disrupt not only the very obvious leisure market but our valuable corporate market as well. The fact of the matter is that Airbnb has made significant improvements to their corporate offering, so not to harp on, but they are not going away anytime soon… This month and courtesy of Cleveland Research, Booking.com published their Q2 findings and the headlines make for some very interesting reading: • Room nights were better than expected at up ~12% (following 1Q up ~10%), driven by a better than expected June from lapping the 2018 world cup and unfavourable weather in Europe. Alternative accommodations continue to grow faster than the core hotel business. • Europe sounds to be tracking ahead of modest expectations and could be a point of risk tied to Brexit in October. Rest of world continues to grow faster than Europe. 3Q room nights are guided to decelerate from 2Q, but after adjusting for a number of factors/compares, core growth looks fairly stable. • The company appears to be easing brand marketing spend growth in the back half (up 41% in 2Q following 61% in 1Q) as returns in the near term are not meeting desired ROI’s, which points to good discipline but raises questions on the ability to continue to drive direct bookings (growing faster than overall bookings) in this manner. Performance marketing growth remains modest.

Lastly, management spoke to long term vision on the “Connected Trip” where enabling payment across all relevant options sounds like a key component as the company invests in payment/merchandising capabilities. Attraction offerings also accelerated during 2Q through the acquisition of FareHarbor (now 100k+ bookable activities globally).

If can ask you to focus on the very first point: ‘ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION OFFERINGS ARE GROWING FASTER THAN THEIR CORE HOTEL BUSINESS’. Sorry for screaming in capital letters, but this news is HUGE. I am not saying that every hotelier can rush out and build Tepees’ in their garden, but shouldn’t we all be sitting up and taking notice? If one of the biggest online providers is showing a fundamental shift in buying behaviour, shouldn’t we all be learning from that? My advice is to sit down and look at your offering? Our customers are demanding more and more. To combat this threat (and yes, it is a threat), we need to be ready and responding to change. Get it right with personalisation, loyalty, service & product offering. Understand what your guests want to do outside your hotel and consider a way of partnering and packaging with third parties to make your product look extremely attractive. The second announcement recently was from the UN, advising our global population to eat less meat. https:// www.nature.com/articles/d41586-01902409-7 We all know, that animal emissions are one of the biggest contributors to global warming and that the deforestation for grazing cattle is contributing hugely to a


rise in global temperatures. The absolute fact of the matter is that our customers attitudes are changing. Many of us want to make a difference, to feel that we are doing the very best we can to contribute. Reducing singleuse plastics, ditching the humble straw (and hopefully someday soon, hotels will catch on to my ‘ditch the duck’ campaign) – all of these have been driven by our customers and I am a firm believer that your menu offering should be the next to change. Vegetarians and Vegans will vote with their feet (and their wallet), so if you haven’t considered this fundamental change in customer behaviour, then my thoughts are that you should soon. Customers are already making choices based on a desire to have an ‘alternative product’ and the days when your vegetarian menu options will have an effect on your revenue strategy are right around the corner… In the words of David Bowie, ‘the future belongs to those who hear it coming…’


Maximising Revenue with Smart Technology Built by Revenue Managers for Revenue Managers, Right Revenue is a Data Analysis, Demand Forecasting & Rate Recommendation Software Solution, designed specifically for the Hospitality Sector. Our modular design allows a hotel to tailor-make the system around individual business needs. And with revenue gains averaging between 6-12%, Right Revenue will become the focal point of your business decisions. Contact a member of our team today to find out how you can harness the power of your data and maximise revenues for your business. Call 028 9099 8866 or email ask@rightrevenue.co.uk


What HMS UK & Ireland Ltd do?


Our vision

We maintain the highest ethical standards while diligently executing our client’s mission. The heart of our mission is to exceed customer expectations through leadership, strategic solutions and operational excellence.

HMS UK & Ireland Ltd, a Northern Ireland based company, offer a complete suite of hotel management services with a team of hospitality experts, providing hotel owners and developers with personalised attention and a focus on top line revenues and bottom line profits. We find solutions through teams; develop a plan which combines our specialist knowledge and work together to achieve the agreed outcomes, building confidence and developing knowledge while supporting the teams to be the very best.

Interim Management Opportunities – Hotel Sector What makes HMS UK & Ireland Different? One size does not fit all.. Our approach is bespoke; our results are consistent. Our properties are recognised as much for their individuality as for their performance, we tailor our management services to deliver the best results for your asset. We ensure our clients best interest: We will always strive to do that which is in our client’s best interest. Our clear objective setting, structured performance evaluation

systems, honesty, open feedback and communication allows preparing for success from day one. Encourage collaboration to solve problems: We realise the potential of our personnel, resources and capabilities and work with our clients to synergistically solve problems. We work closely with senior teams to drive business, transferring our knowledge and experience to develop skills.

What are the points of entry? Typically there are three entry points:

1. Full Management Contract: HMS UK & Ireland manage the entire property on behalf of the owners. Board meetings are held monthly or quarterly with a detailed report for the month being submitted to the board in advance of the meeting. Contracts are tailor made to meet the needs of the client. 2. Sales and Revenue: HMS UK & Ireland help maximise rates and drive conversion, working with the General Manager, Sales Manager and Front Office Team, we review the past and present situation to develop a strategy for the business which includes training for the team. 3. Consultancy: HMS UK & Ireland are requested to deal with a particular task or problem within a department or area.

To learn more about what HMS can do for your business, please contact us using the details below



Webb Wonders Musings from the Federation’s Economic Advisor

TIME TO GET DOWN TO BUSINESS ANDREW WEBB ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS TOURISM. As the summer season fades, I am sure we all hope it was a good one for tourism. My late August escape to the North Coast certainly suggested that out of state visitors were plentiful. Time will tell on the full extent to which visitors came, whether they are using our hotels or an increasingly plentiful supply of Airbnb properties and how much they spent when here. Could this be the year that Northern Ireland tourism generates a billion in turnover? A successful tourist sector can’t rely on one season. Momentum is required across the whole year if the goal of a billion pound industry is to be achieved and maintained. A key element of that will be business tourism. In Northern Ireland, business tourism accounted for 470,000 trips and 1.6 million nights generating an estimated £161m of expenditure in 2018, a 6% increase on

2017. Business tourism accounts for close to 20% of the out of state visitors. It is a sector which provides a range of additional benefits, including helping address seasonality and addressing regional imbalance through distributing revenue outside the main destinations of Belfast and Derry~Londonderry. According to Visit Belfast in 2017/18 Belfast secured 76 conferences which generated £45m for the local economy, the largest being the 1,250 delegate World Dairy Summit. A significant number of these were hosted at the Belfast International Conference Centre (ICC), which is now the crown jewel in Belfast and Northern Ireland’s conference infrastructure. With this infrastructure, plus the significant additional hotel stock and a thriving hospitality offer, there is a

significant opportunity for Northern Ireland to access more of the global business tourism market. While this opportunity is to be fully quantified, evidence submitted by the ICC to NI affairs committee states that the amount of economic impact delivered for Northern Ireland from business tourism has the potential to grow exponentially. The potential from business tourism is well understood and while Northern Ireland’s capacity to deliver world class conferences and meetings has improved dramatically in recent years, this capacity and potential now require demand and successful delivery. Key to this will be an integrated business tourism strategy that capitalises on recent investments and the inherent strength of Northern Ireland as a destination. It’s time for all of us with an interest in growing the tourism sector to get down to business.





guidance and they can be accessed on YouTube at https://bit. ly/2kuKctA.

HMRC may include compliance of the NMW as part of an inspection or audit. They may request payroll details, handbooks and the opportunity to interview staff. One area that has been a focus in recent inspections is uniforms.

The NIHF has requested some additional guidance from HMRC and has also spoken to the Low Pay Commission (LPC). HMRC are responsible for enforcement and the LPC consult and advise on the rate for the NMW. The legislation falls under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy as it is UK-wide legislation.

If you pay above the minimum wage or supply all uniforms to staff, then there should be no issue with compliance. The problems arise if: 1.

You stipulate that staff must wear any particular item i.e. black shoes, black trousers or a white shirt. This is interpreted as the employee incurring a cost in relation to their employment and if they are paid the NMW they will drop below this, making the employer in breach of legislation. 2. If you take a deposit and hold this until the person ceases employment you may still be breaking the law. Regardless of the amount held, if the employee falls below the minimum wage over a 30-day period, then you will be in breach of legislation. 3. References in company handbooks, even if they are not adhered to or enforced, may place you in a difficult position with compliance as they imply a cost for your employees. 4. Verbal instructions to staff advising them of what they have to wear will also be taken into consideration at the time of inspection. Please note that your employees, past and present, can be interviewed and asked specific questions in relation to the topic of uniforms. The position is a very difficult given cost, staff turnover and administration. HMRC has a suite of videos that give some

The NIHF has approached BEIS to seek additional information, taking into account the operational requirements of the industry. In additional to a considerable fine, those who are noncompliant are named by HRMC and a list is published. There is no real explanation given nor do you get a chance to respond in relation to any breach. They are all just reported as failing to meet the minimum wage legislation. This can be damaging to your company’s reputation and may present challenges for recruitment in the future. We are also looking into this matter to see if there is a better way of handling this process. The Federation contacted HMRC for advice on how the industry could address these issues. This is what we received back: If employers want to impose any sort of uniform in any way shape or form they have to provide for it not to reduce the worker’s pay for minimum wage purposes. Any charges, invoices, bonds etc. for required uniform will reduce pay in that pay reference period which in turn runs the risk of underpayment of minimum wage. The fact that such deductions reduce pay for minimum wage purposes in the pay reference period in question will in most cases rule out the “get it back at the end of employment” angle.



25 and over

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Any required uniform will reduce pay. It only wouldn’t reduce pay if it was completely optional (there was no disciplinary action/consequence if not worn) and the purchase was made via a payment (after wages were paid as opposed to a wage deduction). An employer may well “suggest” a dress code but as to whether this would reduce pay for minimum wage purposes would need to be tested on a case by case basis. What would happen if a worker chose to not wear the suggested items? Stipulating that a worker cannot wear something is unlikely to be an issue from a National Minimum Wage perspective so long as it wasn’t being used as a vehicle to be prescriptive about what should be worn. It’s probably worth pointing out that it’s not against the law to make deductions or take payments for uniform, employers are well within their rights to do this, it’s just that they can’t reduce a worker’s pay below National Minimum Wage in doing so. If you have any queries or questions in relation to this matter, please contact us in the office and we will be happy to assist you.

BUSINESS RATES CONSULTATION The Department of Finance has launched a public consultation into business rates. The review is about looking at the current position and making recommendations to ensure that our business rates system is effective and fair while raising the funds needed to support Northern Ireland’s key services. Responses should be returned by 11th November.


DDA – Equality Act – Disability Access Audits & Compliance Based in Livingston (Scotland), ESL Services was founded over 16 years ago in February 2003 by Bill Menzies due to his own and family disabilities. In the following 16 years ESL Services have provided support to many companies through Access Audits and supplying many different pieces of equipment such as Induction Loops & Access Ramps. With our unique depth of experience and expertise, ESL are a market leading Access Audit Company in the UK.

We deliver the Accessible Solutions that UK businesses need to function, grow and thrive in a marketplace accessible to ALL.

ESL operates across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, providing a diverse range of commercial and Retail Businesses and National Institutions, from the NHS, Local Authorities and Private Hospitals, Independent Hotels and Hotel Chains to some of the most successful High Street Retailers, to your Local Convenience Store. ESL Services is committed to carry out Access Audits to the highest standard to assist Companies to meet with their obligations regarding the Equality Act 2010. By assisting our Customers they will be able to assist their Customers who have a Disability, by making the ‘reasonable adjustments’ required Legally. All Audits will be rigorously carried out to the highest standards, they will also be scrutinised to ensure each Auditor carries out their own responsibilities with due diligence. ESL Services also believes that making businesses accessible is not just by making physical reasonable adjustments but as well by improving the staff’s knowledge and awareness of the needs of their colleagues and clients with disabilities. ESL Services provides a range of Training Packages, including Disability Equality, Mental Health First Aid, Evacuation Chair and Stair Climbers, designed to meet each Client’s needs. ESL Services is also a proud employer of staff with disabilities, who encourages their employees to achieve their best in order for them to bring their own experience to improve the company. That’s because we always put Equality at the Heart of our Business.

Visit us at the Stand 21 for more information and to book a demonstration of our Evacuation Chair and Stair Climber and to see how our Induction Loop Systems work. Tel: 01506 4127

Email: sales@esl-services.co.uk




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

A WILL IS ESSENTIAL FOR SMOOTH PERSONAL AND BUSINESS CONTINUITY. A Will is perhaps one of the most important documents you will ever sign. It tells those you leave behind what you want to happen to your children, your money and your property following your death. Without a Will the law dictates what will happen in the event of your death and these rules may not reflect your personal wishes. Families in 2019 may not fit the conventional 2.4 children of old. By having a valid, well drafted and correctly executed Will you will have the peace of mind of knowing that your assets will be distributed to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes. You will also know that you have appointed someone you trust to look after your affairs and that your family will not be burdened by unnecessary worries at a difficult time.

If you are unmarried, your partner will not inherit your estate unless you have a valid Will. Even if you are married your spouse may not inherit everything, therefore it is vital that you document your instructions in a Will.

your Will is legally valid and that your instructions are carried out as you wish. O’Reilly Stewart have agreed to provide a discounted rate to all members and staff of members who require a Will or related advices.

It is important also to review any business structure and make proper succession planning. A limited company should have a Shareholders Agreement and a Partnership Agreement. These documents should be reviewed as part of estate planning and succession planning. Insurance can be obtained to provide the estate of key individuals in the event of death.

O’Reilly Stewart has a dedicated team specialising in providing a complete range of professional legal advice and support services for clients who want to make provision for their future affairs. We can provide you with all the legal advice you will need to make the right decisions for you and your loved ones at the right time.

Using a professional legal advisor can reduce expensive mistakes that are often made with “home-made” Wills. A professional Solicitor will ensure that

If you have any queries please contact Judy Rose or Linus Murray on 028 9032 1000.

Calling all Hoteliers, Restaurateurs, Chefs, Publicans and other glamorous people...

The Industry Conference and Exhibition 15-16th October 2019 Crowne Plaza Belfast


Profile for Northern Ireland Hotels Federation

Hotplate September 2019  

Hotel Heroes, staff uniforms and Hospitality Exchange.

Hotplate September 2019  

Hotel Heroes, staff uniforms and Hospitality Exchange.

Profile for nihf