Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

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Brexit would be disastrous for the tourism sector in Northern Ireland, warns leading hotel boss Lord Rana

By John Mulgrew

Published 10/03/2016

Lord Rana says he can’t understand the anti-EU stance of First Minister Arlene Foster
Lord Rana says he can’t understand the anti-EU stance of First Minister Arlene Foster

Leaving the European Union would have a "disastrous impact" on Northern Ireland's tourism industry and could lead to job losses, a hotel boss has warned.

Lord Rana (77) said his plans to build more hotels here could be put on hold if the UK voted for a Brexit.

His company Andras House owns five hotels in Belfast - Holiday Inn Express, Ramada Plaza, two Ibis hotels, and the Holiday Inn.

Indian-born Lord Rana fears the province would be hit especially hard by a Brexit.

"It will be the worst thing to happen for the Northern Ireland economy especially," he said.

"I am very, very concerned. Our tourism industry has been doing well despite the downturn.

"Leaving the Common Market would be very bad for our industry.

"Europeans come to Northern Ireland for their holiday. Out of the EU, there would be travel restrictions and all sorts of issues that would not be helpful in our industry.

"I am really concerned that leaving the EU would be very detrimental to Northern Ireland."

Lord Rana is one of our best-known businessmen and during the 1980s and 1990s he was heavily involved in bringing politicians and business groups together.

His properties were bombed 26 times during the Troubles, including one that was attacked twice in the same day.

His comments came as the latest figures showed Northern Ireland welcomed 1.5 million overseas visitors between January and September last year.

Lord Rana warned that jobs in the industry could be lost and he reiterated that his own company's plans for further expansion may have to be reconsidered in the event of a Brexit.

"Jobs here could be lost," he insisted.

"My company has plans to build at least three hotels over the next three years.

"If the UK was to leave, you have to sit back and reconsider whether it is viable.

"It's good quality hotels, at an acceptable price, and a lower cost of travel, which are keys to developing tourism.

"If there were difficulties in travelling, higher costs and Customs duties for example, that would be detrimental to us."

Lord Rana was awarded an MBE in 1996 and was elevated to the House of Lords in 2004.

He said he failed to understand the attitudes of some of our politicians, including First Minister Arlene Foster and her DUP.

"Northern Ireland has done well," he said.

"European funds have helped Northern Ireland.

"I don't understand why politicians are in favour of opting out of the EU.

It doesn't make economic sense.

"Tourism is doing well, so I hope it doesn't happen.

"If we were to opt out, it would be really disastrous for tourism, particularly in Northern Ireland."

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