Belfast Telegraph

£12m budget hotel brings jobs boost to Derry

50 new posts created as city welcomes 116-room Holiday Inn

By Paul Gosling

A budget hotel is set to open in Londonderry under the Holiday Inn brand in a £12m project creating nearly 50 jobs, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The 116-room Holiday Inn Express on Strand Road is a project by the Brendan Duddy Group, one of the city's biggest property development firms.

The business is due to open on September 19 – but it's understood the company requires confirmation of funding from Invest NI if it is to open on schedule. It will be on premises now occupied by the group's Strand Bar and Flaming Jack restaurant.

This will be only the second new hotel to open in Derry during its tenure as UK City of Culture 2013. Hotel room occupancy rates in Derry have been the highest of any part of Northern Ireland this year.

A management company will run the new hotel, with the Strand Bar being converted into the hotel lobby and bar.

Brendan Duddy Group said the new hotel represented a change in strategy as it exits from direct management of service businesses.

Subsidiary fashion and other retail businesses are in the process of being closed and its shops have ceased trading.

Duddy Group executive Brendan Duddy junior (right) said: "There are some things we are good at and some things where other people are better.

"If we can work with other people who are better and who can bring people into Derry, then why not?"

Mr Duddy said that although some subsidiaries are being closed down, the group remains financially secure. "Our business is good," he said. "The restructuring is going on. Our intention is to be here for a good while."

He said terms have been agreed with the Holiday Inn for the hotel franchise and a formal loan offer made by the group's bank.

Invest NI said: "Invest NI has been in discussions with the Duddy family. However, the project is at an early stage and until a formal offer of support is made, it would be inappropriate for Invest NI to provide any more detail."

The agency recently granted support of £78,000 to the new owners of the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, under the Jobs Fund. A Premier Inn opened at Crescent Link in the Waterside in Derry at the end of last year.

50

The number of new jobs that will be created by the opening of the new hotel£12m

£12m

Estimated cost of the hotel, with September 19 earmarked as the opening date

116

The number of bedrooms that the new Holiday Inn Express will boast

Diverse group's new move

The Brendan Duddy Group is a multi-million pound business which comprises a range of companies with interests in property, restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels, bars and off licences.

But some of its trading business in the retail and restaurant sector has been badly hit by the recession. Shops in the Foyleside and the Richmond shopping centres have closed and the subsidiaries operating them are being wound-up.

The group said the new hotel represented a change in strategy as it exits direct management of service businesses.

Its river-front restaurant known as The Garage closed at the turn of the year, but will reopen on July 18 as the Queen's Quay Social Club, creating 22 jobs in a joint venture with an internationally acclaimed chef.

The senior chef and manager of the new Queen's Quay restaurant is Darren Iddon, who has held senior chef roles at leading restaurants in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong and Deane's in Belfast. Brendan Duddy Jr said: "He is bringing other great chefs with him, because they want to work with him."

The group was founded by Brendan Duddy Sr, who is recognised as one of the key figures in bringing peace to Northern Ireland as an intermediary between the Provisional IRA, the UK Government, security services and politicians.

He was given the code name the 'mountain climber' by the security services, but has been seriously ill in recent years following a stroke.

Fillip for hospitality sector

The group's plans to open a Holiday Inn Express in Derry follow other glad tidings for the Maiden City's hospitality sector.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has visited the well-known Da Vinci's Hotel in Culmore in the city after it was upgraded to a four-star hotel.

Ms Foster said: "2013 has provided a real opportunity for investment and growth in the accommodation sector during the UK City of Culture – and I congratulate the management team at Da Vinci's and their staff on achieving four-star status.

"This is undoubtedly a fantastic year for Londonderry. It's a chance to showcase the wonderful people, talent, arts and cultural scene of the city, and a great platform to use the dramatic historic landscape as its canvas.

"Clearly, Londonderry's reign as UK City of Culture has resulted in many more people visiting the city and it's pleasing to note that the team at Da Vinci's have embraced the opportunities this has created.

"My department, through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, will continue to support the delivery of a quality visitor experience regarding accommodation, visitor information and customer service."

Belfast Telegraph

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