Andras opens Belfast's first Crowne Plaza Hotel
Northern Ireland's first Crowne Plaza Hotel has been opened by Andras Hotels as part of a £4m upgrade of its Ramada Plaza at Shaws Bridge.
Andras Hotels, which is led by Lord Rana, said it had already spent £600,000 on the hotel to bring it up to the high standards of the Crowne Plaza.
And it's due to spend another £3.4m in the next 18 months, refurbishing all 120 existing bedrooms and adding another 34.
Features associated with the Crowne Plaza brand have already been added, including its 'Sleep Advantage Programme,' characterised by new pocket-sprung mattresses and aromatherapy kits in every room.
Crowne Plaza is the InterContinental Hotels Group's (IHG) high-end brand for the business market, with around 400 around the world.
IHG has awarded the Crowne Plaza franchise to Andras Hotels, which also owns and operates the group's Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express in Belfast.
Andras Hotels director Rajesh Rana said: "We are thrilled to open the doors of the first Crowne Plaza hotel in Northern Ireland.
"The Crowne Plaza brand is recognised worldwide as a market leading upscale hotel brand that perfectly suits the needs of business travellers.
"The hotel has the perfect location, just minutes from the city centre, close to all main arterial routes and will be a fantastic asset to the Belfast tourism and corporate market.
"We have commenced work on the refurbishment of our 120 bedrooms which will complement the ongoing upgrade and improvements we have been making to the property in recent years, with a total investment value of £6m."
Andras Hotels said it had spent around £2m on other improvements to the hotel, including refurbishing its grand ballroom, lobby and conference suits.
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, said: "The Crowne Plaza is a prestige addition to Belfast's hotel offering, which is experiencing record levels of occupancy with an average of 80% from January to October of this year, and continuing to grow.
"Voted Best UK City by Guardian and Observer readers this year, Belfast is very much a city on the rise and this investment reflects the increasing demand for quality accommodation from tourists.
"Andras Hotels has a long history of investment in the city, and we welcome their ongoing support and development of Belfast's tourism product which is a major contributor to the growing numbers of visitors who are making Belfast their preferred destination."
Andras Hotels was set up in Belfast in 1986 and has five branded hotels as well as served apartments totalling 700 beds.
Mr Rana said Andras had "fostered an excellent partner relationship" since opening the first IHG Holiday Inn Express in 1991.
It also rebranded its former Days Hotel as the Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre in September last year and also plans to extend the Holiday Inn Express in Belfast's university area.