EasyHotel planning to open at Belfast Howard Building
Budget chain easyHotel is planning to open its first location in Northern Ireland, it can be revealed.
The company plans to build an 81-bedroom development in Belfast. The low-cost chain has around 25 locations across the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
It's understood the company will convert part of the Howard Building in the city centre into Northern Ireland's first easyHotel.
It will sit above some of Belfast's best-known restaurants. These include three spots owned by top chef Michael Deane - Meat Locker, Love Fish and Eipic, which is one of only two restaurants here which boasts a Michelin star.
The building is owned by David Crowe, and office space above the restaurants is currently empty.
It will convert the existing office space, and a dry cleaners on the ground floor, into an 81-bedroom hotel, complete with a ground floor cafe.
EasyHotel is part of the easyGroup, founded by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, which also includes budget airline easyJet.
It operates in the so-called 'super budget hotel' sector, offering low prices, with additional options such as coffee, spare towels and internet access.
The application for the new hotel has been made by Davcrow Ltd, a company which counts David Crowe as one of its directors.
Rapport Architects is behind the design of the hotel.
It's understood strip-out work on the building could start as early as later this month.
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF), said: "There has been a lot of prospective hotel expansion reported for Belfast over the last 18 months.
"Noticeably absent from those reported is any increase in the budget sector.
"The last hotel boom saw the city's budget stock more than double in terms of room numbers.
"The NIHF has noted the lack of budget projects and understands that there are a number of international brands looking at the city.
"Some of these are new players like easyHotel while others would see brands on the market expand."
She added: "Current data would suggest the city had a strong year in 2016, but with room numbers set to grow by 25% by 2018 it is imperative that new markets are tapped and that visitor numbers continue to grow."
EasyHotel opened its first hotel in London in 2005. Since then it has expanded to around 25 hotels across the UK and Europe.
It has locations in Germany, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Holland, Hungary and Belgium.
It's the latest hotel development to get under way in the area.
Just behind the new hotel, the Grand Central - which will become the largest hotel in Northern Ireland - is currently being built.
The scheme could include 304 bedrooms, office accommodation, ground floor retail and bar spaces and restaurants at the ground, first and 22nd floors.
And work is due to start on the long-delayed hotel at the Scottish Mutual building on Bedford Street.