Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 July 2015

Valuable booking lost at Belfast's Merchant Hotel as visitors go to Dublin instead

By Deborah McAleese

Published 13/12/2012 | 00:00

Loyalists block roads in north Belfast as the ongoing flag dispute continues
Loyalists block roads in north Belfast as the ongoing flag dispute continues
Loyalists have been protesting against a decision to stop flying the Union flag every day outside Belfast City Hall
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car (left) was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
Loyalists took to the streets again in protest against a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
Officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast
PSNI officers deal with disturbances in the Village area of south Belfast near Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
The scene on the Upper Newtownards Road beside Alliance Party east Belfast MP Naomi Long's office where a PSNI patrol car was petrol bomb reportedly with officers sitting inside
SNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
PSNI officers and loyalists clash in the Village area of south Belfast near the Broadway roundabout
Loyalist protesters in Belfast city centre protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre protesting against restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers watch protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Shoppers leave Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market as loyalists arrive at the building to protest the removal of the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Oprotesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon after the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Belfast City Hall's Christmas Market is shut as protesters arrive at the building
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
PACEMAKER BELFAST 08/12/12 Loyalist protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union Jack flag earlier this week.Photo Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker
Protesters converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon following the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists in Belfast city centre for a protest against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Protesters in Belfast city centre rally against new restrictions on flying the Union flag
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week
Loyalists converge on Belfast City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest at the removal of the Union flag earlier this week

A leading Northern Ireland businessman has told how loyalist riots have led to American tourists cancelling their stay at his luxury hotel over Christmas

The group of tourists had booked out an entire floor of suites at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel for four nights. However, after hearing about the riots they contacted the hotel to cancel their stay.

It is believed the booking could have been worth tens of thousands of pounds.

“They have now taken all their business to Dublin because of the violence,” said Bill Wolsey.

“And to rub salt into the wound, they asked us to book them into a hotel of similar standard in Dublin. We are losing business because of this.” Mr Wolsey, who also runs Ireland’s largest group of licensed premises, said that trade at the Merchant Hotel, which had been “very good” prior to the protests, dropped by 15% over the past week through cancellations.

“This is about people not feeling safe coming to Belfast. This is going out worldwide. It is doing Northern Ireland no good at all,” he said.

“I do not know who to blame or condemn. All I know is we are losing business.

“The politicians have got together lately and condemned the violence, which is the right thing to do. But in earlier days there was dreadful posturing by leaders of some particular parties trying to gain political capital out of this. That does none of us any good.”

Retailers, hoteliers, and restaurateurs across Belfast have raised serious concern over the effects of loyalist protests and related violence on their businesses.

One Belfast restaurant owner, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of attack, warned of potential job loses unless the violence is brought to an end.

He said that several groups have cancelled Christmas party bookings at his restaurant and that the fall in trade has lost him a “considerable” amount of money.

“People are worried about getting into and out of town and possibly getting caught up in the troubles.

“Christmas has been ruined for everyone. I think that jobs are going to be at risk in the new year because of this,” he added.

Chairman of the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, Stephen Magorrian, said that unless the disturbances are brought to an end the city’s tourism prospects for 2013 will be damaged.

“It is unfortunate and disappointing that after what has been a great year for tourism in Belfast, it should end with wanton disruption and violence on our streets.

“It’s damaging to our businesses, it is damaging our reputation internationally, and it will undoubtedly damage our prospects for 2013 — a very important year — if it doesn’t stop now,” said Mr Magorrian.

He added: “Issues such as these should be resolved in debating chambers and not on the streets.

“I would call on all political parties and community leaders in Northern Ireland to do all in their power to bring an end to this violence and disruption right away.”

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