Fitzwilliam Hotel manager Vincent O'Gorman believes customer focus always pays off
How long has Hotel Partners been operating in Northern Ireland and what led it to opening the Fitzwilliam?
Hotel Partners has been operating in Northern Ireland since its inception in 2005 with the management of the Park Plaza, Belfast. Since then it has managed the opening of Lough Erne Golf Resort, Fermanagh.
After 10 very successful years in Dublin, Hotel Partners had been looking for the right opportunity to launch a second Fitzwilliam Hotel in Ireland. Belfast was picked as the perfect location because of its combination of city, site and owners.
The tourism industry has had a difficult period. How has this factor impacted on business?
It has made us even more focused on delivering value to our customers at the Fitzwilliam. Our experience shows that if high levels of quality and service are delivered at each and every point of the guests stay, loyalty will be created. While overall business levels in Belfast maybe down our business is growing.
Have you launched any new initiatives to combat the current challenges?
We believe in meeting challenges within our industry head on. Being pro-active in both generating sales and fine tuning our operations has been key to our success.
It is a competitive marketplace. How do you win business in Northern Ireland?
At the Fitzwilliam we know we need be different and innovative in order to set us apart from our competition. By offering value for money and a consistently high standard of service to all our guests we believe we do this.
How do your occupancy figures for 2010 compare to the months after you opened in 2009? What do you attribute the upturn/downturn to?
The hotel has exceeded 100% of its market share within the first 14 months.
We all know that the first year is the most difficult for any new business, but we have witnessed first hand that if you have the right people in place internally, you can achieve a very positive outcome.
We have continued to increase our occupancy within the hotel and would attribute the upturn in 2010 to increased brand recognition through repeat visiting and our innovative marketing and PR strategies.
Into what category do the majority of Fitzwilliam guests fall into? Is it predominantly a leisure or business destination?
We believe we can offer something for everyone, whether it's business or leisure - we cater for all. Both markets are equally important to us. During the week the guests would be predominantly corporate but at the weekends predominantly leisure.
The Republic's bad bank Nama has had a major impact on hotels in the south, in some cases taking over the running of vacant hotels. Is the Fitzwilliam concerned about the impact of Nama on hotels in Northern Ireland?
It is inevitable Nama will have an impact on hotels in Northern Ireland due to the amount of money ROI banks are lending into the Northern property market. As the hotel loans transfer into Nama they will ascertain its viability and may choose to close hotels that they feel have poor prospects for the future. However my job is to ensure that guests of The Fitzwilliam leave us with a genuine desire to return.
Are there now too many hotels in Belfast?
The Fitzwilliam has created a sustainable competitive advantage by differentiating its product and service. Although there may be a lot of hotels in Belfast there are not any like The Fitzwilliam.
Hotelier and Dragons Den judge Duncan Bannatyne has complained about TripAdvisor after a reviewer compared one of his hotels to Fawlty Towers. Where does the Fitzwilliam stand on TripAdvisor?
Our guests are entitled, and in fact, openly encouraged to share their views with fellow travellers — that is the belief we have in our product.