Belfast Telegraph

More upgrades on way as La Mon Hotel finishes £750k rooms makeover

By Emma Deighan

La Mon Hotel and Country Club in Co Down has invested £750,000 in the fourth stage of a £4m refurbishment programme.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

The money was used to complete a bedroom upgrade to one of the hotel's accommodation wings.

It marked the fourth of five stages of work to be completed at the four-star property outside Belfast.

It will also undergo a £2m refurbishment of its banqueting, conference and events suites and its foyers this year.

Financial director Geoffrey Weir said the hotel would also redevelop its grounds.

"Running a hotel is a constant investment," he added. "You're always finding new ideas. We are a destination hotel so we try to listen to what our clientele want and make provisions to attract new people. We don't just sell bedrooms, we sell experiences."

La Mon is one of many hoteliers here investing in improvements. A recent report from the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation on hotel expansion showed that 2018 would not only see a rise in new hotel openings but expansion of existing businesses.

These include Bullitt's £1.75m project to provide 20 new rooms and a new rooftop bar in late 2017, the addition of a £6m urban spa and 30 new rooms to the Fitzwilliam Hotel this year, and the next phase of Ten Square's expansion, which will increase the number of its rooms from 75 131 by the spring.

Malone Lodge Hotel, Benedict's, The Crowne Plaza and House Belfast are other establishments benefiting from recent investment.

Mr Weir said occupancy rates at La Mon had improved.

"We have benefited from the resurgence of business being up, but we have to work hard on marketing this facility as we are not on the high street," he added.

And while he believed an increase in room stock here "isn't good for everyone", Mr Weir said its boosts competition.

"It does no harm because it makes sure the choice is there and the quality of what we provide will be better," he explained.

"We are aware of what our competition is doing, so we differentiate what we do. We don't just offer rooms, we offer experiences, but we can never be content and we have to develop and respond to the client."

Asked if he felt the growth of the industry would give way to a skills shortage, Mr Weir said: "For us, it is different. I think you should try to recruit and build your own people.

"We identify good people and put them on a programme. It's about giving staff something in return."

Outside Belfast, the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae recently announced plans to expand and create an additional 30 jobs after securing a new loan from Barclays. The loan will allow it to add 20 new rooms by 2019.

Managing director Trevor Kane said: "The current occupancy rate of the Bayview maintains a steady 83% - well above Northern Ireland's average - and at peak holiday season hotel rooms on the North Coast are in notoriously short supply.

"Television shows like Game of Thrones, as well as a busy sports calendar, have contributed to this, but we have also been lucky to benefit from repeat business from excellent customers who keep coming back to us time and time again.

"This firmly established demand has given us the opportunity to invest and extend."

Meanwhile, Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena announced last year that it would be spending £5m on a new spa and hotel room project.

Belfast Telegraph