Belfast Telegraph

30 new rooms for Lakeland hotel's £4m revamp in Fermanagh

By Rachel Martin

A luxury Co Fermanagh hotel says it will need to increase its capacity by another 30 rooms within the next five years in a £4m project.

And the Killyhevlin Hotel's finance director Jacqueline Wright said she believed leaving the EU would be "detrimental" to the area's hospitality industry, but added that the hotel has a strong future either way.

Work at the four-star Enniskillen business will see the biggest increase in capacity there in well over 20 years.

In 1995, just a year before a bomb caused extensive damage, 20 rooms were added.

A £1m refurbishment project is currently under way to rebuild chalets which line the lakeside. They were built 40 years ago and are popular with families.

They're being redesigned to include two en suite bedrooms.

The hotel employs 160 staff to manage its 71 guest rooms, 13 self-catering chalets, health club and spa.

The business runs with an occupancy rate of around 90% and spends around £200,000 on general maintenance every year, revamping between 15 to 20 rooms.

Ms Wright added: "While five star is certainly attainable for us, it would be totally different in atmosphere and wouldn't reflect what Killyhevlin is about.

"Standards of facilities are increasing regardless and we need to constantly update what we offer.

"In the self-catering chalets we will be including washing facilities for clothes and en suite rooms, whereas before we would have had a communal bathroom in each chalet and a separate area for laundry."

Ms Wright said that the higher Vat rate on this side of the border was one of the biggest challenges to running the Fermanagh hotel.

The higher tax rate in Northern Ireland of 20%, as opposed to just 9% for hospitality in the Republic, made it harder for her to charge the same as hotels just 13 miles west.

However, Ms Wright added that she was not fazed by the series of new hotels proposed in Belfast.

In the city there are around 20 new hotels at various stages of the planning process.

"Belfast is a totally different place. It's very vibrant with lots to do but we offer something completely different in Fermanagh and have a different experience for guests," she said

"We also get a lot of passing trade and people travelling to the Giant's Causeway.

"We have always said Killyhevlin is the gateway to the north."

Speaking about the possible impacts of a Brexit, Ms Wright, who lives in Co Monaghan and commutes to Co Fermanagh, said: "We don't need any more emphasis on the border than there needs to be.

"It would be detrimental to tourism.

"Most of our tourists come via the south of Ireland via Dublin.

The currency difference is already detrimental to tourists because they can find it confusing having to change to euro."

The Killyhevlin Hotel was bought by the Watson family 40 years ago and is run as a family venture.

Belfast Telegraph