Galgorm Resort & Spa in Ballymena gets go-ahead for £10m revamp
Major hotel extension to create 60 new jobs
A country resort and spa in Co Antrim may seek five-star status when it completes a multi-million pound renovation in 2015.
Despite the worst economic downturn in living memory, Galgorm Resort & Spa outside Ballymena has continued to pull in the crowds, whether to celebrate a wedding, hold a business conference or luxuriate in its spa.
Now it plans to spend £10m on 48 new bedrooms, a swimming pool and gym.
Operations director Paul Smyth said the venue, which has just received planning permission for the extension, needed more bedrooms to compete effectively in the international tourist market.
The addition of bigger bedrooms will also equip it to apply for five-star status, propelling it in to the company of Belfast's Merchant Hotel and Fermanagh's Lough Erne Resort.
Galgorm Resort & Spa said 60 new full and part-time positions would be created once work is completed in 2015.
Mr Smyth said a number of factors contributed to its popularity.
"There was good timing. Although the economy turned in 2008, we had just completed and opened the last major development," he said.
"We had 51 new bedrooms and a spa facility, and that was a positive, in that we had that completed and were at around one-and-a-half years or so in to it."
There had also been a change of culture.
"We had a new vision and a mission statement that every guest leaves with a desire to return," Mr Smyth said.
"Up to 2006 we were just a wedding hotel but since then the leisure market has been massive, so what we have now is a great balance.
"Now we are turning away business. We are at capacity and are running at over 90% occupancy, which is wonderful. And although we are at the luxury end of the market, we do find that our guests have a real sense of value for money, so we do a level of service that's at the higher echelons of four-star.
"Five-star status is something we are considering for the future, and something we'd like to achieve."
Ballymena SDLP councillor PJ McEvoy said the resort was hugely popular with locals.
"I've been there for many a function, and it's a lovely country-type mansion with a backdrop of a waterfall, which is always very popular with young couples," he said.
"Everyone is very pleased that they have such a successful business going."
Galgorm Resort & Spa is owned by brothers Nicholas and Paul Hill, the former owners of Ten Square Hotel in Belfast.
Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the brothers had bought the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast, two minutes' walk from Ten Square.
They plan to turn it in to a hotel – new company Bedford Hotel was registered by the Hill family at Companies House, suggesting it could be named after Bedford Street, on which part of the building is located.