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Hotel plans for City airport could be confirmed by end of this year

Several hotel operators are interested in building a hotel at George Best Belfast City Airport, the airport’s chief executive has revealed.

Plans for a hotel at the airport have previously been explored without any firm deal being forthcoming.

But Brian Ambrose told Business Telegraph that plans for a hotel on the site in east Belfast are still on the cards.

“It is still part of our master plan. We have identified the location and are talking to a number of companies at the moment about a deal for an airport hotel and I’d be optimistic that we’ll be announcing details soon, likely by the end of this year,” Mr Ambrose said.

“Six years ago we looked at it and the interest was fairly muted. Then two years ago we looked |at it again and there was a lot of interest, which gives us confidence we’ll secure a deal with someone.”

Mr Ambrose did not disclose the names of any of the companies with which it has held talks. But he did say any hotel at the site would likely by a “150-bed, three-star plus” type of product, making it affordable to people in Belfast on business or leisure travellers.

“It will probably be the sort of hotel that would appeal to business travellers and people from the North West who would maybe drive down in the evening if they were catching an early morning flight the next day,” Mr Ambrose said.

At present, most of the the nearest hotels to the airport are situated in Belfast city centre, which is a 10-15 minute drive from the airport’s main terminal.

The province’s second largest airport, Belfast City employs 1,500 people on site supporting 40 companies.

Last year it carried 2.6 million passengers, one of the few UK airports to register increased traffic.

The construction of a hotel has long been a part of the airport’s plans for development.

Mr Ambrose also said the airport company is not expecting the public inquiry about its planned runway extension to be completed until the end of `the year.

He said he expects a decision by December but added that even if it is a positive outcome it will be late 2011 before the extended runway would be able to be used.

Irish budget carrier Ryanair has publicly championed the longer runway, though Mr Ambrose said several other airlines would “start services from Europe tomorrow” if it goes ahead. International flights would account for only 15% of future business if it is approved.

However, residents groups strongly oppose the extension as they believe it will result in increased noise pollution and lead to the current late night curfew on flights being broken.