Belfast Telegraph

McKeever hotel chain goes for some southern exposure with Letterkenny Court

Family group snaps up property in Donegal in £400k investment

By Clare Weir

A family-run hotel chain based in Co Antrim has snapped up its first property in the Republic of Ireland after buying premises in Donegal.

The McKeever Hotel Group has already begun a £400,000 investment to refurbish the ground floor and build a new function room and private dining area at the three-star Letterkenny Court Hotel, in the town's busy Main Street.

Intending to rebrand it as 'Dillon's' in honour of a much-loved supermarket which once occupied the site, by September the group hopes to have completed work on the 57 bedrooms and 26 apartments.

All 30 staff jobs will be retained and an additional 27 people will also be recruited, including a senior post for a general manager.

It is understood that the McKeevers paid close to the asking price of €900,000 (£732,000) for the hotel, which had fallen into receivership.

Selling agent CBRE said that the the sale offered "a tremendous business opportunity".

In the early 1990s, husband and wife team Eugene and Catherine McKeever resigned from their jobs, he as a head chef and she as a teacher, to buy their first property and they now employ more than 170 staff across Corr's Corner in Newtownabbey, the Dunsilly in Antrim and the Adair Arms in Ballymena.

With a canny knack for sprucing up ailing properties, the couple appointed their daughter Bridgene as group sales and marketing manager amd son Eddie as group operations manager.

Mr McKeever said that the group had identified a need for their type of bar-and-grill-style hotel in the Donegal town, which is a popular destination.

"The feedback we have been getting from people in the townabout our plans is very positive," he said. "There is a big business and commercial base in Letterkenny, it attracts a lot of tourists and it is a place where people like to go for weekend visits from other areas so we will have a bit of everything.

"We hope to relaunch as Dillon's, which was the name of a very well-renowned shop that was here before the hotel, so we want to reflect that local history and family ethos.

"There has been an uptake in the hotel sector and there are very positive signs.

"As a family group we are constantly investing in our product, we saw that the hotel was up for sale and we thought it would be a good addition to our portfolio, so we went for it."

Mr McKeever said that while the group would not be resting on its laurels, it will not be taking its eye of its existing assets either.

"We will decide when we are ready for the next step," he said.

"We are not taking our eye off the ball.

"This isn't a numbers game, but we will keep our eyes on what is happening and once we have this current property up and running and successful, if another opportunity comes up we will certainly not rule anything out."

No strangers to success, last year all three Northern Ireland hotels in the McKeever Hotel Group won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence thanks to good customer reviews.

Only the top-performing 10% of businesses listed on the influential TripAdvisor website receive the honour.

Belfast Telegraph