Belfast Telegraph

Tourists will travel from afar to enjoy the personal touch

By Clare Weir

The McKeevers are not the only clan keeping it in the family with a successful hotel chain, writes Clare Weir.

Northern Ireland's most famous hotel dynasty is Hastings Hotels, founded in the 1960s by Sir Billy Hastings, who remains as chairman.

His four children serve in roles as managing director (Howard), sales director (Aileen), marketing director (Julie) and events director (Allyson). Indeed one of his first purchases was the Adair Arms Hotel, now owned by the McKeever family, which he bought for £30,000 and sold in 1990.

He is credited with restoring the fortunes of the landmark Europa Hotel, famously known as the most-bombed hotel in the world.

John McKenna, who with his wife Sally writes the McKenna guides on where to eat and stay in Ireland, said family chains would always outpace corporates. "Many of the big hotel chains have a corporate blandness and staff who operate from the same manual, whether they are in Belfast or Tokyo.

"That is fine if you are a businessman jetting here, there and everywhere, but for the leisure and pleasure market, it's very important for a hotel to have a personal touch and a distinct feel or statement.

"Local ownership and management also ensures that good staff are recognised quickly and promoted. Staff development is one of the big losses when there is a massive corporate structure."

Lord Diljit Rana, who was born in India and moved to Belfast in 1966, is another hotel magnate here.

His Andras House business includes the Express by Holiday Inn, the Ramada Hotel, Days Hotel and two Ibis properties. He has two sons: Rajesh is director of Andras House Hotels and Ramesh also has interests in the family business.

The Macklin Group started out in the nursing home sector and now owns the Malone Lodge Hotel & Apartments in Belfast.

And Patsy O'Kane and her brother Sean Donnelly are behind the luxury Beech Hill Hotel in Londonderry.

Belfast Telegraph

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