Ballycastle hotel unveils new extension ahead of The Open
A north coast hotel has said it's expecting its best summer yet as it adds new accommodation to prepare for the arrival of golf fans for The Open in July.
The three-star Marine Hotel in Ballycastle said it had decided to add rooms by adapting a building outside its main premises. It has also created five jobs.
Now it's unveiled the six-bedroom £0.4m beach house - which it said has been booked out since the start of the year for The Open in Royal Portrush.
The hotel was bought out of receivership by business partners Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter in 2013.
The main premises now has 41 bedrooms, with seven new rooms and two sea-view suites added in recent times as part of a multi-million pound investment supported by First Trust Bank and economic development agency Invest NI.
Mr McLornan said last year had been busy thanks to the heatwave, with the hotel forced to turn away trade due to lack of space. Revenues were up 12% year-on year and occupancy up 6%. "It did get quite annoying having to turn people away," he said.
This year he and his business partner had sat down with builders, designers and architects to discuss how to adapt the property to cater for higher numbers.
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"We had the idea of adapting an existing building which used to be a storage building. So we have upgraded it and refurbished it and added new windows, doors, heating and light."
He said the beach house, which has 20 beds, is aimed at groups who are combining a holiday with an activity like cycling or golf. It's booked for July by a team taking part in youth football tournament SuperCupNI, formerly the Milk Cup. For The Open it's been booked by travellers from countries like China, Italy, US and Germany.
"It's been gutted out and refitted to suit the 2019 traveller. So it has Wi-Fi, USB points and a kayak activity store - you can go in with your equipment and lock it away safely.
"People have their £2-£3,000 bikes or golf clubs these days so they don't want to take any chances."
And while the golf will be a major draw this year, he said he expected growth in visitors who are attracted by the Causeway Coastal Route and the many locations in the area associated with Game Of Thrones. "We're fully booked for The Open in all the rooms including the beach house as we put those up from January as we had had a waiting list for accommodation for The Open since before Christmas.
"We should have our best summer yet with the extra bed space, The Open and the Causeway Coastal Route getting more popular year on year thanks to all the money that's been put into promoting it," he added.