Belfast Telegraph

Belfast booming as country hotels hit by 10% dip

Hopes deal for Templeton will herald start of fightback

TheTempleton Hotel
TheTempleton Hotel
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

A £7m investment in the Templeton Hotel by new owners may mark a resurgence of provincial venues which have lost around 10% of bookings to new hotels in Belfast, it's been claimed.

Galgorm Collection confirmed it had added the Templepatrick property to its portfolio and would be making a total investment of £7m in the site. And Michael Williamson, a director at ASM Accountants, said the deal may herald a fightback among hotels outside Belfast.

Mr Williamson said that its own research found that venues in district council areas peripheral to Belfast had reported a fall of 10% in room bookings last year as rooms in the city soared by 30%.

A hotel industry adviser from ASM, Mr Williamson said: “We have carried out research for district councils that are peripheral to Belfast and have found a 10% fall in room bookings in those areas during 2018.

He said investments by firms such as Galgorm in hotels like the Templeton could make them more competitive in the light of the increased competition in Belfast.

Mr Williamson said that hotels outside the city had previously been able to benefit from a lack of stock in the city centre. He said ASM’s research indicated that demand for Belfast hotel rooms had grown by 15% last year in response to an increase of 30% in supply.

If a traveller was unable to secure a hotel room in Belfast, they might opt to stay in an area or town outside the city. But the 30% increase in hotel rooms last year after the opening of new venues like the Grand Central, meant that such venues were now losing out on such trade.

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Galgorm Collection revealed it had purchased the Templepatrick venue in a £7m investment. It said the transaction would include a renovation and create a further 50 jobs.

Managing director Colin Johnston said: “We know Co Antrim well and we know the surrounding area. The hotel itself has a lot of good character and we felt there is loads of potential in it.

“We were actively looking for new opportunities and the owners were looking to sell so it was the right time and the right place.”

Mr Johnston added the hotel will remain open while a refurbishment — including a new dining facility — takes place.

“We want to keep it operating and keep employees employed, and look after existing bookings with minimal disruption. We plan to refurbish the banqueting room, bar and grill and maybe add an additional eaterie and that will cost in the region of £7m,” he said.

Janice Gault, managing director of the NI Hotels Federation, said companies like Galgorm Collection had led much of the recent investment in the sector.

Investment over the last few years had topped £500m, she said.

“The bulk of activity has come from those already operating locally who see the market offering value and opportunity,” she added.

“Despite uncertainty around Brexit investment has continued. The purchase of the Templeton by the group behind Galgorm Resort & Spa shows their continued commitment to local business and their plans will instil renewed interest in the Templeton.”

The cash injection into the Templepatrick hotel is one of many from Galgorm Collection over the past year. In 12 months it has invested £10m into its portfolio including £1.5m in its Belfast-based restaurants Fratelli and Café Parisien and the £600,000 purchase and refurbishment of the Castle Kitchen and Bar at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in 2018.

Belfast Telegraph