Northern Ireland Seafront hotel completes first stage of £1m expansion ahead of golf's Open
The first phase of the £1m expansion of a seafront hotel in Co Antrim has been completed.
All 33 rooms in the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle have been renovated, including 15 of its seafront bedrooms and its seafood restaurant, Marconi's Bar & Bistro.
The renovations also include the refurbishment of the hotel's function room which can now hold up to 400 guests.
Stage two of the expansion, which is supported by First Trust Bank, will see the hotel add 12 new executive bedrooms and an additional event space, as well as upgrading the exterior of the building.
The Marine Hotel was bought out of receivership in 2013 by business partners Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter.
Since coming under their ownership, the Marine Hotel has created 36 new jobs and will create at least 10 more positions once the second phase of the expansion is completed next year, ahead of the Open golf tournament in July 2019.
Claire Hunter said the hotel's new-found success was down to harnessing the appeal of attractions on the north coast.
"In recent years events like the Giro D'Italia and productions like Game of Thrones have really put Northern Ireland's thriving hospitality and tourism industry on a global stage," she said.
"We are keen for Ballycastle to be part of this and through the Marine Hotel we can offer guests access to Northern Ireland's unique features; the rugged coastline, delicious food in comfortable, charismatic surroundings amongst friendly locals.
"Our aim is for Ballycastle to be a must-stop destination and for people who visit to linger longer - taking in the scenery and hospitality we have to offer."
Stephen Comer, senior business manager at First Trust Bank, said the hotel exemplifies three essential ingredients for success in tourism: "demand, destination and desire".
"With a focus on quality, provenance and customer service, the hotel caters to a wide variety of visitors - from those looking for an idyllic wedding to staycationers, adventurers and oversee visitors exploring our local sites such as the Giant's Causeway, Rathlin Island and popular golf courses," he added.
"Its position as one of the most popular hotels in the area is also helping boost the growth of other businesses in Ballycastle and the Marine Hotel is now the main driver of 'Ballycastle as a Destination'.
"We look forward to supporting the business as it moves into phase two of its expansion programme."
The Marine Hotel was previously owned by property tycoon Mervyn McAlister, who ended up becoming one of the best-known names to go out of business in the property crash.
In 2007 he announced plans for the 37-storey Aurora skyscraper in Belfast city centre, but by December 2010 the economy had changed dramatically.
The now defunct Anglo Irish Bank appointed a receiver to the Aurora site in January 2011 on the same day it placed two other McAlister housing developments into receivership.
Several of his developments were eventually absorbed into the Republic's 'bad bank' Nama.
The Marine Hotel was valued at £1.3m at the peak of the property boom in 2008. When it was sold to its current owners in 2013, it went for a fraction of that price - just over £400,000.