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Luxury Northern Ireland Lough Erne golf resort in administration

Northern Ireland had never seen anything like it before - a £30m, five star resort.

When it opened in 2007 at a cost of nearly £30m, Enniskillen’s five-star Lough Erne Resort was seen as the jewel in Fermanagh’s tourism crown.

There are not many hotel resorts that can boast an 18-hole golf course designed by Nick Faldo, the UK and Ireland’s only authentic Thai spa, as well as cuisine designed and prepared by one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs; all nestled on its own idyllic, 600-acre peninsula surrounded by picture-perfect lakeside views.

Just this week the resort announced multi-million pound contracts with business customers in the US and Canada, tapping into the lucrative ‘incentive travel’ market which sees big corporations rewarding staff and loyal customers with luxury holiday packages.

Thursday’s news that the getaway — frequented by golf |celebrities and high-spending leisure-seekers — was going into administration has come as a massive shock.

KPMG has been appointed as administrators, but has assured customers and concerned brides-to-be that bookings are safe, with the business to operate as usual.

John Hansen and Stuart Irwin of KPMG have said the aim is to sell the luxury facility as a going concern, saying “an experienced hotel operator” would keep the resort trading.

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So, where did it all go wrong? Several industry experts have come forward to say the banks could be to blame for the Lough Erne Resort’s difficulties.

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, said the difficult economic climate was affecting all sectors, and the hotel industry was no exception.

She also said the Irish government’s support measures, which will cut VAT for hotels and abolish air passenger duty in the Republic, would add pressure to the industry here. However, Ms Gault had harsh words for the banking sector.

She said: “Regrettably, support from financial institutions has not been helpful, particularly for those facing short-term trading issues.

“It is our understanding that Lough Erne Resort has traded profitably over the last two years and that the business will continue to operate as normal.”

Kenneth Sharpe runs the Triage Hospitality consultancy and has worked with the Lough Erne Resort on its marketing and customer service.

He believes the break-up of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) — whom it is understood the resort’s owners had finance with — has been the primary reason for the complex being placed into administration.

The bank was shut down by parent company Lloyds after massive losses on loans and its loan book is being wound down by a company called Certus.

Mr Sharpe said staff and management are “frustrated” by the financial situation, as cashflow |at Lough Erne is currently |very healthy, with high-profile |supporters, such as Northern |Ireland’s golf star Rory McIlroy, and lucrative international contracts in the pipeline.

He said: “With any capital-intensive investment like this, the pay-off is always long-term; it seems the banks weren’t willing to view this on a long-term basis.”

General manager Jonathan Stapleton said: “I would like to clarify that it is Castle Hume Leisure Ltd, which owns Lough Erne Resort, that has gone into administration and not Lough Erne Resort itself.”


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