Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Grand Central Hotel a stark contrast to our political failure

Editor's Viewpoint

The opening of the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast is a cause for celebration. It underlines the vibrancy of the tourist trade in the city and the initiative of the Hastings Group, as well as its faith in Northern Ireland's future.

It was symbolic that the first person to check in yesterday was an international corporate visitor who was attending the sixth annual Hosts Global Forum, which chose Belfast as the venue for its first event outside the US.

Yesterday a number of privileged people were also treated to a preview of the hotel's impressive facilities.

These include 300 "opulently appointed bedrooms", a grand, marble-clad lobby and three dining venues, including the top-floor Observatory, which has panoramic views of Belfast and opens next month.

The 23-floor hotel has taken around two years and £53 million to complete.

It has transformed the former office block at Windsor House.

The hotel, which shares the name of the old Grand Central that graced Royal Avenue in years gone by, will not be fully operative until the summer, but already it is making a great impression as a notable landmark in the heart of the city.

The development symbolises the spirit of the business and tourism sectors in forging ahead and leading by example in the promotion of Northern Ireland.

Once again they have to do this on their own, and it is unacceptable that they have had to do so while the province is locked in a political vacuum.

It is also unacceptable that planes carrying people on inward investment initiatives are doing so with empty seats where our politicians should be sitting.

President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ellvena Graham put the point well in a speech last Friday.

Mrs Graham told her audience: "Whilst our political process may be gripped by paralysis, the rest of Northern Ireland is not.

"We are very much open for business."

We cannot allow the lack of an operating Executive to become the new norm, not with Brexit and many other challenges ahead of us.

Congratulations are due to the Hastings Group for its vision and skill.

The hotel is a fitting tribute to the late Sir Billy Hastings, the company's former chairman, who did so much to put us on the international tourist map.

Belfast Telegraph

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