Meldrum is Central man as north's biggest hotel confirms June opening

HAND PICKED: Stephen Meldrum, general manager of the soon-to-open Grand Central Hotel in Belfast PICTURE: Darren Kidd/Press Eye

HOSPITALITY industry veteran Stephen Meldrum has been hand-picked by the Hastings Group board of directors to oversee the launch and operations of what will be Northern Ireland's biggest-ever hotel.

Meldrum, who has spent more than two decades in the industry, will be general manager of the £53 million Grand Central Hotel, which opens its doors to the public in June.

Hastings Group confirmed that work on the hotel at the former Windsor House in the city centre - which will now have 304 bedrooms instead of 200 in the initial plans - remains "firmly on schedule".

And so confident are they in that assertion that it is understood the hotel has already accepted its first bookings.

Meldum, who was named last year as 'Hotel Manager of the Year' at the Licensed & Catering NewsAwards, spent a number of years in the hotels sector before joining Hastings Hotels in 2002 as restaurant manager of Ballygally Castle.

He worked his way up to become its general manager and subsequently went on to hold similar roles at the Everglades Hotel, the Culloden Estate & Spa and, currently, the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, having managed it to one of the finest award-winning resort hotels in the UK and Ireland.

He is also the incoming president of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.

“I'm honoured to have been appointed general manager of the Grand Central and look forward to the challenge of working towards the opening in June of what will be Northern Ireland’s biggest hotel.

"I will bring my 20 years of experience to ensure the hotel leads the way and that guests will enjoy a memorable stay every time.”

The hotel group's managing director Howard Hastings said: “We cast the net wide to find the best person to take the helm of the Grand Central and are delighted to have appointed Stephen.

"As one of the leading figures in Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry he has a wealth of experience and a proven track record of excelling in luxury hotel management, and he is without doubt the right person to take on one of the top hotel jobs in Ireland. We wish him well.”

The Hastings Group is entirely self-funding the Grand Central (it initially envisaged spending just £30m but this figure has almost doubled).

"Every penny of this investment is coming from our own reserves, with no government support whatsoever," Howard Hastings said.

"That underlines our commitment to the economy in the years ahead and our faith in the tourism sector."

Lead partner on the build scheme is Graham Construction, and most the sub-contracting work has also been awarded to indigenous firms, delivering millions of pounds of salaries into Northern Ireland.

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