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Signature Living plans new George Best Hotel – one of five new hotels for Belfast

Legendary Manchester United star, George Best, whose life has inspired a new Belfast themed hotel
Gail Bell

A NEW George Best themed hotel is among five new hotels planned for Belfast by Liverpool-based Signature Living group which specialises in accommodation that "tells stories".

Signature Living director, Lawrence Kenwright, announced the new project at the launch of Belfast City Council's 'Go to Market' strategy, ahead of a May delegation to MIPIM, the world's largest property investment event.

Mr Kenwright, whose visit to Belfast was a direct result of his own visit to the MIPIM event in 2016, said his aim was to open five new hotels in the city, creating up to 500 jobs during and post development.

Two suitable sites have been identified and a deal is due to be finalised within the next couple of months.

"We haven't found a home yet for the George Best Hotel, but we are in negotiations with the owners of an old office block," Mr Kenwright said at Tuesday's launch event in the Waterfront Conference and Exhibition Centre.

"It will be along similar lines to the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, but using George Best's name. |Belfast is an amazing city with its own unique stories to tell and that is why we have committed to commencing development of two new city centre hotels in 2017.

"In total, we are looking to create five hotels in the city and are very close to agreeing terms for the acquisition of a landmark building in which we will develop the first.

"These hotels will not only boost Belfast's already thriving tourism sector, but will contribute significantly to the local economy through the creation of up to 500 jobs."

The businessman first hinted at opening a Belfast George Best hotel – to include dedicated restaurant and museum space – last month, while revealing plans for a Manchester hotel in honour of the footballer whose compelling story is also the subject of new film biopic, 'All By Myself'.

And, as with the award-winning £20 million Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, the design and detail of the interior will be a close collaboration between the Best family and Signature Living.

Speaking at the strategy launch, Belfast City Council chief executive, Suzanne Wylie, said growth of the hotel sector was key in propelling the tourism market towards its £1 billion target.

She added: "We are extremely ambitious and believe we can attract another £1 billion of real estate investment, including new hotels and leisure facilities, as well as offices and retail development."

Chair of the Belfast MIPIM steering group and senior partner at Deloitte NI, Jackie Henry, said the Cannes event would showcase all that Belfast has to offer, including its talent, quality of life and a business tax rate of 12.5 per cent in 2018.

"A number of schemes have already been brought forward as a result of business connections made at MIPIM and Signature Living's two new hotels are a prime example of what can come out of this important event, " she said.

There are currently around 20 hotels in various stages of development across Belfast, including one of the largest, the Grand Central in Bedford Street.

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