New 237-bedroom Maldron 'already ahead on bookings' as opening is set for March 13

Dalata chief executive Pat McCann says he will be "a genius or a fool" in the wake of Brexit
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE boss of Belfast's latest newest hotel, the 237-bedroom Maldron at Brunswick Street, said he is anticipating a "much better than expected" start to bed-nights, with corporate and leisure traffic ahead of projections.

Pat McCann, chief executive of the Dalata Group, which is investing £24 million in the four-star facility at the city's former College of Arts, confirmed that the Maldron will open on Tuesday March 13, providing jobs for 110 people.

It adds to the chain's current portfolio of 38 three and four-star hotels, including a Maldron hotel in Derry, the Clayton on Ormeau Avenue in Belfast (formerly the Holiday Inn) and the Maldron at Belfast International Airport.

And it signals a period of stellar growth for Ireland's largest hotel operator, which in 2009, two years after it was founded, had a market value of a paltry £2 million, growing to £40 million by 2014 and which this year will come in at £1.1 billion.

"From being hanging on by our fingernails, we're super thrilled at getting to this latest Belfast milestone and mark a spectacular turnaround for Dalata," said McCann, a veteran of 45 years in the hospitality industry, first with Doyle Group, then Jury's and, since 2007, as CEO of Dalata Group.

He says he's "not concerned" at fears the Belfast hotel market is becoming saturated, with the 304-room Grand Central due to open in four months' and the new Maldron within a stone's throw of the Europa, Jury's, Fitzwilliam and the Clayton.

"I love to be in places where there are lots of hotels," he said.

"If you've a good restaurant sitting in isolation, it'll do just okay. But where there are four or five good restaurants, everyone wants to go to that place, and it'll be the same for Belfast.

"All these new hotels, while creating competition, will drive business and leisure customers, and the city will be a gateway for the whole of the north."

The stylish Maldron Belfast the first new-build hotel in nine years for Dalata, which next week expects to report 2017 revenues well in excess of €300 million (£265m).

As well as its 237 bedrooms it boasts five state-of-the-art boardrooms, and it believes its complimentary high-speed fibre-optic wi-fi, 43-inch interactive plasma TVs, and USB wall plug-ins will make it an ideal technological hub for the city's thriving business community.

McCann, though, did sound a note of caution on Brexit, and its potential impact on the chain's UK stock (it is currently in the planning stages for at least another 2,000 rooms in the short-term, including two hotels in Glasgow).

"Brexit will make me look like the greatest genius or biggest fool in the hotels industry, and I'm not sure what they'll be calling me," he quips.

"As it is, we're planning for no growth at all, totally flat, in the UK, over the next period. We're not making assumptions, but at this stage we're all still guessing, and we don't know what way things will work out."

Dalata Hotel Group is Ireland's largest hotel operator, with a current portfolio of 38 three and four-star hotels and over 7,700 rooms. It operates Ireland's two largest hotel brands, the Clayton and the Maldron across Ireland and the UK.

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