Room for optimism as hotel developer bets on Belfast
Opening a new five-star hotel in the middle of an economic downturn takes more than a sliver of courage. Combine this with the fact that the five-star hotel in question is located in Northern Ireland – where according to latest research the hotel sector is experiencing a sharp downturn – and it raises the question who would be brave enough to embark on such a venture. Step up June Burgess, the Co Down businesswoman who has just put the finishing touches to her £27 million (€28.8 million) labour of love in the heart of Belfast city centre. Burgess is the woman behind Graffan Properties, which owns Belfast’s new Fitzwilliam Hotel, beside the Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street. The 130-bedroom hotel, which opened earlier this month, has created more than 100 jobs, but more importantly has sent a defiant message that business people such as Burgess believe Belfast is still worth investing in. The hotel, which is run on a day-to-day basis by Hotel Partners, is a sister hotel to the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin but it is very much a Burgess project, reflecting her enthusiasm and passion for the development.