Best of times is now for plucky hoteliers
BELFAST BRIEFING:It takes a special kind of courage to open a luxury hotel in a downturn
Courageous or crazy – what best describes the kind of person who decides to open a new 35-bedroom hotel in Co Fermanagh these days?
If you ask Michael Cadden, who, together with his brother David, has done just that – he is neither.
Cadden simply believes in grabbing opportunities when he sees them and that is exactly what the two Cadden brothers claim their latest project is – a golden opportunity in the heart of Fermanagh.
Their new Enniskillen Hotel may be barely open a week but Cadden is confident they have made the right decision to launch their “quintessential yet quirky” hotel in the middle of an economic downturn. A downturn that appears to be tightening its grip on the local economy, if the number of hotels and licensed premises on sale in Northern Ireland is anything to go by.
Cadden’s confidence is admirable if nothing else because his new hotel project is nearly completely self-financed by he and his brother’s company Damiraco Limited.
Although the Cadden brothers received £99,000 in financial support from Invest Northern Ireland’s Job Fund, the rest of the finance for the £825,000 hotel development project came from them.
“There is no appetite among financial institutions for hotel or tourism projects at this time – we knew that was going to be the case,” said Cadden. “But at the same time we know this business; we have been working in the tourism business for 20 years and we’ve seen the beginning of the green shoots of recovery in the tourism sector. It is true to say that the sector has suffered in general but Fermanagh is still doing good business – perhaps it hasn’t been hit as hard as some areas, like Belfast for example, and from our perspective there is huge potential for Fermanagh when it comes to tourism,” he said.
The Cadden family have have operated the 75-acre Lusty Beg Island complex in Fermanagh’s lakelands district of for more than two decades.
The new Enniskillen Hotel, operated under family firm Damiraco Ltd, is located on the exact site of the former Fort Lodge Hotel, which the company acquired from its previous owners after it ran into difficulties last year.
The Cadden brothers are aiming to secure four-star classification for their new hotel from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and have ambitious plans to develop it further in the long term.
It is expected the Enniskillen Hotel will create up to 33 jobs over the next two years and it has already helped to support nearly 50 construction jobs in the area.
According to the Minister for Tourism, Fermanagh-born Arlene Foster, the opening of the hotel is “exceptionally well timed”, given the fact that a much-publicised G8 summit is scheduled to be held in the county next June.
The venue for the G8 summit is the luxurious five-star Lough Erne Golf Resort, which was placed in administration last year and is on the market for £10 million.
According to Cadden, the fact the G8 summit is coming to Fermanagh is an “early bonus” for his new hotel.
“We want to reposition Fermanagh for tourists because I feel sometimes it gets ignored by visitors who go first to Belfast and then straight down to Dublin, and there is an opportunity for us to attract them to add Fermanagh in there too – to see what we have to offer,” he said.
Cadden has already created jobs – more than 500 people initially applied for the 33 full-time jobs that were available – and he also actively made it a policy to recruit people who were out of work to give them a fresh chance at employment.
Regardless of whether you may personally think the Cadden brothers are crazy or courageous to have opened a hotel just weeks before Christmas – and as the latest statistics show a decline in the number of overseas visitors that came to Northern Ireland this year – they have got to be admired.