Bullitt an indicator of hotel trajectory in Belfast

Growing confidence in Northern Ireland when it comes to tourism and hospitality sectors

A new multi-million pound hotel set to open in Belfast next year is going to be impossible to ignore. For starters, its very name is likely to cause quite a stir.

But that is exactly what the company behind the new £4 million “Bullitt” hotel, which will be located in a former department of justice building, is aiming for.

The 55-bedroom city centre hotel is being developed by Beannchor, one of the North's largest hospitality groups. They are the family owned business behind Belfast's five-star Merchant Hotel and more than 50 pubs, hotels and restaurants across the North.

Founded by Bill Wolsey, who started with just one pub in the 1970s, the group has built a controlling stake in the Cathedral Quarter – one of Belfast's most popular tourist entertainment spots. Now it is set to extend its reach with the new hotel, which Wolsey's son Conall, a director in the business, says will bring a new dimension to what the city has to offer both visitors and locals.


Wolsey says it is going to be aimed at the tech-savvy, hip, younger market. "We're not going to pigeonhole it but we do see a gap in the market to provide a totally different experience to a certain price level – not a hen party or stag party experience because we don't cater for those – but one that is going to be very design- led, that is going to be iconic and that emulates the whole aura of Steve McQueen in the likes of Bullitt.

Night and day

“What we also want to do is create this space that can be used day and night by a whole range of people, a hotel which features a great restaurant, a bar and coffee shop. And we’ll do what we do best – deliver a great experience,” Wolsey says.

Beannchor’s latest venture is expected to create up to 100 new jobs in the city – and could be something the group may look at rolling out in the Republic or in other parts of the UK. But it’s not the only locally-owned group planning a new multimillion pound investment in Belfast.

Brian Lavery, managing director of CBRE NI, says all the evidence points to a "period of investment" in the local leisure sector and hotel development in particular.

“After seven to eight years of inactivity, the correct drivers are in place for this sector. Increasing tourism, successful public events, affordable land prices, high levels of occupancy in hotels and general consumer confidence means we will see a raft of hotel development and also the trading of existing hotels over the next couple of years,” Lavery noted.

In the not too distant past, with the ever present threat of trouble, summer was one of the worst trading times of the year for the local hospitality sector, particularly in Belfast. But times have definitely changed, as illustrated by one of the North’s most stalwart hotel operators – the family-owned Hastings Hotels group.

It plans to invest £30 million in a new four-star hotel development in Belfast that will create more than 150 jobs. Hastings, the North’s largest independent hotel chain, intends to turn one of Belfast’s landmark buildings, Windsor House, into an upmarket 200-bedroom hotel.

Growing confidence

According to

Howard Hastings

, managing director of the group, whose portfolio includes the

Europa Hotel

in Belfast, there is a growing confidence in Northern Ireland and a sense that it is the right time to invest for the future when it comes to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Hastings believes the transformation of the 22-storey Windsor House into the new Belfast Grand Central Hotel will help meet what he says is a "growing demand for city- centre accommodation".

“Occupancy in Northern Ireland is growing year on year and we are definitely seeing a requirement for more accommodation in Belfast. The seasonality issue that held back occupancy growth in the past has been addressed and I believe the new exhibition centre that is to open in Belfast will also bring more tourism to the city,” Hastings added.

He said the acquisition of Windsor House represented the group’s largest single investment. The Belfast Grand Central Hotel will operate at the upper end of the four-star market and be open for business in 2018.