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Major accommodation audit to identify borough’s hotel requirements

A need for hotel accommodation of 4* and 5* standard should be turned into reality over the next number of years, according to the new council.

But there is also the potential for further development of leisure tourism accommodation, for camping and caravanners, with the chance for further plans at Gosford Forest Park, Loughgall Country Park and Lough Neagh.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is currently conducting an accommodation audit and action plan which is due to be completed in April of next year.

The council has, however, given some insights into its wish list and needs for the borough in a response to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s ‘Review of Tourism Accommodation Policy 2015-2020‘.

The DETI paper went out to consultation at the start of June and is aimed at giving consideration to existing accommodation provision in Northern Ireland, together with the future needs as tourism continues to grow in line with targets.

It also wants to ensure that the right accommodation is in place and is of the right quality to meet the needs of visitors.

ACBCBC Council has got in early with an approved response to the consultation, which does not close until July 25.

Asked about priorities, the council informs DETI: “Hotel accommodation which can facilitate group business is also considered an important priority, particuarly outside of Belfast.

“It is anticipated that there would be a requirement in urban locations such as Portadown, Lurgan, Armagh, Banbridge and the A1 Dublin to Belfast Corridor.

“We expect this and other priorities for the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon region to be reflected in the forthcoming council accommodation and tourism audit and action plan, due for completion by April 2016.”

The council’s own Regeneration & Development Strategy 2015-2020 highlights that, in the tourism sector, there is particular potential for growth of employment and investment by developing new hotel capacity in the borough.

The council has told DETI  it is important that future hotels are developed in city and town centres and the audit will highlight specific accommodation requirements and identify opportunities.

The response states: There are already a number of hotel schemes proposed for the ACBCBC area, including boutique hotels/guesthouses, country house hotels, restaurants with rooms and 3* hotels and it is anticipated that Invest NI funding could be utilised in order to bring these to fruition.

“In addition, the ACBCBC area has a significant business base with globally recognised pharamaceutical and food companies having their headquarters located in the region.

“It is apparent, however, that a significant share of overnight corporate business is going outside of the region and, as such, provision of additional 4* and 5* rooms is viewed as being a particular opportunity to capture a greater share of the overnight corporate market.”

The council expresses the view that, whilst the preference would be for higher end hotel offerings, it is recognised that a branded 3* offering can also appeal to particular market segments.

The response also highlights that there are examples in the area of “quality, unique, niche B&Bs and guesthouses which have been commercially very successful”.

And it adds: “It is anticipated that there will be other opportunities to develop similar products in the future.

It is believed that consideration should be given to making grading for all accommodation types madatory, at low cost to the provider.”

At the other end of the scale, the council also will look at its leisure catered pursuits, falling under the umbrella of ‘Caravans, Campsites, Campus and Bunkhouse Accommodation’.

It states: “Given the nature of the tourism product in the ACBCBC area it is anticipated that there could be opportunities for further development of this form of accommodation, particularly around Lough Neagh, at Loughbrickland Lake, Loughgall Country Park and Gosford Park.

“The ACBCBC accommodation and tourism audit and action plan will reflect specific caravan, camping and bunkhouse accommodation requirements for the council area.”

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