CALLS have been made for a tourism ‘war cabinet’ to be convened to ensure hotel provision returns to Ballycastle.
And the Tourist Board and Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) should also get involved to ensure the ‘sleeping giant’ of tourism is awakened in the town.
The comments were made today by North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior and new SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham after it emerged the Marine Hotel and Country Club was placed in administration.
At Christmas the hotel owners announced they were shutting down ‘temporarily’ and hoped to get back up in running in spring but now the administration news has emerged.
The Marine Hotel was owned by property developer Mervyn McAlister. Now, the Northern Bank called in the administrators.
Mr McAlister was declared bankrupt earlier this year.
The developer had previously planned to build what would have been Belfast’s tallest skyscraper.
He hoped to develop a 37-storey skyscraper called the Aurora at a site on Great Victoria Street.
The scheme was blocked by planners and in January, Anglo Irish Bank put the site into receivership.
At Christmas when it was announced that the hotel was to close many staff feared it would not re-open and 25 members of staff and others staged a protest in front of the North Street building claiming they had not been fully informed about the closure and their entitlements.
Now, following the news that the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle has been placed in administration, Ian Paisley Junior said: “Most locals are already aware of the difficulties faced by Marine Hotel in Ballycastle. Over the last few years the owner did his best to try to reinvigorate the business and to add to its planning potential. He was frustrated, unjustly, on every front.
“I am disappointed for him personally but for this seaside town in particular given that this important business is now in receivership. I hope that soon this important hotel and facility will be reopened and trading successfully soon.
“North Antrim requires tourism opportunities and hotels to attract over night stay and the Tourism Board and DETI ought to be doing everything possible to awaken our sleeping giant tourist potential.”
Newly elected SDLP Moyle councillor, Donal Cunningham, has called on the District Council’s economic development department to place the need for hotel provision for Ballycastle high on their agenda.
Councillor Cunningham stated that the issue was so important that an all-party working group made up of all the town councillors must meet with all the relevant government departments and the Tourist Board to discuss the issue and possible solutions.
He said: “The closure of the Marine Hotel highlights how important it is to work at improving a hotel provision in Ballycastle.
“Ballycastle has a lot to offer visitors with its wealth of history, the natural beauty in and around the town as well the Glens, Rathlin and the Causeway. As a seaside town, Ballycastle has excellent static caravan parks and bed and breakfast establishments but, now lacks hotel accommodation.
“The local economy needs people to stay over in the town, to shop in our local shops, eat in our restaurants and to drink in our pubs and clubs. There is a market for increased stay-over provision within the town for both visitors and business people.”
He said all the main hotel big names like Travelodge, Holiday Inn, etc., should be contacted about the potential for a hotel in Ballycastle.
At Christmas, Mervyn McAlister said the closure of the Marine was a “last minute decision” and one he did not want to make.
“Unfortunately life’s not fair and it’s not fair on me that my business has been shut as well. It’s not a decision that I wanted to make at all, but unfortunately the decision was made for us by lack of business and lack of custom, particularly with the bad weather.”
Mr McAlister said at that time he hoped the hotel would reopen in March but that date came and went and the doors were still closed.