Hotels and restaurants reopening fully in Northern Ireland sooner than the Republic of Ireland have meant a huge increase in visitors to Belfast. Hospitality returned on 24 May in Northern Ireland and from 2 June in the Republic though only for resident guests and outdoor dining. In July, Belfast hotels had an occupancy rate of 73 percent, whereas Dublin was 31 percent.
The five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast is an example of how Belfast benefitted from the disparity in the opening of the hospitality industry, north and south. The hotel has reported a record number of visitors from the Republic and that looks set to continue into September. ROI visitors trebled to what they were pre-Covid with 55% of all summer bookings from south of the border.
General Manager of the Fitzwilliam Belfast, Cian Landers said, “what the pandemic has given Northern Ireland is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to now attract visitors from the Republic.”
Art and Soul at The Culloden
Another record-breaking event in Northern Ireland this summer was the Art and Soul Exhibition by Gormley’s Fine Art at the Culloden Estate and Hotel. Using the backdrop of the hotel’s twelve acres of landscaped gardens, sculptures by major Irish and world artists were carefully displayed.
Inside, the hotel became a gallery with hundreds of art works displayed on the walls, in the restaurants, public areas and corridors. They included works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and many established Irish artists. The value of the works of art amounted to more than £6m (approx. €7m).
40,000 Visitors to Art Exhibition
A staggering 40,000 people viewed the exhibition over the three weeks of the showing from 26 June – 18 July. Free tours were available to visitors every day. The experience was enhanced by the hotel providing additional food and beverage outlets including the Bolly Bus for champagne lovers.
The Bridgerton Afternoon Tea also proved popular. The star of the series, Regé Jean Page had been a guest at the Culloden earlier in the summer when filming in the province.
Julie Hastings, Marketing Director at Hastings Hotels: “It went very well. The exhibition helped us have a record-breaking July in terms of the staycation market, with guests from Northern Ireland, the Republic and Britain. “Features such as the Bolly Bus, the Bridgerton afternoon teas and of course the exhibition was very popular – and the weather was great!”
Oliver Gormley, Gormley’s Fine Art: organiser of Art and Soul said, “we had 40,000 visitors from Northern Ireland and the Republic. Numbers grew across the three-week event as word of mouth surrounding the exhibition continued to spread.
“Overall, it was a highly successful event and in particular, artists such as Patrick O’Reilly, Bob Quinn, Giacinto Bosco, and Ian Pollock did exceptionally well, each selling multiple editions of various pieces.”
Some of the prices achieved during the exhibition included;
A portfolio of four pieces by Keith Haring went for £116,000 (approx. €137,000)
A painting called Mick Jagger by Andy Warhol went for £98,000 (approx. €115,000)
Atlalena Grande or Large swing by Bosco Giovanni – £68,000 (approx.€80,000)
Pair of Irish Wolfhounds by Patrick O’Reilly – £60,000 (approx. €70.000)