30th anniversary caps off an award-winning year for the Bushmills Inn
Alan Walls, manager and Kelly Neill, assistant manager
Thirty years after it was saved from dereliction, The Bushmills Inn is celebrating an impressive awards haul affirming its reputation as a leading light in the local hospitality industry.
Among accolades awarded over the past year are Hotel of the Year and Customer Service Excellence (Northern Ireland Tourism Awards); Top 25 UK Hotels (TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards); Reception Team of the Year (NI Hotels Federation); Best Boutique Golf Hotel in Ireland (Golfers Guide to Ireland); and Best Customer Experience Property (Ireland Golf Tour Operators Association).
“These prestigious accolades recognise the hotel’s commitment to excellence and the hard work and dedication of all our staff,” says Alan Walls, hotel manager at The Bushmills Inn. “The team works incredibly hard to deliver a unique and unforgettable experience to all our guests, as well as promoting the Causeway Coast and Glens as an exciting and vibrant destination.”
Trade, meanwhile, increased by 10% in 2017, while ongoing development included creating a new laundry room to allow for a possible kitchen expansion, remodelling of the restaurant reception area and a new floor laid in the Gas Bar. Further: “We have also invested in a new website in order to become mobile responsive and drive more business through this medium. Continuing to increase our digital footprint is very high on our marketing agenda,” he says.
Refurbishment plans for the coming year include re-carpeting all public areas and renovating 10 en-suite bathrooms.
“From a sales point of view, we are focusing on the European market, in particular the RoI market through joint campaigns with Tourism Northern Ireland and the NI Hotels Federation, given that the value of the euro is making it more attractive to travel to our destination in the heart of Lonely Planet’s top Best in Travel 2018,” says Walls.
High VAT and corporation tax rates, and the skills shortage, are key challenges for the venue. “We endeavour to pay attractive wages but the knock-on effect of the National Living Wage will have detrimental consequences. It will be difficult for companies to absorb these costs as they cannot be passed onto consumers.”
HOTEL OPENED: 1987
HISTORY: Originally a Coaching Inn with stables dating back to the early 1600s, at the same time Old Bushmills was granted the world’s first licence to distil whiskey, the Inn became a haven for saddlesore visitors on route to the Giant’s Causeway. With the arrival of a Tram in the 19th century, the Inn fell into decline. Extensive development works were undertaken in 1987 by the previous owner and, in 2007, the hotel was bought over by then Manager Alan Dunlop and his wife Zoe who, in 2009, invested a further £2.4m and opened an additional 19 bedrooms and suites, created a new private reception area for residents, renovated the existing Coaching Inn bedrooms to a conference suite and cinema, and extended the restaurant and hotel car park.
EMPLOYEES: 65 full-time and 30 part-time
ROOM NUMBERS: 41
STYLE: The hotel has remained true to its heritage in terms of style. Characterised by turf fires, nooks and crannies, wooden beams and white-washed walls, and individually-designed guest rooms, the hotel exudes warmth and character.
MARKET POSITIONING: Luxury, boutique, unique 4-star hotel, well known throughout Ireland and on an international forum (particularly North America) with the reputation of being the hotel of choice for discerning golf travellers.
GUEST PROFILE: Winter market is mainly domestic, from both northern and southern Ireland. Summer sees a wide variety of guests, mainly from the US (particularly golf travellers) and Europe, northern and southern Ireland and the UK.
USPs: The character, history and building itself; a team of all-local staff who consistently exceed expectations; its location in the heart of the Causeway Coastal Route; and unique features such as a 30-seater cinema, and distinctive conference and meeting rooms such as a hidden library.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: An AA Restaurant serving food daily from 7am to 9.30pm throughout the year; breakfast, lunch, a la carte dinner and Sunday Carvery menus with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced seasonal ingredients. The public Gas Bar is a traditional Irish bar, serving Bar Bites, craft beers, Irish whiskeys, signature cocktails and offering live traditional Irish music every Saturday evening. Al fresco dining on the patio is available throughout the summer months, as well as a fireside menu which includes cream tea.