Hotel Hub: Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy
Husband and wife team Sean and Geraldine McLaughlin only took over the Fullerton Arms a few years ago, but has rapidly developed the property in that short time.
From securing one of the Door of Thrones to adding Ireland’s first Moulerie, tapping into the dog-friendly market and bringing Scandi chic bedroom décor to the North Coast, their ownership style is based around innovation.
“We have had a great year trading, and are up 14% on last year,” says Sean. “Our two managers, Colin and Louise, were finalists in the Institute of Hospitality awards, and we were also commended in the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards.
“We have just completed a very successful day event with the Irish Tour Operators Association, and are happy to have secured two new contracts and working relationships.
“We are also currently looking at the potential to increase our bed stock. Should this investment stack up, it will double our bedrooms and increase our sleeper capacity to 75. We are also placing consideration on making this a dog-friendly set of rooms, as our pet-friendly rooms are booked out up to three months in advance.”
Reflecting wider industry issues, Brexit and the skills shortage are key concerns for the business.
“We are seeing the difficulty of attracting skilled chefs who have a passion for food coming through at all levels,” says Sean. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to operate and I have had to adapt the service and offer to match.
“I would be concerned with the potential impact that Brexit will have, and the uncertainty of how that will affect recruitment moving forward.
“Also the fact that we still, as yet, do not have a working Assembly looking at the key issues and measures for our industry is worrying for tourism. We need to have the key strategy in place to protect the growth, and also ensure we have the right infrastructure plans in place to assist this growth.”
HOTEL OPENED: Acquired in 2016
DEVELOPMENT: Since 2016, the property has been overhauled with a refurb of all bedrooms, restaurant and bar.
EMPLOYEES: 15 full-time, nine part-time and eight seasonal
ROOM NUMBERS: 13
STAR RATING: 4-star
STYLE: Traditional bar & dining with Scandinavian coastal-style rooms.
GUEST PROFILE: Many different guests, with hotel set right on the tourist route from Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to the Giant’s Causeway,
USPs: Ireland’s first Moulerie serving local mussels and other local ingredients.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: 160 covers combined between bar and restaurant.