One of the industry’s success stories in recent years, the Irish-owned Great National Hotel Group continues forge ahead to moving from strength to strength with recent additions to its portfolio including the 4* Hotel Ballina in Co. Mayo and most recently the 4* Mulranny Park Hotel, also in Co. Mayo. Supporting predominantly 4-star hotels alongside deluxe 3-star properties via a range of services such as operations management, reservations outsourcing, revenue and channel management, Great National is now one of Ireland and the UK’s fastest growing hotel groups.
David Byrne, CEO for the Great National Group, recently sat down with the Hotel and Restaurant Times to discuss the Group’s recent expansion including plans for the future.
“Our two latest acquisitions bring to seven the total number of hotel purchases we’ve has completed with our investor partners in the last 24 months, which are in addition to five managed properties: the Group – which is co-owned by David Byrne, David Collins, James Sullivan and David O’Connor - now has a total of €60m worth of assets under management.”
“We’re delighted to welcome Hotel Ballina to Great National given the hotel’s reputation as one of the North West’s leading 4-star hotels. Our ongoing plans include refurbishment throughout key areas of the hotel so as to copper-fasten the property within the weddings, events and domestic leisure markets.”
Located outside Ballina, the 87-bedroom Hotel Ballina which includes extensive leisure, meetings and banqueting facilities, is operated as a Great National branded property under a long-term management agreement, and is currently undergoing an investment programme following its acquisition earlier this year, 2016.
Also recently acquired in conjunction with its investment partners, the 4-star 61-bedroom Mulranny Park Hotel will be operated by Great National. Overlooking Clew Bay, the multiple award-winning Mulranny Park boasts an enviable reputation as one of Ireland’s leading wedding venues; the hotel has also borne host to various VIP guests down through the years, including most famously John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1968.
Commenting on the Mayo property, David Byrne added: “we’re very excited about this opportunity as the Mulranny Park which in addition to enjoying an established reputation as a leading destination resort, occupies a key strategic bay-side location for us, adjacent to the Great Western Greenway."
“Our business continues to be founded on both product and service excellence. We are significantly accelerating growth, reducing costs and improving market reach for the hotels we represent, and we look forward to continuing to bring this same impact to all our hotels including Hotel Ballina and the Mulranny Park. Our ultimate aim is to become the largest independently owned hotel brand in both Ireland and the UK."
On a separate expansion front, the group will also shortly be launching its much anticipated boutique budget brand, Great Nite Inn, which will initially comprise four locations – growing ultimately to 36 hotels by 2018 - throughout the UK and Ireland, including Cork and Limerick. This initial launch phase will follow an announcement in Q3 2016 in regards to first round funding for the brand and will involve conversions of existing hotels, featuring a superior bedroom standard, central locations, signature value and a unique ground floor F&B experience, ‘Off The Bone’.
Byrne added: “since our commencement in 2010, Great National has consistently made a difference to our members. Our choice of affiliation programmes allows hotels to compete more effectively without the associated costs or long term commitments of traditional hotel brands. Uniquely transparent and quantifiable, we deliver immediate results in terms of increased revenues and reduced distribution costs for the hotels we work with, managed and otherwise.”
“We offer much more than any other international brand or marketing consortium with our low cost of entry, high performance solution. This is enabled by our group structure which opens up economies of scale and allows independent hotels to tap into proven expertise, netting increased occupancy loads and improved RevPar through various revenue management solutions.”
With its head office in Ennis and a regional sales office in the UK, the Great National brand now comprises 53 hotels, split equally between the UK and Ireland with nearly 3,500 bedrooms. The group directly employs 40 staff and indirectly 550 staff throughout the hotels it manages.
According to Byrne: “The challenges facing hoteliers going forward should not be under-estimated: our closest, and largest single market Britain is now officially in recession in the wake of BREXIT and this alone, even aside from currency fluctuations, the uncertainty regarding the North/South border, and the escalation of terrorist atrocities, all combine to directly impact on guests’ attitude towards travelling.”
“Our goal however is and always has been since we started the business to be the best at what we do in the market – from asset management to revenue acceleration and distribution optimization - creating a homegrown brand that participates on the international stage for the benefit of all our clients.”
With both this recent and pipeline expansion (which will see a further 4-star hotel acquisition within Ireland by end-Q3 2016), combined of course with consistent growth in rooms revenues for its member hotels, Great National continues to forge ahead as one of the most important brand names in the industry, providing a much-needed, proven solution for independent hotels and resorts.