The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) has appointed a new president.
The appointment has been taken up by Stephen Meldrum who is general manager of Hastings Grand Central Hotel.
Previously, Stephen managed Ballygally Castle Hotel, the Everglades Hotel, in Londonderry, the Culloden Hotel and Spa Resort and the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa Hotel in Co Down.
He began his career with Croft Inns and managed several small family-run restaurants and bars before joining Hastings Hotels.
Previously, Stephen has been chairman of the Institute of Hospitality.
He takes over his new role from outgoing president Gavin Carroll.
Stephen said: “Northern Ireland’s hotel industry has been rapidly evolving. In the last four years alone, the sector has invested in the region of £600m and room numbers are at record levels. This growth is positive.
“However, with this level of expansion there are challenges to overcome, and part of the role of the president of the NIHF is to work with stakeholders and members to address these.
“Gavin had a very busy presidency and we are very grateful for the effort that he invested in highlighting progress that has been made, while shining a light on issues that impact on our members’ businesses.
“During his tenure, the NIHF celebrated its 20th anniversary and this provided an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of skilled staff who have dedicated their careers to the industry, something which the NIHF’s Hotel Heroes Awards recognised. However, we know that attracting skilled staff remains a challenge and this is an area that I will be continuing to work on over the course of my presidency.”
“I am taking up the presidency when the operating environment for members is difficult. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has impacted negatively on consumer confidence and people are not spending as readily as before.
“Members are resilient though and they are also keen to capitalise on opportunities and the Federation will be looking at how our alliances and partnerships can be maximised to help us to do just that. We are looking forward to another busy 12 months.
“I love the hospitality industry. My working career has been spent helping to develop and shape businesses which aim to deliver hospitality that exceeds customers’ expectations.
“The industry in Northern Ireland has made massive progress and we have a wealth of talent to drive the sector forward. I’m looking forward to working with the NIHF board and its members to ensure that we maximise this potential.
“As we approach a new decade, the wider tourism and hospitality industry is well-positioned to break the billion-pound mark and continue on an upward trajectory. Strategic partnerships are more important than ever and the NIHF will be continuing to work with stakeholders to promote Northern Ireland and reinforce its place on the global stage.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) Hospitality Exchange Ball has raised £2,965 for Friends of the Cancer Centre.
Stephen said: “We’re thrilled that guests who attended our annual Hospitality Exchange Ball in October gave so generously to support Friends of the Cancer Centre.
“This charity relies entirely on local donations to enable it to provide the support that it does to local people affected by cancer. I have experience of the fantastic service they provide and know what a difference their services can make.”
Ana Wilkinson, corporate fundraising manager for Friends of the Cancer Centre, commented: “Many families also receive support from Friends of the Cancer Centre’s team of ten clinical nurse specialists who provide expert medical care and support to thousands of patients each year. The generous donation of £2,965.25 from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the guests who attended their gala event will enable Friends of the Cancer Centre to fund one hour of specialist nursing care for 118 local people with cancer, giving them access to the best care available when they need it most.”