Hotels in Belfast frustrated at use of City Hall for functions

Hotels in Belfast have expressedconcern that Belfast City Council is competing with them in an unfair manner by allowing the City Hall to be used as a function venue. Belfast City Hall is reported to have hosted over 600 events in 2010 and the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation claims that the use of City Hall for functions for which the organisers were not charged, means it is competing directly and unfairly against the hotels in Belfast. Belfast council maintains that a lot of the events held in City Hall were for charitable organisations and that use of Belfast City Hall for commercial events was not allowed. Nevertheless, some of the entities that have recently availed of Belfast City Hall to host events include the Federation of Small Business, the Pubs of Ulster, the Institute of Directors and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

The chief executive of the Belfast based Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, Janice Gault, claimed that her organisation had been informed by some organisations that the reason they had chosen to go to City Hall was that there was no charge for using the rooms there. She said that the Federation did not have any issue with Belfast City Hall being used to promote tourism or to host the events of genuine charitable organisations but there was concern over the fact that other events that would have traditionally been held in hotels in Belfast were being staged there free of charge.

Belfast council insisted that commercial events were not allowed but conceded that use of the City Hall was being reviewed.  A spokesperson for the council pointed out that the marketing of Belfast through the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau received funding from the council to the tune of £1.8m. “A major part of the work is promoting Belfast as a city break destination which clearly benefits all our hotels,” the spokesperson said.