Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges recently celebrated 45 years in business, and four generations within the same family. We talk to manager DAVID MORRISON about longevity, the necessity for change and growth, and the next stage of development.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in October of 2021.
David Morrison did a BA in hotel and catering management at the University of Portsmouth, then a graduate management programme with Swallow Hotels, working at various locations in Scotland and England. He took up his first general-management post at the age of 27 and, during the early nineties, worked in hotels in Dundee, South Normanton, Waltham Abbey, Bristol, Ashford, Rochford, and Epping Forest.
“Having started our family, my partner and I decided to come back to Fermanagh, for a more settled life for our children. We returned home to the family farm at Manor Water House, which has been in the Morrison family for four generations.”
Morrison was appointed Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel’s general manager in June 1996 and has implemented many key developments during the last 20 years, including “hosting the media centre for the G8 summit in 2013, 40-years-inbusiness celebrations in 2016, leading the £1.4 [€1.6] million refurbishment project, which included the launch of our Lakeside Lodges in 2017, and the most recent investment project, with the addition of six new Woodland Lodges and hotel bedroom refurbishment.”
How did the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges begin?
“In 1976, when the Watsons bought it, the Killyhevlin was a 33-bedroom hotel. In the years since, there have been three major expansions to the premises. In 2005, £4 [€4.7] million was spent to add leisure facilities to the venue, along with 30 new bedrooms, and the Ruby Year was marked by a £1.4 [€1.6] million investment. The Watson family have committed to implementing a continuous improvement programme, with a number of significant investment projects.
“The recently completed £1.5 [€1.75] million investment included the launch of the six luxury self-catering Woodland Lodges, complete with private hot tubs, as well as a major refurbishment of the 71 hotel bedrooms.”
How is the hotel performing at the moment?
“It’s been a very busy summer of staycations, with occupancy rates reaching almost 100% throughout May to August, and we are expecting strong demand for autumn/winter staycations.”
What guided the decisions around the self-catering lodges?
“With the increased demand for selfcatering accommodation, considerable planning and meticulous design work have gone into the creation of our stateof-the-art Woodland Lodges, which will provide a major boost to the local tourism sector and present a fantastic option for a relaxing staycation. The investment project was delivered in partnership with a number of local businesses, including BuildWright modular homes, Elliott York Partnership, Kavanagh Construction, and By Raymond Kelly.
“We have worked closely with Elliott York Partnership to ensure that the Woodland Lodges sit perfectly within the remarkable woodland setting, and we have worked with Northern Irish interior designer Raymond Kelly to create a contemporary yet home-from-home guest experience, to complement the outstanding setting.”
What has been Morrison’s inspiration for this project?
“If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right, and there is no such thing as ‘can’t do’. Over the years, I have found that both of these philosophies have been key drivers to my success.”
Do they consider themselves part of the eco-tourism movement?
“We are committed to environmentally friendly initiatives throughout all departments, from water efficiency to implementing measures to reduce our energy consumption and costs, including the installation of solar panels and LED lighting, and measures are in place to proactively reduce pollution, emissions and waste, and increase the recycling ethos throughout the hotel.”
From where do Killyhevlin guests come?
“We have a very strong domestic/NI customer base and a growing number of guests from Ireland, Europe and North America.”
Why do they come? What attracts them?
“Our lakeside location is second to none, with the amazing scenic backdrop of Lough Erne and the surrounding natural beauty. The location is ideal for a relaxing break, and its proximity to Enniskillen town centre is an added bonus. Being a family-owned and -run hotel for 45 years, the charm of personal hospitality is a key element of the guest experience, and the customer is central to the vision of the business.”
What has been the most challenging time for the hotel?
“Without question, it has been a very testing and extremely difficult year for the tourism sector, and although we have had to adapt, the team at Killyhevlin has been extremely dedicated in working towards reopening, with the well-being of our guests being of utmost importance.
“The impact of being closed for an extensive period had an immense impact on the business, but we proactively used the temporary closure as an opportunity to enhance the guest experience on reopening by implementing refurbishment and extending our self-catering portfolio.”
What is the best part of the job?
“Having worked in the hospitality industry, both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain, over the last 30 years, being a ‘people person’ is vitally important. In this line of business, you have to enjoy dealing with people. If you’re not a people person, don’t go there. Ninety-nine per cent of my day is spent dealing with people, whether it is suppliers, staff or customers – no two days are ever the same. It gives you a real buzz, and the variety keeps you focused and driven.”
How is staffing at the moment?
“Following our recent investment programme, we are expanding the award-winning Killyhevlin team with up to 20 job opportunities, including a number of exciting new positions.”
Any plans for the future?
“Throughout the years we have been dedicated to continuously providing a unique guest experience. As our tourism and hospitality industry focuses on rebuilding, we will concentrate on consolidating the business and our team. We are continually seeking ways to enhance the guest experience, and future developments will be in line with market opportunities and demand. Following our current recruitment drive, we will focus on augmenting our team, who are our greatest asset, so, naturally, the ongoing training and development of our staff is of the utmost importance in all future plans.”
KILLYHEVLIN AT A GLANCE
LODGES: 14 Lakeside Lodges and 6 Woodland Lodges – all 2- bedroom properties sleep 4
PERCENTAGE BREAKDOWN DINING FACILITIES: Kove Restaurant, 90; Lakeside Grill, 120; Konservatory (afternoon tea), 40.