Bathed in the warm glow of rare sunshine against the backdrop of Lough Erne, the Killyhevlin Hotel finds itself truly fortunate amidst its idyllic surroundings.

And with revenue set to exceed last year the sun really is shining for the long-running family business which has invested more than £3 million into its business in the past two years.

Blessed by its picturesque location, it is perhaps a perfect microcosm of what Fermanagh has to offer.

For General Manager, David Morrison and his team it is all about making sure they have the right product for their customers. Since 2021, Killyhevlin has doubled its luxury self-catering accommodation, all conveniently located within the lakeside grounds of the hotel offering guests a range of short break options.

And there is plenty for everyone. But, as Mr. Morrison admitted, it has not been without its difficulties.

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses across all industries have had to adapt and with that change have come challenges.

“Business is challenging but good,” said Mr. Morrison. “Covid has certainly brought a lot of new ideas to the table.

“I suppose in hospitality, like a lot of businesses, I’ve always I would always say that you could not be faint-hearted in this business. Because if you were you wouldn’t be in.

“I would say it was probably the most challenging time that I’ve ever had in my job. From a customer perspective, a staff perspective, managing perspective.

“You’re dealing post-Covid you’re dealing with a totally different mindset of people.”

Figures show how the Northern Ireland hotel sector has bounced back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but faces continued challenges from soaring inflation and difficulties recruiting staff.

A sector report from the Northern Ireland Hotels’ Federation published earlier this year said around £100 million will be invested in construction, sales and refurbishment this year, as evident by the Killyhevlin Hotel.

However this year, said Mr Morrison, has been a successful one for the business.

“Revenue-wise, we would be ahead of last year, which to be honest with all of your factors that you’re working alongside we would be very happy with, extremely happy with.

Weddings are a big part of the Killyhevlin which hosted a number of them in 2022.

While the number of weddings are not as big this year, Mr. Morrison says where there is a drop in one part, the hotel aims to make it up in another way.

“I suppose if we see a night that we don’t have, we don’t have a wedding on. If it’s feasible, we will do our best to find something else to fill the space.”

But like most businesses , the Killyhevlin has to take into consideration rising costs.

“When you do business nowadays, you’ve got to be extremely conscious of cost. Because you’re operating in a totally different cost market to what you’ve ever operated.

“I’ve been here 27 years, and I have never seen costs as challenging as what they’ve been in the last 18 months.”

He used the example of potatoes increasing by 60 per cent from what they were 18 months ago.

So, when it comes to tackling these cost increases, it is all about looking at “consumption”.

“You just have to make sure that you’re being economical in your consumption as you possibly can.”

One such example is how the hotel renegotiated with a utility provider saving £25,000 over the year.

As well as the hotel, its Lakeside and Woodland Lodges and 12 brand new Lakeland Studios are proving successful too.

The new luxury one bedroom studios boast large, front-facing windows, spacious ensuite, an open plan fully equipped high spec kitchen, lounge area, leading onto a private outdoor furnished patio and balcony area.

Notable trends in the sector are the concentration of hotels such as the Killyhevlin offering, not only traditional hotel accommodation but self-catering, glamping, and independent lodges.

Mr. Morrison believes working with other businesses is key to sustainability in the sector.

“Collaboration would be a big part,” he said, “We would have been doing that years ago. I suppose the one thing that we would find with collaboration is you have got to be a wee bit more price-sensitive. We have done our Erne Tours, years ago and we would have done boat trips included in packages, or added value packages.

“We would have a relationship with Belleek Pottery, we would have had a relationship with the National Trust. We know we would have packages we would do with Boatyard Distillery.”

He said collaboration between the tourism industry and “cluster groups” is now “more important than ever”.

“You are staying three nights and you’re going here and going there and you’re going out on the boat. It’s all customer experience and linking it all up.”

Fermanagh’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage, its recreational trails and water and boating experiences are at the heart of this area attracting people from all over the UK, Ireland and beyond.

Mr. Morrison is clear that tourism and hotel stays go hand in hand.

“It’s the experience of being away. That is where tourism is at, at the minute. Fermanagh is a great destination for that too, you couldn’t ask for nicer,

And with all that to look at, and the challenges it brings, Mr. Morrison’s outlook on the business, just like the weather outside his office is bright.

“I would say the outlook is positive. If you’re not positive in business, you probably would be better off being out of it.

“No matter what challenges you’re facing, you still have to stay positive about it. And if you hit an odd stone on the way, you are hit and you get over it and you move on.

“There were certain elements of the business that you have to look at and think maybe we’re better sighted focusing on other things.”

He added that any issues previously “made you sit back and pay attention, and really focus and analyse what your business was actually made up of”.

“That point of view, that was a good thing. We have got our feet back on the ground and, I suppose in a lot of ways, the past few years has made businesses like ours focus on how to develop further.”