IT’S been a whirlwind year for staff at the Lough Erne Resort and speaking to the Herald this week manager Ferghal Purcell reflected on a wonderful 12 months in which Fermanagh hosted the most successful G8 in history.
“It was not just a wonderful year for us at the Lough Erne Resort, but Enniskillen and the county,”said Ferghal.
Yet for all the success it might never have come to pass as he originally ignored the advances of organisers and in his own words was ‘sceptical’ about the event.
“As you can imagine at the original stages of the booking they were not in a position to disclose and I was sceptical and it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t my fault, even the dates weren’t defined in the early stages when we were having discussions in June of last year.
“It was a ‘possible conference’ so in the absence of anything concrete it’s very hard to commit yourself to anything and of course with June being a peak month of the year for us we were sceptical unless someone said, Ferghal, this is the exact conference, these are the dates, these are what we want.”
And when he found out he would be playing host to eight of the world’s most powerful men?
“When you hear it is the G8, it’s massive.
“I mean one world leader in his own right would be an immense challenge and then you realise it’s eight world leaders plus members of the European Union plus the chairman of the European
Commission you’re thinking that’s 10, you know the Taoiseach is going to come and that’s 11 so you’re mind is thinking how can I possibly manage that many heads of state?
“It was surreal, it took us a long time to get used to the idea but we got so busy focusing on it you didn’t have time to think about anything else.
“If I had to reflect back on it I would have to say the year has gone so well for us, who could have imagined 12 months ago the year we we’re going to have and the fact everything went so well.
“The work was done in advance of the two days, we enjoyed the moment and to be honest I never could have dreamed it would go so well and I’m thrilled that it did.”
“I think though for me the most surreal moment was , when the Prime Minister arrived on the Sunday, we knew he was coming but his itenarary would always be fairly confidential.
“I was standing at the reception desk and I looked up and there he was walking towards me. He said, Ferghal, ‘a little different from the last time I was here’ and I stood in the foyer with him, had a long chat with him and thought yea, it’s about to kick off, it’s about to start, we’re about to host the G8.”
Aside from the G8, Ferghal says 2013 was a year when the Lough Erne Resort really consolidated its position.
“I think the resort has positioned itself as a player where it deserves to be, we have a wonderful resort, we had a tough few years with the administration, please God, we’re going to come out of that, but we have steadied the ship, we have had a wonderful season on the foot of the G8 and all bodes very positively for the future.
“I employ 180 people, we have spent this year £2.8m on labour, that’s a huge, huge employer in any local economy and for me the highlight of the year is we that have absolutely cemented our role in Fermanagh, in Enniskillen and in Northern Ireland.
“My role , my job is to take that further afield into the UK and the United States. On reflection the future looks extremely bright for us and that’s the biggest success of the year.”
“I would be more nervous about 2014 as people are talking about recovery and I still think we have a long way to go, you have only got to look at down south and the bailout, I think it’s going to be a tough couple of years economically still.
“I’m more nervous about 2014 than I was about 2013 because we have got to consolidate, it’s a very important year for me because I think if we can grow the resort further in 2014 it would be very positive.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to move the business forward then 2015 and 2016 we will certainly see a return to positive economic times and I do hope it will go well for the resort going forward.
“It’s (The resort) still on the market, we have had significant interest, but it is a complex property and whilst the sale hasn’t progressed that’s not to say it won’t happen in 2014.
“It’s been a fun year, it’s been a great year and it’s only when we step back you realise what was acheived.
“You think wow, we did it we hosted it, we were at the epicentre of it and it worked.”
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