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Jury's Inn (Belfast)
Member Name: sidneygee
Jury's Inn (Belfast)
Date: 06/02/01, updated on 16/05/01 (471 review reads)
Advantages: Modern, generally quiet, close to city centre
Disadvantages: Service variable, but can provide 'entertainment'
As a Consultant, based in Edinburgh, but with most clients outside of this city, a significant proportion of my time is spent travelling and staying at hotels. On many occasions, I may only stay a single night ever in a particular city, so that I will only experience a single night in a particular hotel, and I would not consider it fair to either recommend (or to 'damn') a hotel on the basis of one stay.
Furthermore, hotel management and staff and even the policy of a hotel group may change, so that what might have been a good (or bad) experience on the first stay, may not be the same even a month later. Thus I will not comment in detail on a hotel that I have found to be poor during a single stay, unless it is an establishment that makes ‘Farty Towels’ appear like the Grande Hotel.
I have been serving a client in the centre of Belfast since early 1997 and I now visit there regularly, on a 4 to 8 week cycle, each visit taking from 3 to 5 days. Since first writing this opinion, I have gained a second client, so there will be many more visits.
The centre of Belfast is dominated by the City Hall (a photograph of which appears on the dooyoo category site) and, as soon as I leave the building in Donegall Square, where my client is based, I have this very familiar view right in front of me. Fortunately the centre of Belfast is now well-served by hotels and in my time I have stayed at three of them, each w
ithin 5 minutes walk of where I work:
Europa Hotel Great Victoria Street (02890 327000)
Jury's Inn Fisherwick Place (02890 533500)
Travelodge. Brunswick Street (02890 333555)
Other viable alternatives are only a little further away (which I have not yet tried) and include the newly opened Hilton Hotel on the ‘Waterfront’ (where Bill Clinton stayed recently) and the newly opened THF Posthouse Premier Hotel. There is also the McCausland Hotel that I have heard good reports of (admittedly from a photocopier salesman that I met in a bar) and may try in the future. However, none of these hotels are quite as close to my centre of work as the above three (although the Post House is close enough to become the next ‘trial’).
Although I am a business traveller, my arrangements are generally arranged with the client at least a month in advance so that I tend to try and make use of any discounts that are available. Unfortunately, none of my visits include a Saturday night, so that pure travel discounts are not available. Furthermore, until the beginning of May, only one airline operated a service from Edinburgh to Belfast (British Regional Airways, under contract from British Airways), so that the cost of air travel was quite extortionate at £255 return.
However, GREAT NEWS on the travel front ! Starting on 5 May the ‘Go’ airline started a service from Edinburgh to Belfast International Airport for a maximum of £110 return. I’ve booked my next trip for £85 return ! That should help retain the clients (although my air-miles will suffer)
Stena Lines do a Holiday Brochure (available from all travel agents, but you can book direct - 08705 747474) for Ireland that includes Belfast and this proves to be a good source of travel bargains. For example, the current brochure price of a midweek 2 night short break for one person with a British Airways return flight from Edinburgh to
Belfast City Airport staying at Jury's Inn is from £274 to £320 bed and breakfast.
The current cost of booking a room only in this hotel is £69.50 (with breakfast an additional £8 or so). This would indicate a saving of £80 - £130. However, this is not an actual saving because there is no VAT element in the short break invoice.
When first noticed this, I thought that this was a mistake and contacted Stena, ‘demanding’ (all stroppy like) my ‘right’ to a VAT invoice since I had spent more than £100. They (frostily, I thought), declined to do so, but gave no reason so I contacted my local VAT office (nasty little ‘sneak’ that I am), but they confirmed that there was no ‘reclaimable’ VAT element as such in the Stena invoice.
When booking a hotel separately from the travel, you obviously do get a VAT element in the invoice that can be claimed back. Thus, when invoicing my clients I treat it in the same manner as I would a rail ticket or air ticket and to add VAT to the Stena invoice price. Still a saving, but not quite so much, but if this saving is multiplied by say 8 trips in a year, then it is very worthwhile.
The only times that this system has let me down was when trying to book for visits in December of last year and in late January this year when they (unusually) had to be made only a week before travel. In each case, I was told that all of the flights available from British Regional Airlines at the brochure price were filled, so that all they could do was to charge me a 'supplement' (I think it was for £120). This made the booking (for me) 'un-viable'.
The Stena brochure also often includes special offers such as 'Stay 2 nights, get the 3rd night free' at off-peak times (and of course, with business, there is no 'off-peak' times, so that these offers can give useful extra savings). Also, as a 'regular' Stena client, I also
get a 10% discount voucher each year, which I (naturally) reserve for one of my 'longer' 5 day trips to Belfast.
All the Stena prices should reduce in the next brochure as the Go airfares ‘kick in’.
My normal business practice is to try and keep overheads as low as possible, and this is popular with a surprising number of clients. If you can show that you are saving them, say £80 in the travel/accommodation costs, then you immediately become a very (well - don't kid yourself - just say, "relatively") popular Consultant
This is a hotel opened in 1996 and the standard of decoration and fitments/fittings are very good. It is included in the Stena list of hotels and I have stayed at this hotel on more than 10 occasions but I would now would prefer to avoid it after a total of 6 disagreements or altercations. The system with Stena is that having paid for your package, you are sent a hotel voucher which you present at reception when booking in.
I don't know if it is down to poor staff training or just pure incompetence at the Jury Inn, but the staff at reception seem to be unable to comprehend this arrangement. On at least 3 occasions, I have been issued with an invoice and asked to pay at the end of a stay. After the first time, I always make certain that I take a copy of this voucher with me, so that I can use that as proof that I have already paid and it is Jury's who have 'lost' the voucher (which always turns up after the staff have been challenged).
Even when you have presented them with the voucher at the start of your stay, they always ask for a 'credit card imprest', a request which I always (politely) turn down.
The conversation (every time - since there is a massive turn-over of staff and you rarely see the same people twice) now goes something like this :
Jury's girl "Can we have an im
prest of your credit card ?"
Me "No thank you, I'd rather not. I don't doo credit card imprests"
Jury's girl "Have you got a credit card ?" (always asked with suspicion in their eyes).
Me (flashing my GM card momentarily) "Yes. But you are not getting hold of it, I have already paid".
Jury's girl "But if you don't give a credit card imprest, you won't be able to make telephone calls from your room"
Me "At your prices, I don't make telephone calls from my room"
Jury's girl "But you'll need it to eat in the restaurant"
Me "The only occasion when I ate in your restaurant, the service was slow, the food over-cooked, the white wine was tepid (rather than cold) and the black coffee so weak that I could see the bottom of the cup through it - I have no intention of repeating those experiences".
This exchange always seems to confuse the poor girl, and you can see them thinking - "This time I have really met the Customer from hell that they told us about in ‘Training’ !".
Checking out always takes far too much time, since obviously it is not only me who has to query their invoice.
Well let's continue with the good points (and some 'not so good').
Breakfast is served as a 'full' buffet in the Restaurant and is of generally high standard. A selection of fruit juices and breakfast cereals; canned fruit (grapefruit, prunes, oranges); yoghurts; fresh fruit; bread rolls, croissants, scones, bacon, eggs (fried or scrambled), sausages, black pudding, fried bread, potato scones, beans, tea and coffee are available for self-selection or from behind the counter. A free copy of "The Irish Times" is normally available.
One potential problem to watch out for is that you have to sign a sheet on a clipbo
ard and give your room number after selecting your breakfast. On one occasion Jury's tried to bill me for an 'extra' breakfast since someone else had put down my room number (obviously in error). When I checked out, the reception desk seemed to be firmly of the opinion that I was "in the habit of having breakfast meetings" and made it obvious that they thought I was trying to avoid paying for the breakfast of my 'guest' (seriously!! - 'guilty', unless I could prove my innocence, it seemed - I called for the manager and gave him and the hapless girl a lecture on poor systems, manners and customer 'service' - even got a grovelling apology, but the system hasn't altered).
Another potential problem to watch out for during 'breakfast at Jury's' is the efficiency (yes, I do mean EFFICIENCY) of the staff. If you get up from your seat (say, to get another bread roll or to 'refresh' your coffee cup) then an eagle-eyed waiter immediately tries to whip your dishes away. On one occasion, I saw a guy almost lose his complete (untouched) breakfast plate.
The rooms themselves are mostly of a good size (often with a double bed, a single bed and a bed-settee) and have double-glazed windows that seem to be effective in keeping out the traffic noise and that of the drone of the 'hovering helicopter' (see my dooyoo opinion of Belfast City). Unfortunately, there is little insulation of sound from the corridors and on several occasions I have been woken by the sound of drunks in the corridor at 2 - 3 am. On one occasion, having been woken in this manner by a chorus of what sounded like the whole IRA in full belt (well it was on St Patrick's Day last year), the telephone at the side of my bed rang, with the 'Duty Manager' telephoning to tell me that "There are complaints about the noise coming from your room".
My reply is not reproducible here, but my detailed
letter of complaint to the group headquarters (this being the latest of my 6 'altercations' with the staff) produced only a very curt letter of apology in reply (rather than a free meal or bottle of wine that I had considered as suitable compensation for my 'hurt' feelings, for which I certainly needed felt needed ‘counselling’).
There are four lifts, those with the annoying voice that tells you the floor number and whether or not it is "Doors opening" or "Doors closing". I doo appreciate that this is very useful for the visually impaired and I also noted that the floor 'buttons' have the numbers also in Braille.
On each landing there is an ice machine and a shoe cleaning machine, both of which are very useful. The atmosphere in the bar on the ground floor is also one of the best Hotel bars that I have been into. It serves an excellent pint of draught Guinness and is usually full of friendly, chatty Irish business people up from the South.
If you require an alarm call, it is not an automatic telephone system and as such is not 100% reliable. Thus it may be several minutes (up to 15) early. It has to be answered, and it may be made twice (rather inconvenient when you are in the midst of your ablutions when the second alarm call comes !).
This is an important aspect to consider being Belfast, and I understand that the Europa is no stranger to terrorist bombs and bomb threats. Jury's has a large foyer, with sensible security guys and I would feel more secure at this venue if there was any 'concerted' terrorist activity (but if there were then I would be somewhat reluctant to visit my client I suppose).
Well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Jury's Inn is good, if you want free 'entertainment' and 'mental stimulation' .If you can book up to well in advance then try the Stena Broch
As indicated above I will check out the Post House Premier Hotel on Ormeau Avenue (at the bottom of Brunswick Street) and perhaps the other two viable alternatives and update this opinion at a later date.
The Premier Hotel is in the new Stena Brochure at prices ranging from £310 to £358 for 2 nights B&B including air travel for one from Edinburgh, and I note that a ‘health & leisure club with a 15 metre swimming pool’ is due to be opened later this year. You can read an opinion on it already (by gollygumdrops).
Who knows what new experiences there may be at the 'health & leisure' club (when it is open)?
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