The Royal Belfast Academical Institution

Commerce Week 2020: Day 3


Today we were privileged to meet the Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, Howard Hastings, and residential estate agent, Simon Brien.

Mr Hastings, whose father built what is now the largest independent hotel group in Northern Ireland, began our visit by giving us a comprehensive history of Hastings and the development of their 7 hotel outlets, scattered across Ireland, including stunning hotels such as the Culloden and Slieve Donard.

Later, Simon Brien gave us an engaging and interactive talk about the various areas of real estate and the importance of clear communication, punctuality and the ability to talk to customers in a way which helps them feel valued and comfortable.

Finally, we were fortunate enough to get a tour of the Belfast’s spectacular Grand Central Hotel. We were able to visit the illustrious observatory on the 23rd floor which provided us with a panoramic view of the city. Moreover, we were given a step by step tutorial on making a non-alcoholic mojito. We even ended our visit with lunch in the opulent Sea Horse restaurant. Thank you to Mr Hastings and Mr Brien!

James Napier

After our morning at the Grand Central, we travelled up to the McLaughlin and Harvey offices in Mallusk. Here we were met by Philip Cheevers, the Group Chief Executive of McLaughlin and Harvey, who gave us a tour of the office, showing us the different departments within their building.

Kevin Kingston, the Danske Bank CEO, then spoke to us about the world of banking. He described how banks work and how Danske compared to other Northern Ireland banks before showing us the different career opportunities within banking. The impact of Coronavirus, which has been a common theme through the week, was also explained to us before Mr Kingston rounded off with a series of questions from us.

Philip Cheevers and Michael Kieran, the company’s Construction Director, were next to speak to us, giving us an insight into the construction business. Mr Cheevers completed projects that involved McLaughlin and Harvey. Mr Kieran then illustrated the different career pathways into construction and finally took us through one of the company’s biggest projects ever, Braham One, which is due to complete in mid-September.

Following the talks at the McLaughlin and Harvey offices, we made the journey to Bushmills to view the extension to the whiskey making facilities at the distillery, which will allow the company to double their production once operational. The whiskey making process was also explained to us during the visit. This was the first time any of us had been on a construction site and was a great experience for all of us.

The Edge Watersports on the River Bann was our next destination. We partook in different water activities, such as paddle boarding and kayaking. However, the highlight was the water skiing, which was another exhilarating new experience for many of us. Fortunately, we all got the hang of it thanks to brilliant instructions from the team there. After The Edge, the group went for one last meal to the Water Margin Chinese restaurant in Coleraine. This was a fantastic way to finish off what had been a brilliant and extremely informative three days.

I would like to pass on our thanks to Mr Kingston, Mr Cheevers, Mr Kieran and the team at The Edge for giving up their valuable time to accommodate us. Finally, I would like to give a massive thank you to Colin Johnson, the organiser of all of this. Without Mr Johnston this experience would not have happened; he has given us this opportunity through his wealth of contacts, for which we are all very grateful. Commerce Week 2020 was an event which we all thoroughly enjoyed and from which we have all benefitted.

Matthew Hamill

17 2021
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Year 13 Parents' Information Evening 7-8pm
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