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Titanic move to historic home of pirate queen

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JOINING THE TEAM Pictured at the announcement last week of Tim Husbands as Chief Executive Officer for Westport House and Hotel Westport were, from left: Biddy Hughes, Westport House; Padraig Walsh, Mayo County Council; Cathal Hughes, Tim Husbands, Owen Hughes, Harry Hughes, Declan Heneghan, General Manager, Westport House, and Joan Collins, Operations Manager, Westport House. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Áine Ryan

JUMPING ship has taken on a whole new meaning for the man who has been appointed  Chief Executive of Westport House and Hotel Westport. Well, Mr Tim Husbands MBE did help to raise the Titanic Belfast (TBL International) to win the title of ‘World’s Leading Tourist Attraction’, so running the one-time home of pirate queen Grace O’Malley should be plain sailing.
Brothers Cathal, Owen and Harry Hughes of The Hughes Group announced his appointment last week after completing the acquisition of Westport House and Estate from its historic owners, the Browne family. The announcement was made just days after celebrations for Harry Hughes’s award as EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
Speaking to The Mayo News from Belfast yesterday, Mr Husbands said: “The Hughes Group made a compelling case for this new challenge. We will take the next six months or so to work through the process of prioritising the varying aspects of the plans, which involve a series of capital projects. They will contribute to the development of Westport and the west of Ireland as a tourism destination.”  
Nottingham-born Husbands will move to Westport in February 2018 and begin the process of implementing the €50 million project. When completed, Westport House and its 400-acre estate will encompass a state-of-the-art resort, complete with museum, conference and event centres.
Catering for large and small conferences, as well as large outdoor concerts and other events, it will be tailored as a family-friendly tourist destination. Westport House itself will be developed as a museum house that can also cater for large, high-end conferences and weddings.
Meanwhile, Hotel Westport, which is adjacent to the site, will double in size, while other tourist-related facilities will be built using existing older buildings on the estate.
An ultimate objective is to attract 1 million tourists to the town a year.

‘Exciting new phase’
COMMENTING on the appointment, Owen Hughes said: “This marks the beginning of an exciting new phase for Westport House and Hotel Westport. Tim Husbands brings vast tourism, capital-project and industry experience and ability, and is the ideal person to build a leading, recognisable international brand and destination here in Westport. We look forward to working with him.”
Congratulating Mr Husbands, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, TD, said: “He has created an astonishing legacy of success in the north of this island, and I look forward to him taking his talent, experience and enthusiasm to the west of Ireland.
“Through his involvement in Titanic Belfast, he has impacted on the lives and livelihoods of countless local people who have benefitted from the influx of visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland. Tim’s appointment is an extremely exciting development, and I wish Tim and the Hughes family all the very best in the coming years.”
Welcoming his appointment, the Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, Mr Peter Hynes said his ‘unique blend of experience and enthusiasm will be a huge asset in establishing Westport House as a world-class visitor destination’.
“Our own tourism team look forward to working with Tim and all the crew at Westport House and to realising the potential of one of the truly special Irish places, for the benefit of the town of Westport, the county of Mayo and indeed the entire West of Ireland in the years ahead,” Mr Hynes said.

Previous positions
Tim Husbands’ previous positions include Managing Director of Belfast’s Waterfront Hall and the Ulster Hall, Head of City Events and Venues at Belfast City Council and Managing Director of the Riviera Centre in Torquay.
In 2014, his services to Economic Development and Tourism were recognised at the highest level when he was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth. Under Mr Husbands’ leadership, Titanic Belfast has established itself on the local, national and international stage.

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