PLANS are under way to transform the third floor of the Conway Mill to incorporate four-star guest accommodation.

Architectural drawings have already been drawn up to make way for up to 20 en-suite bedrooms in the iconic Mill, which, as one of the directors Joe Quinn explained, is “right in the middle of a prime location for tourists, students and over seas delegations”.

“The Mill has massive potential and family guest accommodation is the next step in realising that,” said Joe. “We intend to tap into the tourist market which is a massive deal in West Belfast.

“Already the Mill has so much to offer. Our market on a Saturday is really taking off, it’s very much a shared space with stallholders coming from the Falls and the Shankill. We have a restaurant, gym and various classes going on every day so our next venture is to have the overnight stay an option.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Jim McVeigh said with the massive tourist influx into West Belfast, accommodation in the heart of West Belfast is the next step.

“Tens of thousands of tourists visit this area every year but they don’t stay here. They stay in the city centre or stay on the outskirts and that has been a major gap in the tourist market. With the tours that operate every day there is very little financial benefit to the community and it’s time to have this type of accommodation.

“It’s a fantastic location, you are a stone’s throw from the town or a walk into the Gaeltacht Quarter. This plan will only serve a positive purpose in that it will create jobs. There is no question that there is a demand for this. Applications have been made to the Social Investment Fund and an application has been made to secure funding from Belfast City Council and I am confident and hopeful that this initiative will be up and running, welcoming people through its doors by this time next year.

“A proposal like this is important for the Mill and for West Belfast.”

Speaking on behalf of Fáilte Feirste Thiar, Harry Connolly said: “This is a real game-changer for West Belfast. The economic impact would be extremely beneficial and it’s something that West Belfast tourism has been crying out for for a long time.”