Reception at the Malmaison Belfast hotel. The group's chief executive, Robert Cook, told delegates at the Hotelier of the Year conference that rates at its hotels were flexible according to demand.

The issue of whether or not to discount is becoming increasingly contentious as properties and groups struggle to compete in an ever more strained market.

Veteran hotelier George Goring summed up the problem in these terms: "The biggest sin is to overprice, and the second biggest sin is to underprice." In other words, he told delegates at the recent Hotelier of the Year Conference at the Hyatt Churchill hotel in London, you're caught between a rock and a hard place.

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