A tenth of people in Northern Ireland rate their first kiss as “horrible” – with twice as many women as men describing it this way, a new survey reveals.

Most were aged between 14 and 18 when they had their heart-thumping first smooch (58%), but it was clearly a moment to forget for some, according to the Hastings Hotels romance survey.

Just over 11% do not recall the first time they locked lips, with half saying they “vaguely” remember it. However, 8% claim to recollect it in exact detail – from where it was and what they were wearing to the music being played at the time.

Along with the 10% who said their first kiss was “horrible” a further 15% endured a “somewhat unpleasant” experience, while a lucky 25% described it as “good” or “really good”.

With Northern Ireland bound by tough Covid restrictions until March 5, a Valentine’s break away in a hotel is what couples miss most (50%), with another 29% pining for a romantic meal out and 11% craving alone time with their partner.

An impressive 30% said they plan to make an extra effort for Valentine’s Day in lockdown.

Most (85%) will be spending February 14 with partners while 7% will be enjoying it with family.
As for the singletons who expressed how Covid was affecting their romantic endeavours, most (41%) said it makes them feel lonely and wish they had a partner. A further 15%, mostly men, are opting for online dating for the first time and a more relaxed 29% say the pandemic means there is less pressure to meet someone.

Cooking a special dinner is the Valentine’s gesture of choice for 42%, followed by booking a hotel break to enjoy after lockdown (40%), while just over 4% intend to buy flowers.

The sentiment around the day remains strong, with 52% insisting it is special and worthy of celebration, while just 11% believe it is too commercialised.

Asked if their other halves thought they were romantic, 65% of females said they believed they were, with 63% of males claiming they would get the romantic seal of approval from their partners.

“It’s heartening to see that romance is still alive this Valentine’s Day, despite the restrictions we’re facing on a day we usually treat ourselves to a night out or some time away with our partner,” said Julie Hastings, Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels.

“But like so many special occasions we’ve had to miss, we’re making the most of the situation, either by cooking a special meal or booking a break away for later. The recent increase in sales of our Hastings Hotels gift cards and romance packages shows that our customers still plan to celebrate it properly when allowed to and we can’t wait to welcome them back to our hotels to give them an experience to remember.”

The majority of the 16,000 participants in the online survey, North and South, are in a relationship (94%), with almost 4% single and the rest in the ‘complicated’ category. Half of all respondents were aged between 35 and 54.

The luxury Hastings group operates seven hotels, including the five-star Culloden Estate and Spa, recently voted the UK’s most romantic hotel. The hotel has entertained A-list couples such as Victoria and David Beckham and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. It recently completed a £750,000 renovation of the spa and wellness facilities adding a new couples’ treatment room.

Other hotels within the group in Belfast include the world-famous Europa Hotel, the four-star Stormont Hotel and Northern Ireland's largest hotel, The Grand Central Hotel.

It also owns the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, Ballygally Castle, the Everglades Hotel and has a 50% share in Dublin’s five-star Merrion Hotel.

For information on Hastings Hotels romance packages and gift cards go to www.hastingshotels.com. Until February 5th all Valentine’s Gift card orders will include an exclusive Hastings Hotels Love Duck and a luxury presentation box.
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