BY JACKIE KEOGH
THE sale of the Maritime Hotel by Nama and the redevelopment of the Bantry Bay Hotel and the Westlodge Hotel could signal a renewed period of growth for Bantry.
Fionnbar Walsh, the operations manager at the four star Maritime Hotel, said he expects there will be ‘interest’ in the sale of the 110 bedroom hotel, which has just come on the market with an asking price of €1.5m.
He also said he was delighted to see both The Westlodge Hotel – which was bought by a group of local businessmen in July – and the Bantry Bay Hotel, which was reopened last week by another local entrepreneur, ‘moving in the direction of redevelopment.’
Mr Walsh said: ‘It was a shock to drive into Wolfe Tone Square and see probably the most iconic building – the Bantry Bay Hotel – closed. Its regeneration and the upgrading of the Westlodge Hotel will have a positive impact on Bantry.’
He said: ‘We need more quality bed stock and the Westlodge is gearing towards that and having more quality product will bring more tourism.’
Commenting on The Maritime’s occupancy rate, which was 62% in 2014, Mr Walsh said: ‘It is very strong for a rural hotel.’
The hotel was voted National Eco Restaurant of the year 2015 and its ‘Ocean Restaurant’ won the Green Hospitality Restaurant of the Year award three years in a row.
The occupancy levels, the awards, and the hotel’s popularity as a venue for social functions, festivals and weddings are all indicators that it is ‘trading well and successfully’, said Mr Walsh.
He attributes that to the team – the hotel staff – and the appeal of the area. ‘We are on the Wild Atlantic Way and that has also had a very positive effect on us,’ he added.
A local property development company, Murnane and O’Shea, built the Maritime Hotel, but the hotel went into Nama and has been run by the Gleneagle Hotel Group ever since it opened in 2006.
The Gleneagle Group is run by the O’Donoghue family from Killarney and also includes The Gleneagle Hotel, The Brehon, The Travel Inn and the INEC.
Mr Walsh said the sale of the hotel will include an ongoing agreement for the hotel to be run by the Gleneagle Hotel Group and he explained that the sale was brought about by the fact that Nama has to offload its property portfolio before the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, the first phase of the redevelopment of the 97-bedroom Westlodge Hotel, which involves the refurbishment of the first 20 bedrooms, has commenced and there are plans to refurbish another 40 rooms before St Patrick’s Day.
Pat Gill, the general manager of the Westlodge Hotel, said: ‘After a couple of really dark years during which all hotel operations were under severe pressure, the lift in the economy is evident here in Bantry.
‘There is a general uplift in consumer confidence too, and the Wild Atlantic Way has been very beneficial in bringing people to West Cork,’ he added. The reopening of the Bantry Bay Hotel last week has also been welcomed as a positive development that will help to revitalise the town centre.