THE Clonakilty Park Hotel is currently undergoing a major investment in the property which was purpose-built as a hotel, and opened on the edge of the town in July 1999.
The hotel, previously known as the Quality Hotel, and branded one of the Choice Hotels of Ireland, is now going solo and being run as an independent hotel.
Owned by two prominent local businessmen, the hotel is in the process of a major upgrade which will see if aiming to achieve four-star status within a year.
‘We were part of the Quality brand for 20 years and we decided we needed to start a new chapter,’ Sligo man David Henry, who has been working here since the hotel’s first year, told The Southern Star.
‘We have a substantial amount invested now, but we intend to continue investing in the hotel for the next three to four years,’ said David.
While the hotel unveiled its new branding last September, it is only in recent months that it has completed the initial phase of the major upgrading.
‘We decided it was time to break away from the brand and look to see where we might improve,’ explained David. ‘We have a lot of plans for the future.’
The renovations started last April (2018) and this year the entrance lobby and reception were completed, along with the restaurant and bar areas, which have adopted a much more sophisticated style.
The former restaurant and bar has been rebranded Twist Bar and Bistro. ‘It’s trendy but casual dining. We’ve changed the menus and the wine list. It’s in keeping with our friendly service and ‘can do’ attitude, but we also have a new dining area – the Conservatory Restaurant – that’s evenings-only, and for over 12s.’
Later this year, and going into 2020, renovation work will begin on the 96 bedrooms, with a predicted spend of €6,000-€8,000 per room.
‘Realistically, this will take two to three years to roll out,’ said David. The hotel has 22 bedroom suites and six three-bedroom holidays homes which are also due for upgrading.
Of course, the complex also includes the Clonakilty Park Cinema and the Clonakilty Park Adventure Centre. ‘So we have a lot of businesses going on here, which require a lot of investment,’ David added. ‘We are a big employer for the local market, with 80 full-time and 60
part-time positions.’ He explained how many of their customers are from the Irish home holiday market and they shop locally, so they provide a lot of additional business in the town too. ‘Most of our staff live locally too, so they are also adding to the local economy.’
The Clonakilty Park has managed to ensure, through astute marketing, that it has a year-round clientele, unlike some other hotels in seasonal areas, which tend to find the wintertime tough to negotiate.
‘We have a lot of custom during the winter school holidays from families and also in the autumn, and later in the winter we have a lot of active retired and seniors groups touring,’ said sales and marketing manager Irene O’Callaghan. ‘We also get a lot of overflow from local weddings hotels and it’s also a destination holiday for couples.’
Both Irene and David agree that the number of new attractions in Clonakilty have been great for the hotel – the Clonakilty Distillery tour and restaurant, the upcoming Clonakilty Blackpudding visitor centre and all the new festivals in recent years. ‘There are also the gigs in De Barra’s, the technology park and the Model Railway Village.’
The hotel has also bought into the progressive idea of Clonakilty having gained the title of being an autism-friendly town, and they have quiet areas and a ‘sensory box’, along with the fact that all the staff have been trained as part of the scheme.
‘We also have a map on our website so families can see the layout of the hotel and see where the quiet areas area, and where everything is located,’ added Irene.
‘On the first Saturday of every month, we also have a special showing in the cinema, and we were amazed to find we have 20 or 30 people availing of that every time.
‘The lights are up and the sound is down and the kids can make noise without the fear of upsetting anyone. We were pleasantly surprised at how badly needed it was.’
Irene says the plan is to remain competitive, while also giving good value for money to their guests.
‘We want to treat everyone with dignity because it’s something that is easy to pass on – it’s not difficult to be nice.’
‘Our overall aim is to make the business stronger and safeguard it for at least the next 20 years,’ added David.