The new owners of the Quality Hotel in Youghal are preparing to welcome Ukrainian refugees as the popular family hotel is being transformed into a ‘care centre’.
And although no further holiday bookings are currently being taken, the new owners insist they want to retain the 3-star hotel as a tourist and community attraction.
The transfer of ownership was completed on Monday, and hotel staff and guests have been notified of the change.
Workers are supposed to have been assured of job security. The new center’s chief operating officer, Paul Walsh, declined to identify the new owners because “it is right and dignified that our staff receive the details first,” he said.
He was also reluctant to divulge detailed information at this time, but confirmed the hotel was no longer taking bookings.
Functions and pre-booked accommodations have been canceled and although no current residents will be evicted, Mr Walsh said ‘we are moving to a model of care’.
The head of operations said he did not yet know how many Ukrainian refugees would be taken in, when they would arrive or how long each group would stay. The center would, however, provide “care support”.
Walsh declined to say which government body, if any, was coordinating the process. “We want to make sure the staff are taken care of first,” he repeated.
He said alcohol will not be available at the centre, but the tourist side of it will be used for locals, with “other drink and food offerings” available.
“It’s not hospitality on the bedroom side, but we realize that’s an important part of Youghal tourism and we’ll drive that side of things – through public access, to the use of the toilets, to the parking lot, etc.”, he underlined.
“As we move forward, it will be very good for the city.”
The hotel’s 20-meter Club Vitae pool, spa and gym will remain open as a members-only facility.
Located approximately 8 km from the town of Youghal, overlooking Redbarn Beach, the hotel has 25 guest rooms, 48 two-bedroom apartments and holiday homes sleeping up to seven people.
The move follows the decision of the smaller Old Imperial hotel in downtown Youghal to also cancel bookings, at least until July, as it is also focused on accommodating Ukrainian refugees.
The closure of two of the city’s three hotels to tourists has raised concerns that Youghal will struggle to meet accommodation demands this summer.
The situation is accentuated by the return of Ironman Cork in mid-August where up to 50,000 visitors are expected for what is a three-day triathlon festival.
The Old Imperial is currently home to 43 Ukrainians, but is still a bar and restaurant and has no plans to cancel functions, according to co-owner Dan Leahy.
His hotel has canceled 30 Ironman bookings despite claiming to have “helped anyone who wanted to find alternative accommodation locally – and most did”.
Mr Walsh, meanwhile, said his center will “meet with Ironman staff and do everything in their power to help”.
County Cork local councilor Mary Linehan-Foley said ‘even without a refugee situation, Youghal tends to run out of beds at times’.
She thinks “a solution will emerge” but adds “to be honest, talking about children and women fleeing war puts things like tourism in perspective”.