Celebrity hotelier shows beleaguered industry the way with latest project
FAMED TV hotelier John Brennan believes his profession will have to become more inventive to survive the recession -- but the downturn has not stopped his own ambitious expansion plans.
Along with wife Gwen, the hotelier, best known for his role in the RTE TV series At Your Service, purchased Kerry's Dromquinna Manor in April this year.
Also with his brother Francis, who runs the Park in Kenmare, he has helped to transform hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses across the country thanks to the series.
"I would have had a hotel which would not be viable if changes were not made," explained the entrepreneur. "So I've had to look at this through different glasses."
The Dubliner believes we have "too many" hotels in Ireland, which in themselves are "wonderful products" but "very generic".
"They are devoid of any creativity and appeal to a mass market that is no longer there. The imagination of owners needs to come more into play.
"Hotels over the boom years where designed and created by people who didn't work in the industry and now there is a clatter of three- and four-star uninteresting properties."
John plans to use the 38-acre Dromquinna Manor site, which includes a kilometre of shoreline, a marina, a full restaurant and novelty treehouse, as an upmarket camping resort known as "glamping" (glamorous camping, get it?), and to cater for recreational vehicles.
It is understood that €2m was paid for the site and that another €1m is expected to be sunk into revamping and developing facilities.
Planning permission for 95 units, 35 safari tents and 60 spaces for recreational vehicles is being sought. The project will create between 25 to 30 jobs over the next year.
John points out that some hotel properties need to "re-invent themselves as different and selling the guest experience. It is a safer place to be in the long-term, which could simply mean survival."