Friday 28 November 2014

It's GR8! Obama and Putin are coming to my hotel

Next June the world's leaders will line up to check into the five-star Lough Erne Resort hotel for the G8 summit.

As Barack Obama and David Cameron are requesting their morning papers and ordering Ulster fries, and Vladimir Putin makes a beeline for the gym, they'll all have been welcomed in the foyer by general manager, Ferghal Purcell.

But who is the man who'll be entertaining the world's elite? The host with the most impressive guest book in Ireland's hospitality history?

Purcell, born in Tuam, Co Galway, took the helm of the 120-room Co Fermanagh hotel in November last year.

In May 2011, the luxury island resort – which opened in 2007 – was put into administration, with former owner Jim Tracey owing Bank of Scotland £25m (€31m).

When acknowledging Purcell's recent one-year anniversary, the hotel's staff warmly thanked their "lovely general manager" for "getting us through what was a challenging year".

The hotel might not be out of the woods yet, but the buzz generated by the G8 booking, the upbeat sentiments of employees and the rave reviews by visitors suggests Purcell's appointment may have marked a turning point for the plush golfing resort. It's not his first brush with hosting a prestigious event.

During his 30 years in the hotel industry he also worked in South Africa where he looked after President Nelson Mandela during the first talks towards reconciliation in South Africa.

"My career high was certainly hosting President Mandela and his cabinet during the Groote Schuur talks in South Africa," he says.

His career low came more recently when he was forced to give up his own family-run hotel, Aherlow House in Co Tipperary, which he'd managed along with his wife, Helen, since 2002.

Despite frequent positive reviews, the three-star, 29-bedroom property, like so many small businesses, fell prey to the recession and Purcell was forced to step away from his dream last year.

Aherlow House is now managed by Atlantic Hospitality Services (AHS), a company that provides asset management services to owners, banks and receivers.

Purcell says: "Regretfully we had to leave our lovely family business, but the nature of the business and the economic climate just didn't allow us to survive or to continue.

"But the experience has made me a much better hotelier and in this business you always have to be looking forward."

She says: "He's a very strong driving force, full of energy and once he gets his teeth into a project he's very committed.

"I'd say he actually works better under pressure. He's someone who wants everything done yesterday, he's meticulous and expects high standards, but he's always the first to give a pat on the back."

The father of three grown-up sons, Duncan, Daelyn and Nicky, is a keen golfer – though whether he gets time to tee up alongside President Obama will remain to be seen – and he also enjoys hill walking.

Indo Review

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