THERE'S A bright new future ahead for Sligo's Clarion Hotel.
That's according to Sligoman Pat McCann, CEO of the Dalata group which has just taken over management of the hotel.
"It's very good news for the Clarion," said Pat. "We have a record of turning around properties that have got into difficulty.
"We see a very bright future for the hotel. It's good for all the people who work here because all the jobs are secure and safe.
"And as we build the business, there is always room for increased employment."
The Dalata Hotel Group has been appointed to manage the property by a receiver on behalf of banks KBC and NAMA.
Pat added: "There is this myth when a hotel is in NAMA or receivership that they dictate pricing. That is not the case.
"We are fully responsible for the entire running of the hotel. About two or three months in-house, we will meet with the receiver and the banks and outline our plans for the way forward."
He acknowledged Dalata will be carrying out a full review of all costs.
But he said that "does not mean there will be reductions in the number of people. It will mean better use of existing resources.
"The banks appoints a receiver. The receiver appoints us to manage it and it's then up to us to build the value."
About 120 people, made up of full and part-time staff work at the Clarion, which went into receivership last November. It has 162 rooms, 80 of which are suites.
With 29 hotels, 4,900 rooms and about 3,000 employees, McCann described Dalata as "the largest hotel group in Ireland by a mile".
Dalata's chief financial officer is Sean McKeon, a native of Conway's Cross, Gleann, and a former student of Summerhill College.
He trained as an accountant with Gilroy Gannon in Sligo.
Dalata is made up of two strands – the 12 mid-scale brand Maldron Hotels and 17 hotels that operate under their own name.
Twelve of these 17 are in receivership, including the Diamond Coast Hotel in Enniscrone.
"It is performing extremely well and employment has increased there since we took it over in 2009," Pat said.
A native of Bunninadden, Pat began his hotel career at 16 while a student at Colaiste Mhuire in Ballymote.
"I started work in the Yeats Country Hotel in Rosses Point, when it had only 23 bedrooms. I was the hall porter."
After sitting his Leaving Certificate, Ryan Hotels had taken over the Yeats Country.
Pat was moved onto a management programme. After 20 years with the Ryan group, he joined Jury's in 1989.
From 1998 to 2006, he was chief executive of the Jury's Doyle group.
He expected to retire but in 2007 was approached by a group of private investors to form Dalata.
Pat said: "We bought 11 leasehold properties from developer Paddy Kelly. Then we started taking on management contracts. That took us to our current level of 29 hotels."
Pat declined to say if the Clarion in Sligo will eventually be sold.
But, he added: "Normally in the receivership process, it will be incumbent on the receiver to realise the value of the asset."