Monday 11 December 2017

A hotel by the lakes weathers economic storm

Niall Huggard: 'There were so many Canadians coming that I thought they must be giving away free flights.'
Niall Huggard: 'There were so many Canadians coming that I thought they must be giving away free flights.'
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Niall Huggard and his family have been running the Lake Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry, since 1940. The four-star hotel, which is on the shore of Lough Leane, is well positioned to benefit from the town's thriving tourist trade.

Like many working on the ground in Killarney tourism, Mr Huggard had some tough years during the recession. However, he saw a pick-up in guest numbers last year - which he largely puts down to The Gathering. This uplift has continued.

"We said we'd be very happy if this year is as good as last year was - and it is," said Mr Huggard. "We've noticed a big jump in Canadian visitors. The Canadian market wasn't really a market ten years ago. Flights into Shannon Airport from Canada have helped - as have the flights from St John's in Newfoundland to Dublin Airport. At one stage this year, there were so many Canadians coming to the hotel that I said they must be giving away free flights from Canada."

The Canadians are drawn to Ireland because many have Irish ancestors, said Mr Huggard.

There are also more tourists coming to the hotel from Switzerland, Spain and Italy. "The Swiss have a good economy," said Mr Huggard. "More Spanish and Italians are coming over because their children are learning English here."

Activities have become a big draw for tourists in recent years. "The recession woke a lot of people up to their health," said Mr Huggard. "People are coming to Killarney to cycle, run, walk and go boating."

Mr Huggard is glad to see the back of the recession.

"2008 and 2009 were desperate years," he said. "We were up against developers who were offering cut-price hotel rooms and who were selling hotels. It's very hard for a family business to survive that."

Although Mr Huggard has seen a jump in the number of overseas tourists coming to the hotel, local business is more muted.

"A lot of our local guests love staying with us - but they don't stay as long," he said. "Between the property tax and other charges, Irish people simply don't the money they used to have."

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