New Irish hotel collection promises 'holidays with a story' to 1.8 million guests
Original Irish Hotels claims to be the "largest collection of privately-owned hotels" in Ireland
Ireland has a new hospitality brand - a collection of 60 independently-owned hotels promising guests "holidays with a story".
Original Irish Hotels, officially launched today by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D, aims to set itself apart by focusing on its members' independence, hospitality, quality Irish food and rich localities.
"People want that authentic experience," Roisín Wallace, the group's Director of Operations and Marketing, told Independent.ie Travel.
"This is not a chain, where you will get the same experience everywhere. They are all independent, individually owned, authentic experiences."
"No two stays will ever feel the same."
The new brand replaces two previous collections, Manor House Hotels and Irish Country Hotels, with members a mix of three and four-star hotels ranging from historic castles like Ballynahinch (above, top) to country house hotels, parkland resorts and urban boltholes like Dublin's Brooks Hotel.
The 60-strong collection, described as the largest group of private-owned hotels in the country, has a collective annual turnover of some €266 million.
Together, Original Irish Hotels members employ 6,180 staff in Ireland, hosting some 1.8 million guest stays between them a year, Wallace says.
Working as a group provides a central point of contact for guests, who can avail of reservations, special offers and gift cards on originalirishhotels.com.
It also offers marketing muscle in a bullish hospitality climate where room rates and investments are on the rise - from splashy, multi-million euro refurbs like Adare Manor and Dromoland Castle to the rapid expansion of groups like Dalata.
Family hotels will also be acutely aware of the arrival of Center Parcs, of course - set to open a €233 million 'Longford Forest' resort next year.
Conscious of this landscape, and competition from the likes of Ireland's Blue Book, Hidden Ireland and Select Hotels Ireland, the group's 60 members have invested around €70 million between them over the past 24 months.
What else makes Original Irish Hotels stand out from the crowd?
First off, Wallace says, members are visited annually by 'mystery shoppers' that vet the experience, standards and authenticity they offer guests.
As well as being owner-run and independent, the group is also doubling down on a colourful range of "unforgettable Irish experiences".
"These are holidays with a story, experiences made different by being hosted by families and their teams who are full of character," adds Mary Fitzgerald of Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel & Spa in Co. Limerick, the group's chairperson.
Packages highlight everything from boat trips and seafood lunches on a day out from Delphi Lodge (pictured above), for example, to tours of the Ballycotton Lighthouse offered by the Garryvoe or Bayview Hotels in East Cork.
You can see a selection of the group's hotel deals here.
Original Irish Hotels also pulls a keen focus on Irish food provenance, from fresh lobsters at Casey's of Baltimore (pictured above), to Ireland's first certified organic restaurant - The Strawberry Tree at BrookLodge in Co. Wicklow.
"All of the research from Fáilte Ireland suggests that our people are our No.1 assets," Roisín Wallace concludes.
"That's what people go away talking about. The warmth, the friendliness, the authenticity. These hotels are very much at the heart of their locales."