Can I have a short biography of your career?
In 2017, I became the General Manager of the five-star Castlemartyr Resort in East Cork. I am originally from Cork City and trained with Fitzpatricks’ Hotels at the beginning of my career in 1997. Previous to my role here, I spent three years as General Manager at Fota Island Resort in Cork.
I have also worked for the Charleville Park Hotel, Oriel House Hotel, the Maryborough Hotel in Cork and the Clarion Hotel in Limerick.
Ask the Manager – Brendan Comerford, Castlemartyr Resort, Cork
Castlemartyr Resort changed hands during 2021, who are the new owners?
The owners of the Sheen Falls Lodge, near Kenmare, in Co Kerry, purchased Castlemartyr Resort last July. Singapore-based Dr. Stanley Quek and Mr. Peng Loh acquired the resort, to add to an Irish portfolio that also includes the Trinity Townhouse Hotel in Dublin city centre.
What investment has been made since the change of ownership?
There is a major investment programme is planned to refurbish the common areas, pathways, residences, bedrooms, golf course and grounds starting with the Capel Suite. In addition, a 150-seater restaurant and bar – Canopy Restaurant and Bar, is due to open in the next few weeks.
The Manor House has an investment programme to elevate its elegant interiors with contemporary comforts and a fine dining restaurant during 2022.
How is business at the moment?
Business has been exceptional, with a huge pentu-up demand from the domestic market and we are now seeing our international guests starting to travel. There has been a surge in the events market which is very buoyant at the moment. Guests can now have any number of guests attend their special events, weddings, family get-togethers. It is great to welcome all guests, new and repeat through our doors to enjoy Castlemartyr Resort all year round.
How have you coped with staff shortages, if you had any?
Recruitment has been challenging for the hospitality sector in general, but we have a robust recruitment drive in place. We are recruiting locally, nationally, and now internationally with the help of our sister properties and support of the new owners. I am very proud to say that staff retention is high The key focus of the resort is a culture of continued learning and development of the team onsite.
Would you consider your hotel to be family friendly and do you welcome pets?
Castlemartyr is a venue for all markets; leisure, corporate, special events but we do pride ourselves in having a very strong client base that are families. We see families enjoy the residences and hotel facilities during holidays breaks such as midterms, Easter etc. We are very grateful to the families that visit us every year.
There is so much to do around the Cork region, so families use the resort as their holiday base. Pet friendly is a not a new phenomenon to us; we have had a number of Pet Friendly Hotel awards. We understand that your furry friend is a key member of the family too.
Where do your guests come from mainly?
Currently 75% of our guests are domestic; with south county Dublin, Wicklow and greater Munster being our main visitors. A very strong trend we are seeing is the awakening of travel for the international visitor. We are really looking forward to welcoming back our guests from North America, UK, Canada, and Europe this year.
Are there any signs of business meetings and conferences returning?
Corporate meetings are starting to re-establish themselves, although a lot of businesses are still working remotely. We are receiving inquiries for ‘team events’ / ‘strategy away days’, and larger conferences where social distancing can be achieved.
Conference enquiries for Castlemartyr for 2023 are steady as travel events for incentive trips will be an integral part of the business strategies to re-engage employees in 2022. The Resort has geared up to facilitate hybrid conferences, with a blend of live and virtual events.
The hotel has already received enquiries from employer’s keen to foster engagement and collaboration among staff in a gradual return to meetings and conferencing. The feedback we are getting from businesses is that building relationships is more important now than ever before. ‘Zoom fatigue’ has set in and people need interaction.
Are the lodges and cottages managed by the resort too?
Yes, and our residences are performing extremely well in 2022. We would have different markets that use the residences. Families tend to stay with us for five to seven-night breaks. We also would have some long-term corporate lets on site. Once the season starts, we then will see golfers and family gatherings book into these residences. Guests staying in the residences have full access to the resort facilities.
Where do you recommend guests to see when they come to stay in East Cork?
We like to see ourselves as being part of the full ‘Cork’ region experience, as we are only located 30 minutes from Cork City. And it is known for its English Market, foodie walking tours, craft beer distilleries, boutique shopping and amazing nightlife and theatres.
On our doorstep we have activities such as golf. There are numerous beaches, cliff hikes, sea swimming, whale watching, and surfing all located near us. As a lot of experiences are outdoors they bring guests into the ‘natural’ countryside setting which Cork is known for.
For families there is Fota Island Park, Leahy’s Open Farm and also other trails and greenways. Some of the more known famous experiences near us are; Spike Island, Cork Harbour Tours, Jameson Distillery, and Ballycotton sea adventures.
Have you any special offers to entice visitors to your hotel?
We pride ourselves in having wellness offers to include the spa, leisure facilities and taking in the surrounding beaches. Then we have golf and are currently refurbishing several bunkers while adding a new driving range so Stay and Play offers are extensive at the Resort.
For the foodie there are gourmet getaways and afternoon tea experiences – we cater for couples, families, friends and family gatherings, mid-week breaks and with Easter approaching this will be a very popular holiday time, see here.