Ask the Manager: Brian Bowler – The Montenotte Hotel, Cork

Biography – My career in hospitality began in 1997 when I was taken on as a Trainee Manager in the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney. The Gleneagle supported me on a CERT Trainee Manager Programme which over the course of four years saw me working in every department in the hotel. On graduating from the programme, I joined the Great Southern Hotel Group where I worked for three years across their Killarney and Shannon Airport properties.  

In 2003 I joined Choice Hotels Group where I worked for ten years in Limerick and Cork. From 2010 I was Deputy General manager at Carton House Hotel, Co. Kildare. 

My career then went full circle when I re-joined the Gleneagle Group as the General Manager of The Brehon in Killarney in 2013. In 2017, I took up the role of General Manager at The Montenotte Hotel.  

I have also recently been appointed to President of the Irish Hospitality Institute and am looking forward to leading the next generation of hospitality professionals as we continue to rebuild the sector. 

How are bookings going, do you think it will be a strong summer? 

Business has been encouraging in that once the reopening date was announced we saw a strong surge in bookings particularly for June and July. We are seeing that same pent-up demand that we saw this time last year. People really want to get away and treat themselves with a bit of luxury and relaxation. The Bellevue Spa is very busy and the beautiful Panorama Terrace is very much in demand.

I am cautiously optimistic about August as there is plenty of availability. It is proving to be an exciting summer season for us. However, there is real concern about business levels from September onwards as we will not see the beginning of a full recovery of our sector until at least March of next year. 

What have you been doing during the lockdown?

We remained open for essential workers during the lockdown, we also provided a Click and Collect Afternoon Tea offering. In February we opened our Vintage Van Café at the front of the hotel. In remaining open it allowed us to keep more of our team working and gave us a greater momentum as we approached reopening.  

It also provided us with a revenue stream that otherwise we would not have had. We are fortunate that we have a great selection of Self-Catering Apartments on site here. They proved to be particularly popular during the lockdowns for essential workers, longer-term guests and those corporate clients relocating to Cork city. We were very proud to win two awards thus far this year – Cork Hotel of the Year by the Cork Business Association and Boutique Hotel of the Year by the Irish Hotel Awards. 

Does The Montenotte have outdoor dining? 

Yes, we do, our Panorama Bistro has the most fabulous Terrace with breath-taking views of our manicured gardens, the city, the River Lee and beyond. We are excited for the opening of the rooftop bar and terrace, The Glasshouse our rooftop bar and terrace will open by August 1. It will add a significant amount of seated outdoor space for our guests to enjoy. 

What plans have you for the summer to enhance guests experience? 

Prior to reopening we were busy creating new Spa packages such as our Summer Renew offer. We have some exciting accommodation packages, including our new Sunset Breakaway Package incorporating “The Glasshouse”.  

The Health Club has been refurbished and is a great space to spend some time. Guests can take a walk through our gardens or maybe a movie in our private cinema. We have exciting new menus and a great cocktail offering in our Panorama Bistro. The opening of The Glasshouse will be a game changer in terms of a bar experience in Cork. 

Art in The Montenotte

The Montenotte Hotel has a quirky and unusual art collection, who chooses the pieces? 

The beautiful art pieces belong to the hotel and were chosen by the owners Frankie and Josephine Whelehan. They have a great eye for detail in art and interior design.  

The hotel also hosts an ongoing Artists in Residence programme which has been running since 2018. It is in association with Ken Buckley from The Gallery Kinsale. Every six months we feature a new artist. The artist showcases up to ten pieces of art in the hotel lobby.  Some of which have been specially created for The Montenotte exhibition.  

It really adds to the ambience of the lobby and it’s always interesting when your artwork is changing every six months. We have just completed an exhibition by Cork artist Jennifer McAuliffe entitled ‘The Precious Hours’ and our next artist in residence will feature a collection of works from Peter Dee. 

We also hold an annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition which we run in association with The Kildare Gallery. More than 30 Sculptures adorn the gardens for four weeks every year. We are looking forward to launching this year’s exhibition towards the end of August. 

Who looks after the gardens at the hotel? 

We have a team of three gardeners led by our Head Gardener Miguel. They do a great job in developing and maintaining the gardens and grounds at the hotel all year round. They have created such a tranquil oasis overlooking the city, our guests just love it especially on a sunny day. The gardens are maturing nicely from our formal garden to the Wildflower Meadow and Woodland walk and are a pleasure to explore.

Where do your guests come from mainly?

Right now, they are 100% Irish but in normal times we would have a good mix of domestic and international guests.  Summertime is predominantly leisure guests. Ordinarily we would be very busy with corporate travellers’ mid-week from September onwards, we hope to see some recovery in this market segment in the coming months. We look forward to welcoming international guests back to the hotel both corporate and leisure. 

Have you any special offers to entice visitors back to your hotel? 

We have a number of packages available at the moment for anyone looking for a relaxing break away. Our luxury Spa Break is proving very popular and perfect if you want a bit of pampering.

We also have a selection of one or two night packages to choose from but my favourite would be the Ultimate Luxury Getaway. It is a three night stay including Prosecco, two evening meals in our Panorama Bistro, Spa treatments, Personal Training session. It also includes a movie in our private cinema, and a Cocktail Making Class. To make a reservation or to find out more, please visit our website www.TheMontenotteHotel.com.

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