This week on our ‘Ask the Manager’ series Joan interviewed Gerard Moore from Sligo Park Hotel. He talks about the anxiety and excitement of re-opening as well as what he’s been up to during lockdown.
How did you feel when you heard the news that the hotel could reopen?
Reopening this month has brought levels of excitement, anxiety and relief. We are fortunate to be on the Wild Atlantic Way. Last summer, we had people visiting from all over Ireland, including from counties such as Kerry, Cork and Limerick. These are people that don’t normally travel to Co. Sligo and they really enjoyed their time here.
So hopefully word of mouth will spread and help us to continue building up local tourism. The next six months will be critical, but we need to look at the positives here in Sligo, focus on staying safe and keep striving for the best. I’ve been the general manager for 20 years and reopening this year has been a great moment.
What have you been doing during the lockdown?
Spending time with my family. Susan (from Tourlestrane originally) and I (originally from Dublin) have three children: Paul who is currently doing his leaving cert in Summerhill College in Sligo, Sinead who is in Junior Cert year and Mark who is in 5th class. Exploring the great outdoors – walking and cycling. Enjoying the great county of Sligo
How will Sligo Park cope with outdoor dining?
We’re lucky to have a nice bar terrace and will initially cater for residents only in June, while being able to cater for guests both indoors and outdoors. We recently completed a major €5 million investment to renovate the entire hotel – everything from the bedrooms, the front lobby to the leisure centre, car park and ballrooms – over the last four years. That was a huge task and such a reward to see the final outcome.
How are bookings going, do you think it will be a strong summer?
Since the Government announcement made in the last week in April bookings have been strong. I feel we are fortunate to be on the Wild Atlantic Way and in a town. Sligo county has lots to offer, from the lakes and mountains to the sea and much more besides.
You have been in the hotel business for many years and have seen a number of economic recessions, ash cloud, 9/11, a pandemic and more, which do you think was the worst?
I have been in the industry since 1987 and for sure the Covid-19 pandemic has been the most difficult situation we have faced. I’ve worked through foot-and-mouth disease and the recessions and they were very challenging times. But the speed and ferocity of Covid-19 is like nothing we have faced before. It’s the biggest challenge the hospitality industry in general has ever faced.
Do you think Sligo is beginning to appear on the tourism radar and why do you think that is?
Sligo is benefiting from the promotion of Wild Atlantic Way. There has been such great work by the various state bodies including Fáilte Ireland. I sit on a number of boards, including Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Recovery Taskforce and IBEC Regional’s Executive Committee.
The collaboration is strong with the various agencies. We are also appearing on the radar thanks to initiatives such as the Sligo Food Trial. The connection to Sligo of the great poet WB Yeats and the range of walking and adventure activities that people can enjoy.
There has also been investment in infrastructure with €112m recently spent on the improved N4 and a newly opened route called the Western Distributor road.
Coupled with that, Sligo has enjoyed a lot of recent jobs announcements thanks to work by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. Plus, Sligo Rovers in May announced a hugely ambitious €17m development of its community-based Showgrounds stadium.
The West and North-West has also taken a step closer in establishing a new university for the region. The Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) of GMIT, LYIT and IT Sligo) submitted a formal application last month to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD, for designation as a Technological University (TU). The proposed TU for the West and North-West will be one of the largest multi-campus universities across the island of Ireland, and it’s a tremendously exciting move.
Where would you recommend visitors to see in Sligo?
There are so many options including walking, hiking and surfing in the seaside villages and beaches of Rosses Point, Mullaghmore, Dumornan Strand, Aughris Head, Easkey, Enniscrone, Streegdagh and Strandhill.
There are also fabulous mountain trails and walks at Knocknarea, Benbulben, Union Wood, Slish Wood, Dooney Rock and gorgeous lakes such as Lough Gill. Glencar Waterfall in nearby Co Leitrim is worth a visit too.
Culturally, we have the fabulous Hawk’s Well Theatre, The Model which is home to the Niland Collection of artworks by Jack Butler Yeats, Lissadell House and the grave of the poet WB Yeats at Drumcliffe. There are also some amazing heritage sites such as Keash Caves.
Any special offers to entice visitors back to your hotel?
We have a great Reunite with family and friends and Make up for Lost Time at the Sligo Park Hotel. We are celebrating reopening this summer by helping people reconnect and reunite with a number of special staycation deals. We’ve all missed out on so much over the last year which is why the hotel is helping people ‘Make up for Lost Time’.
We have a number of attractive deals for those looking for an exciting and fun-filled break. Our hotel is 4-star and set in a quiet and peaceful parkland. The location is first-class – just a short drive from Sligo town and all other destinations. The hotel is the ideal location for a relaxing staycation and creating a summer to remember.
Bookings for any of the packages can be made online via the Sligo Park Hotel’s website at https://secure.sligoparkhotel.com/bookings/packages or by email at [email protected] or by calling 071 9190400.