*Dromoland Castle. 

THE luxurious five star Dromoland Castle is heading towards a projected record year for the business in 2023.

That is according to long serving General Manager at the Co Clare castle hotel, Mark Nolan who was commenting on new consolidated accounts showing that pre-tax profits at the hotel business last year increased by 175pc to €2.45m.

This followed revenues at Dromoland Castle Holdings Ltd increasing by €15.78m or 130pc from €12.16m to a record €27.94m.

The accounts cover the performance of the Dromoland Castle – a favourite of Hollywood star John Travolta on his visits here – and its sister hotel, the three star The Inn at Dromoland.

In an interview on Monday, Mr Nolan said, “We never felt that we would recover so quickly. When you were looking into the abyss in 2020, we were thinking ‘when will we ever get our business back?’ but it happened”.

Mr Nolan said that the shareholders of the hotel firm kept investing in the product during Covid-19 “which has stood to us and allowed us to up the ante in terms of delivery of service and pricing”.

Occupancy at the hotel this year is up 2 percent to 62 percent across the year and Chief Financial Officer, Joe Hughes is projecting a 6 percent increase in revenues this year on last year.

Mr Nolan said that the US remains “huge” for the hotel with US guests accounting for over two thirds of guests this year.

Mr Nolan said however that input costs for the business are gone “bananas”. He said that the hotel property’s rates bill to Clare County Council is to increase by 70 percent to €390,000 for 2024.

Mr Nolan said, “It is a lot of money when you get nothing for it. It is a tax not a service”.

He added, “It is very tough to take straight on the nose. The criteria is purely based on turnover so you are a victim of your own success to a certain extent where costs are eating a fair bit into that increased turnover”.

A breakdown of revenues show that accommodation income increased almost three fold from €5.8m to €15.1m while ‘food and drink’ revenues more than doubled from €4.67m to €10.48m.

Golf, leisure, shop and spa revenues increased from €1.5m to €2.25m. The firm also benefited from Government Covid-19 supports of €2m last year compared to €5.99m in 2021.

The group’s operating profit of €2.8m was “above expectations” according to directors as interest charges of €346,994 reduced profits to a pre-tax profit of €2.45m.

The pre-tax profit of €2.45m also takes account of non-cash depreciation costs of €2.56m.

Numbers employed increased from 315 to 446 as staff costs increased from €8.24m to €12.39m.

Mr Hughes also confirmed that the receiver to the Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s 5 percent share of the business has sold the shares to existing shareholders and family members of existing shareholders.

Mr Hughes said that the 8,216 shares were sold at €231 per share resulting in €1.89m being realised by the receiver for the shareholding.

Mr Hughes said that the sale of the shares “gives great certainty to the company in terms of future direction and you don’t have a block of five percent of the shares that are out there being hawked around”.

Mr Hughes said, “It is five percent that could have gone to an unfriendly person but it is five percent that has gone to friendly investors and we have absolutely certainty in terms of the vision going forward for the company.”

Gavin O’Reilly formerly served as a chairman of the company and Mr Hughes said that “the O’Reillys were pretty much there from the start and we are grateful to them for the support they have given the company down through the years”.

Mr Nolan has been GM at Dromoland since 1989 and asked on his future plans, he remarked, “It is a bit like Alcatraz – I am planning my escape.

He said, “Nothing too dramatic. I will wind down as active GM on a day to day basis at the end of next year but I will remain on as MD of the company for another three years after that – but just try to take a slighter easier lifestyle. I may not be clearing your plates at breakfast”.

At the end of last December, shareholder funds stood at €23.15m that included accumulated profits of €7.18m. Cash funds totalled €6.46m.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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