*Brid and John O’Meara, co-owners at Lahinch Coast Hotel. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Even a global pandemic couldn’t deter the positive effect of Lahinch hosting The Irish Open twelve months ago with two hoteliers from the coastal spot looking at the bright side having reopened their doors last Monday.
Over the course of their first weekend back in action, Lahinch Coast Hotel had an engagement, wedding and honeymoon. Co-owners John and Brid O’Meara are grateful to have reopened and stress the benefit of being able to cater for guests in the month of July in their limited tourist season.
Understandably from a business perspective the forced closures of hotels was an upsetting period for those involved in the industry but as John outlined they managed to experience benefits on a personal level. “We got to spend so much time together in fantastic weather. I haven’t had a June Bank Holiday off since I was about 18. We’ve two young children so it was a very good reboot”. Brid agreed that it had its merits, “We did picnics in the back garden, welly throwing competitions, our little girl was doing dancing on zoom. We’ve two children, Kayleigh who is nine and Paddy is six, they were at a nice age where they were quite happy with us being at home. The weather made all the difference for us, there was a silver lining for a few weeks of it for sure”.
Their location in the centre of Lahinch has always been a strength and is one in which John highlighted has become evident as individuals plan their staycations. “We’re very lucky with our location being by the sea, that’s where people have been craving while they have been in lockdown. The bookings have been strong, our occupancy for July and August isn’t at 100 percent but it is very strong especially in comparison a lot of places that would be in the Midlands that are struggling to get bookings at the moment”.
They count their fortune that a multitude of demographics are enticed to stay at The Lahinch Coast Hotel. “We’re very lucky that most of our market is for domestic anyway and we’re not very reliant on any one segment of the market,” Mallow native John commented. 80 percent of their market in 2019 was domestic.
Golf tour operators have postponed their stays but Brid is hopeful the majority will return next year. The Irish Open last year marked the first instance since the husband and wife took charge of the Hotel that they recorded full occupancy. They disagreed that COVID-19 could undo the promotional work brought to North-West Clare from the European Tour event.
“We’re still in a better place as a result of Lahinch Golf Club hosting The Irish Open last year, it put Lahinch on the map and there was a huge amount of media coverage and a lot of that was our domestic market. We’re still getting mentions of the exposure it had on RTÉ, it is all very positive, there was an awful lot done to Lahinch at the time so we’re still reaping those benefits, the town is still looking great with the flowers and paving, the investment in the area is still there for tourists to enjoy,” Brid stated.
In March of last year, a considerable investment in The Lahinch Coast Hotel was completed. It was adding to the momentum in their sails following stints in charge of The Sheen Falls, Moy House and the Red Cliff Lodge. A planned refurbishment of some of their 144 bedrooms has been put on hold. “July and August last year would have been mid-nineties at least with 100 percent occupancy for most dates. This year it is hard to know but it would have been close to 100 percent for July and August,” John calculated.
A collaborative approach between the hotel and local businesses is part of the philosophy the O’Mearas feel underpin the success of The Coast Hotel. They have added a click and collect service where guests can comfortably eat their meals in the stylish kitchenette in the bedrooms but still encourage them to dine out at local restaurants. “We need people to come and enjoy the area, we need everything to be open and running so all the boxes are ticked for people to enjoy their stay, the sunshine would be a bonus but there is nothing any of us can do about that,” Brid detailed. John added, “A lot of businesses are struggling at the moment, we’re trying to support people as much as we can by bringing as many people into the area as we can in a safe environment”.
RTÉ drama Smother which is being filmed in Lahinch is currently on hold with production teams expected to return in September. They are hopeful it will lead to further positive promotion of the area but admitted they will not be making any cameo appearances and instead will be watching from afar.