Rooms for growth

BOTH the Parknasilla Hotel and the Cork International Airport Hotel have overseas buyers, the first in legals, the second sold to Phillips Hotels Ltd for approximately €5m. So Savills’ successful run of sales shows it’s not just the Dublin hotel market (where the 500 bed Burlington’s selling for €70 m to the private equity group Blackstone) that’s attracting investors.

Bringing up the rear, but the biggest of them all in Munster, is the Fota Resort in Cork harbour, with Colliers and Cohalan Downing, which is making €17 to 18m, and, again, the buyer seems to be from beyond these shores.

Latest into the prestige hotel-sales fray this month is Co Mayo’s five-star Ashford Castle, with 83 bedrooms and 365 acres. Savills’ agent, Tom Barrett, expects overseas interest for the trophy buy, previously sold in 2007 for €50m to local developer Gerry Barrett, who’d planned a modest extension to the castle, and 30 residential lodges in the grounds by Lough Corrib, at Cong.

It has a 70% occupancy rate, year-round, and summer rates average €300 per room, rising to €950 per night per suite. It’s priced at €25m, and is run by Tifco Hotel Group for receivers Ernst and Young, and Bank of Scotland.

Ashford Castle was voted third-best resort in Europe last month by Conde Nast Traveler (it was No 1 in 2010.)

Both Parknasilla, at about €10m, and Fota, which had been priced at €20m-plus, are prestige buys, while the Airport Hotel sale seems a sensible business move with a strong trade, and scope for further corporate/leisure business from the adjoining 750,000 sq ft business park.

Mr Barrett, Savills Dublin acting with Isobel O’Regan, of their Cork offices, says the International Airport Hotel had more than 100 domestic and international enquiries. Phillips Hotels Ltd Irish spokesperson Vincent O’Farrell confirmed they will continue the hotel’s management association with Tifco Hotel Group, and invest further in it.

The 143-bed hotel (one of two at Cork Airport) was developed at a reported cost of €40m, and has a basement that is largely unused: it may have scope for leisure centre and fitness classes for the circa 7,000 workers at the Airport Park. It was developed by Bernard McNamara, who also bought Parknasilla from Great Southern Hotels, for €40m, and he developed a number of holiday lodges on a section of 500 acres.

Cork International Airport Hotel was put up for sale in June, on behalf of receiver Paul McCann, of Grant Thornton, appointed by Bank of Scotland plc, to whom Mr McNamara reportedly owed €200m. It was priced at €4.75m, and sold for more than that, likely to be just in excess of €5m.

Mr Barrett said: “This is an important sale for the Irish hotel industry, and is a vote of confidence for the Cork economy. It demonstrates that there is strong demand for good hotel properties and that international investors are buying outside of Dublin.”

Details: Savills, 01-6181415, 021-4271371

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