Youghal hotel to be transformed into ‘care centre’ for Ukrainian refugees

The new owners of Youghal’s Quality Hotel are preparing to welcome Ukrainian refugees as the popular family hotel is being transformed into a “care centre”.

And while no further holiday bookings are currently being taken, the new owners insist they want to retain the 3-star hotel as a tourism and community attraction. Transfer of ownership was completed on Monday, with staff and guests at the hotel briefed on the change. 

Workers are understood to have been assured of job security. Head of operations at the new centre, Paul Walsh, declined to identify the new owners as “it is only fair and dignified that our staff are first given the details”, he said.

He was also reluctant to divulge detailed information as yet but confirmed that the hotel was no longer taking bookings. Pre-booked functions and accommodation have been cancelled and while no current residents would be evicted, Mr Walsh said “we are moving to a care model”.

The operations head said he did not yet know how many Ukrainian refugees would be accommodated, when they would arrive, or how long each group would stay. The centre would provide “care support” however.

Mr Walsh refused to say what government body, if any, was co-ordinating the process. “We want to ensure that staff are looked after first”, he reiterated.

He said alcohol will not be available at the centre but the tourism side of it would be utilised for locals, with “other beverages and food offerings” available.

“It’s not hospitality on the bedroom side of things but we are aware that this is a major part of Youghal tourism and we will be driving that side of things – through public access, use of toilets, car parking, etc,” he stressed. 

“As we proceed, it will be very good for the town”.

The hotel’s Club Vitae 20-metre swimming pool, spa and gym will remain open as a membership facility.

Located about 8km from Youghal town, overlooking Redbarn beach, the hotel has 25 guest bedrooms, 48 two-bedroom apartments, and holiday homes which can cater for up to seven people.

The move follows a decision by Youghal town centre’s smaller, Old Imperial Hotel to also cancel bookings, at least until July, as it too focuses on accommodating Ukrainian refugees. The closing of two of three of the town’s hotels has raised fears that Youghal will struggle to meet this summer’s accommodation demands.

The situation is accentuated by the return of Ironman Cork in mid-August when up to 50,000 visitors are anticipated for what is a three-day triathlon festival.

The Old Imperial currently houses 43 Ukrainians, but is still trading as a bar and restaurant and has no plans to cancel any functions, according to co-owner Dan Leahy. His hotel cancelled 30 Ironman bookings though he says he “helped everyone who wanted to find alternative accommodation locally – and most did”.

Mr Walsh, meanwhile, says his centre “will be meeting Ironman personnel and will do everything we can to help”. Local Cork County Councillor Mary Linehan-Foley says “even without a refugee situation, Youghal tends to run out of beds sometimes”

She believes “a solution will emerge” but adds “to be honest, talking about children and women fleeing a war puts things like tourism in perspective”.