Just outside Castlebar, located on 90 acres, Breaffy House Resort, comprising Breaffy House Hotel and Breaffy Woods Hotel, is rejuvenating itself and battling the recession, and according to the new general manager of the hotel, Wilson Bird, the “future is looking very bright” for the resort.
The main hotel — Breaffy House Hotel— retains its original country house charm, while the Breaffy Woods Hotel, which is more modern in design, is adjacent to a large events arena. With such a fantastic facility located on the grounds, Wilson said that the events market, which is “fairly niche and ultra competitive”, will be the future for Breaffy House Resort.
Tapping into the events market, along with “building on our local business and improving our share in the wedding market” is management’s vision to bring Breaffy to the fore as a leading hotel.
Driving this change Wilson, who took up the general manager role in May, brings with him a wealth of worldwide experience. His career in the hospitality industry began at the age of 17, when he worked in Jury’s in his native Limerick. After he attended the Shannon College of Hotel Management, Wilson spent a year working in Switzerland, followed by a stint working in the five star Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai. Subsequent to that, Wilson held a managerial position in the exclusive Lowry hotel in Manchester. While in Manchester he also worked in corporate hospitality for Manchester City Football Club.
After returning to Ireland he took up a position as general manager at the Station House Hotel in Clifden where he worked for six years before the opportunity in Breaffy arose. Wilson has now relocated to Turlough with his family — wife Claire and children Ciara (four ) and Sophia (18 months ). “Mayo is a great place to live,” Wilson said, as it “has so much to offer”.
Breaffy under new management
In January, Breaffy House Resort was taken over by Dalata Management Services. More than 150 staff are currently employed in the hotel, leisure centre and spa, and Wilson acknowledges the staff’s co-operation and “support which they have shown me since I arrived”.
As mentioned, Wilson believes the way forward for Breaffy is in the events sector due to the resort having a 30,000 square foot multi-purpose indoor sports arena, which has a capacity for 2,000 spectators and banquet capacity for 1,500. Outdoor sports facilities include a full size GAA pitch and outdoor training pitches to IRFU and FAI specifications, along with a multi-functional astro-turf pitch.
Recent successful events held in the arena include the world darts and national bowls competitions and last weekend the national cheerleading competition attracted 1,600 people to the locality. Upcoming events include a dancer of the year competition and a hip hop event. Wilson alluded to a large scale, week long event which will hopefully take place in the arena next September, and will bring 2,000 people to the region. “Having such major events in the events centre, two to three times a year, will really boost the local economy,” commented Wilson. Breaffy Woods Hotel is also the perfect place for teams to stay, a target market which the hotel is also trying to attract.
Along with branching more into events, the hotel is still one of Connacht’s premier wedding venues and “to date wedding bookings are up 20 per cent on last year.” Wilson said that there is a big change in the wedding market, with couples looking for more value, something which Breaffy is au fait with, and therefore the wedding co-ordinating team have developed special wedding packages which will cater for individual needs. The hotel is also running a competition for a free wedding, which will cater for 100 guests, in 2012.
Supporting the local economy
When full, with both hotels open, the resort caters for 850 guests “all who are then shopping, eating and drinking in Castlebar and throughout Mayo”. The hotel is also focusing on what the county has to offer as regards beaches, walks and activities in the area and is keen to promote tourism in the county, an example of which is the offer of discounted deals to seven local attractions.
With the leisure centre and spa now also under hotel management, Wilson said that local business is very important to both facilities.
The leisure centre has a 20 metre indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and gymnasium, where classes are also offered. Wilson commented that there is a shift from yearly membership of the leisure centre to three month membership, for an attractive price of €150.
The spa offers a number of luxury treatments in the seven treatment roomed spa, such as the Turkish mud chamber, and in the past few weeks the spa has introduced the use of the luxury brand Elemis products.
Local business is also important to the hotel in the restaurant and the bar. Wilson said that Sunday lunches are very popular with local families who are attracted to the €19 set meal deal. Wilson said that using and sourcing local produce in its food is important to Breaffy House Resort, not just from a health perspective but, “It is our intention to support local businesses, jobs and services”.
With Christmas around the corner, Wilson and his team are gearing up for a number of exciting festive events such as the Ice Ball, an indoor Christmas market and Christmas party nights. Wilson is looking forward to the challenges and rewards that the coming years will bring: “Through a productive approach and the support of Dalata I feel that Breaffy Resort has a very strong future.”