Updated: 04/12/17 : 09:38:29
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Turn boardrooms into bedrooms says Sligo businessman

One businessman has a novel idea in order to boost tourism in Sligo – turning boardrooms into bedrooms.

Fergal Quinn, who runs a number of businesses in Sligo town with his brother Kevin Quinn, says the lack of two-star accommodation in Sligo is affecting its ability to bring visitors into the town.

He has suggested turning some of the vacant office space in Sligo town into self-catering or two-star accommodation in order to service the lack of such facilities in the county.

The owner of HenandStagSligo.ie, which is the biggest package provider for hens and stags in Sligo, says the company has lost a significant amount of group bookings as a result of the lack of such accommodation.

“Over the last number of years, there has been focus on tourism in Sligo as there is a belief it is going to be one of the main drivers of growth in the town. But if the fundamentals aren’t in place, we are not going to be able to grow,” says Fergal Quinn.

“There is a huge demand for affordable accommodation but a severe lack of two-star accommodation; Sligo has been under-provided in this area for years but no one is picking up the demand. We are not going to increase tourism if we don’t have a broad appeal across the board.”

There are currently no two-star premises in Sligo registered and approved with Failte Ireland.

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Fergal and Kevin Quinn run a number of companies in Sligo town including the Embassy Steakhouse Restaurant, three pubs, a nightclub, a snooker club as well as henandstagsligo.ie

“I don’t understand why there is so much office space lying idle in the town for years. Why can’t we look at converting some of these vacant offices into self-accommodation? It would bring people right into the town centre and this would have a positive knock-on effect to the retailers.”

Recent analysis

The call follows recent analysis by the Western Development Commission (WDC) of the 2016 Census, which showed that Sligo has the lowest employment growth in the county – some of which was as a result of poor performance in retail.

“We are making this call today as developers might not realise the strong demand for such accommodation. And this demand is not there just from hens and stags, it is also there for families and the business tourists.”

Fergal pointed to the likes of Westport, Carrick-on-Shannon and Galway, which have an availability of self-catering to satisfy this demand.

“We have lost bookings because we didn’t have any two-star availability in the town. We estimate that during April and September this year, we could have brought another 200 people a weekend into the town but we had to turn them down because we didn’t have the rooms for them. And that is just our company. I would say there are countless other tour operators and other businesses losing bookings or routing them elsewhere due to lack of supply.

“We have some really great three and four-star accommodation in Sligo town — and they fill up rapidly — as well as on the outskirts but the two-star places are very limited, especially when the students are in town.”