The Boyle Town Team commissioned pre development study for the Albergo Diffuso Scattered Hotel concept was discussed at a recent Town Team meeting.
Boyle Town Team appointed tourism experts Bane Mullarkey in association with Weldon Mather, who work extensively with tourism clients in Ireland and internationally, to undertake the research. Bernadette Mullarkey is a fluent Italian speaker and this was extremely helpful in both researching Italian documents and in speaking directly with the Italian Albergo Diffuso experts.
Key findings in the report showed the concept supported the regeneration of towns, the local economy beyond the accommodation providers, provides tourism and employment growth and instills local pride and cooperation.
The Italian model that was studied had some challenges:
- Ensuring it becomes more than just a network of buildings
- Governance – single management entity representing multiple owners that manages the operational (cleaning, reservations, reception and key-pick up etc) and marketing aspects of the model
- Requirement for an experienced General Manager to be employed.
- The engagement of the entire town 12 months of the year.
- Self-sustainability – many examples of the communal model in Italy have been in receipt of EU funding since 1994 and a review of the Friuli, Venezia, Giulia region noted that 94% of property owners consider the chances of autonomous survival of the model ‘very limited’ or ‘limited’.
The study shows that the model appears to work best where one entrepreneur establishes a business with different properties throughout a town and it is run as any entrepreneur would a traditional hotel business answerable to just one paymaster and its customers.
The meeting discussed the establishment of the concept in Boyle and ascertained the following strengths:
- There is availability of vacant buildings within 200m of the town centre
- There is great support amongst local community, local cafés and bars (as seen in the online survey) and from the Local Authority
- Existing tourism structure is in place
- There may be potential sources of capital funding and interest from funders
A number of challenges were identified also including:
- Cost of capital refurbishment
- The concept will not respond to local demand for a function room
- “The streets are the corridors” – this is a challenge in an Irish context (different streetscape to medieval towns in Italy / mainland Europe and weather)
- Can it achieve prices and seasonal visitor numbers on a year round basis?
- Sub-optimal conviction of property owners re project; financial incentive-led
- Local governance model – same challenges as in Italy
- Capital development costs estimated at €22,500 – €45,000 per bedroom refurbished – it was also highlighted that most properties are in an Architectural Conservation Area so likely to be at the higher end of the scale
- Breakeven point to support the management model is 24 room rentals every night over 350 nights per annum
After discussion, the members felt that Albergo Diffuso, based on the Italian model as identified does not make financial sense for the property owners or the town.
Given Boyle’s tourism potential with a range of tourism assets and the availability of vacant properties, the Town Team propose to investigate the consultants recommendation that serious consideration be given to alternatives that can address the accommodation deficit, supported by a collaborative sales and marketing model to help individual accommodation providers optimise sales.
The pre development study was discussed on Thursday with the property owners who expressed an interest in the project.
Boyle Town Team are committed to ensuring a hotel is constructed or developed in Boyle and will continue their efforts to ensure this becomes a reality while at the same time moving ahead with plans to address the town centre accommodation defect through various avenues.