Spa Hotels Review, Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Tripadvisor, thalassotherapy spa, Hotel Marketing
A recent review on travel website TripAdvisor describes the Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa as “a bit like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way”.
It’s a review that no-doubt brings great pleasure to hotel owner Des O’Dowd, who has fought to maintain a high quality of service during the downturn, while having to implement numerous cost-cutting measures at the same time.
“It was near impossible to put a foot wrong in the boom. We expanded the spa and the hotel. We had very high spending customers and achieved very high rates.
“Then the recession hit and the saw a big decrease in the-spend per guest and the price they were willing to pay. We had to change our rates to get business and cut costs.
“We were able to cut back on costs quicker than other hotels. The biggest cost was the payroll, and that was the most difficult as we still wanted to maintain our excellent standard of service.”
In many ways, O’Dowd says, he was left with no choice but to battle through the recession and do everything possible to stay above the water as he had just spent €1.25 million refurbishing the bedrooms and adding balconies in the months running up to the property crash and banking collapse.
“In 1998, when the hotel was built, the bedrooms didn’t have balconies. We refurbished the rooms and added balconies in 2007/08 so everyone can make the most of the sea views.”
He says the first two years of the recession changed the market parameters completely.
“What would have worked for the previous 10 years wasn’t working anymore. We quickly realised that we needed to focus on quality and the long term if we were to survive.”
O’Dowd has always looked to the future when it comes to his hotel. In 1998, Inchydoney became home to Ireland’s first thalassotherapy spa, a move others believed was mad at the time, as the cost of building the spa was an extra £2 million, on top of the £4.2 million spent developing the hotel.
However, the move more than paid off, with 30 per cent of guests still citing the spa as their reason for choosing the hotel.
“The hotel was built and opened in 1998 and I’ve been involved in it since then. We opened with a purpose-built seawater spa so we were ahead of the market in that sense.”
While the spa still continues to draw large numbers of guests to the hotel, O’Dowd found that the quality of service and location became strong factors in customer loyalty.
His latest project to “future proof” the hotel is the development of the headland in front of the resort.
“The location frames almost all of our decision making now. Previously we would have invested in the spa but now we are investing in the headland.
“We are continuing to invest in the property and the long term. We built paths across the headland. Other parts of the headland were full of briars and ferns and not used by anyone.”
The finished works, which are now open to the public, include a picnic terrace in an amphitheatre, meandering paths, stone-faced walls with grass seating and a viewing platform overlooking the beach and headland.
He says the idea to improve the headland was in the making for six years but was accelerated after Inchydoney hosted an international project to help protect Asian elephants.
Magnificent sculptures of a herd of green-coloured life-size elephants, made from recycled material with clover foliage, attracted thousands of people in the summer of 2008.
However, he noticed that parts of the headland were not very inviting or accessible to many people, especially those with mobility difficulties.
“At that time, so many people said they loved the fantastic headland and were impressed by its spectacular views. But many others, in wheelchairs and elderly who were not so mobile, had been confined to enjoying it only from the car parks.”
Throughout the works, he always maintained a view on the long term, opting to conserve the area as well as developing it, so the headland could be preserved for generations to come.
He says the final bill for developing the headland was €300,000, with €184,000 coming from the West Cork Development Partnership.
“It will not bring us a commercial return in the short term, but hopefully in the long-term it will add value to our offering and draw guests.”